Whatever you may feel about Colonel Sanders and his chicken, you can’t accuse him of being boring. Having just caused a sensation with a lifelike Halloween costume (which, billed as ‘spooky’ and ‘crispy’, sold out within a matter of days), KFC is now giving people the chance to hang fried chicken on their Christmas trees.
While KFC has long been a Christmastime staple in Japan, the company is trying to instil a similar mindset in New Zealand with these decorations. But serious fans around the world also have the chance to buy KFC ‘internet escape pod’. For US$10,000, one lucky family will be able to huddle together in a Colonel-themed tent, disconnect and enjoy a bucket of KFC with no distractions.
One observer on youth culture site Hypebeast.com asked simply, “Why is KFC so hyped for?”. It’s a good question. The Colonel’s chicken remains the same as ever, but KFC’s consistently quirky antics have propelled it high above competitors such as McDonald’s and Burger King in terms of brand personality.
A little like the cult fashion brand Supreme (a more regular fixture on sites like Hypebeast), which produces a stream of random accessories in addition to its clothing that range from boxing gloves to a New Testament stash box, KFC keeps people guessing as to what it’s going to do next. Other recent products have included fried chicken bath bombs for Japan, edible nail polish for Hong Kong, ‘crispy sunscreen’ for the US and a special edition Huawei phone for China.
In short, KFC has only managed to become such a holiday fixture by maintaining considered branding and just the right level of silliness throughout the year. In a similar way to Domino’s, the brand doesn’t always get it right, but is not afraid to fail and is quick to recover and move on. Recognising that the Colonel is a slightly absurd figure, and playing that up, is also key, and something that McDonald's has never really done with its own mascot.
Each stunt, wherever it might take place, draws attention to KFC's core product internationally while resisting any hard-selling. All it has to do to stay relevant is sustain its sense of humour and imagination and avoid lapsing into seriousness.