Greg Creed, CEO of Yum! Brands, Is Either an Idiot or a Genius, But He’s No KFC Chicken.

Colonel SandersThis is some crazy branding game Greg Creed is playing with the KFC chicken brand. In essence, he is telling the world he doesn’t care if you love us or hate us, just so long as you pay attention to us. Apparently he believes visibility and relevancy are the same thing.

Honestly, my initial reaction to  Darrell Hammond as the Colonel was “Okay, that’s kind of creepy cute.” And the more of the spots I saw, the more I thought, “Yeah, these spots are starting to grow on me.” And then Norm Macdonald shows up as the “real” Colonel. And then I thought, “well, this just got stupid.”

But who really cares what I think? And clearly, Creed doesn’t care what Americans think either, since 4 of 5 Americans actually didn’t dislike the spots with Darrell Hammond as the Colonel. But he changed them anyway with a guy who looks nothing like the Colonel, sounds nothing like the Colonel and is in fact a bit of an insult to the Colonel. Creed and his marketing team feel that getting people to think about KFC will be enough.

What’s the old saying, “Bad news is better than no news?”

Then again, according to Yum financial reports: KFC Division system sales increased 6% during the second quarter of 2015, driven by 2% unit growth and 3% same-store sales growth. Operating margin increased 1.3 percentage points to 21.9%. Operating profit increased 10%.

Of course, that was long before the new TV spots started running, and I am pretty sure no one in China (home to 1/4 of KFC’s restaurants) is seeing the ads, so Creed cannot take credit for his “bold” marketing moves… yet. So is there a point to the fake Colonel ads? And will they work?

Honestly, I believe we live in a fast moving world that loves the idea of nostalgia, even when it is packaged in ridiculous TV spots featuring a couple of moderately funny comedians. Who doesn’t want to see Clara Peller one more time? Or even the original Ronald McDonald? Or Big Boy? Or Mike and Carol Brady? That’s fun stuff… for about 15 minutes.

I know Greg Creed has a good marketing track record, and I should probably not be questioning his decision-making, but I think this time he may have thought just a bit too far outside the bun.

Jim Sweeney


Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.