August 16, 2017

2017 Effie-Winner Spotlight: KFC, “The Return of Colonel Sanders”

The North American Effie Awards and ATOMCK have teamed up to present a special interview series featuring winners from the 2017 competition. Alan Hart, managing partner at ATOMCK and host of “Marketing Today,” sat down with these marketers to discuss insights from their Effie-winning work.

In this week’s 2017 Winner Spotlight, Hart spoke with George Felix, director of brand communications at KFC, to discuss KFC’s “The Return of Colonel Sanders” campaign, created in partnership with Wieden+Kennedy.

Colonel Sanders was at the forefront of KFC’s advertising when the brand was its best. After his death, the brand evolved and tried new things, but eventually lost sight of the qualities that made it stand out originally. Something had to change, and the first step was admitting that the brand needed to be fixed. Felix knew a new brand position was the solution — one that reminded people of the heart and soul of the brand. In the words of the Colonel himself, the brand needed a “re-Colonelization.” So Felix and his team decided to go back to basics by bringing back the Colonel and all he stood for — showmanship and unrelenting focus on high-quality food.

The revival of the Colonel wasn’t easy to do, because he was a real person— not a character. Felix knew any portrayals of the founder would be polarizing, so he decided to have multiple actors play the Colonel in different spots. KFC’s iconic branding, from its red-and-white buckets to its “finger-licking good” tagline, allowed the portrayals of the Colonel to be uniquely different while maintaining the essence of the Colonel. Felix knew that as long as each Colonel had the iconic white suite, beard and glasses there was no mistaking who he was supposed to be, regardless of the actor playing him. Some spots were more absurd than others, like one where Rob Lowe announces sending a sandwich into outer space, but they all maintained the look and character of the Colonel. “The Return of Colonel Sanders” unveiled a new KFC to the world by returning to its roots. In the process, it introduced young consumers to KFC and invited back those who already loved the brand.

“The Return of Colonel Sanders” by KFC and Wieden+Kennedy took home an Effie in the Renaissance category at the 2017 North American Effie Awards.