A baby colonel? How KFC cooked up the ultimate test of brand loyalty

...and helped one newborn pay for college.

A baby colonel? How KFC cooked up the ultimate test of brand loyalty

Company: KFC
Campaign: Baby Harland
Agency mix: Edelman (strategy, media relations), in-house (strategy, media relations), Wieden+Kennedy (social media, digital assets)
Duration: September - October 2018

Would you name your baby after KFC founder Colonel Harland Sanders? What if it was for an $11,000 college fund?

The chicken chain held a contest to find out just how loyal its fan base really is and honor the Colonel on what would have been his 128th birthday on September 9. The first baby born on September 9, 2018, bearing the legal name Harland, was given an $11,000 college fund by KFC. The figure was selected in honor of KFC’s 11 herbs and spices.

Edelman conceived the idea in August, and worked with KFC’s in-house PR team to create and promote the contest.

In addition to spotlighting the Colonel Harland Sanders’ "hard work and perseverance to become the world’s greatest chicken salesman," a representative told PRWeek, the campaign was designed to drive social engagement and generally get people talking about the brand.

In a press release and posts on social media, KFC circulated details about the contest in the weeks leading up to September 9, after which qualifying parents had one month to submit the appropriate legal documents to the company.

On October 30, KFC revealed the winning baby: Harland Rose, who was born 12 seconds after midnight on September 9.

The campaign immediately generated a flurry of press coverage: More than 1,000 media outlets covered the initial details, including heavy hitters such as USA Today, Today.com, NBC’s Today show, People, and Forbes.

The naming contest also performed well on social media. A video KFC posted on Facebook announcing the contest garnered 23,000 views, 106 comments, and 160 shares.

Add the follow-up post introducing winner Harland Rose, and total social engagement for the campaign, measured through likes, shares, and views, fell just shy of 50,000.

Baby Harland Rose is a living, breathing reminder of "how a fun, disruptive and exciting idea can come to fruition very quickly and on a shoestring budget," said Staci Rawls, director of PR and communications at KFC U.S.

In addition to celebrating the Colonel’s birthday in a way that was "creative and memorable," the campaign was "a great success for us from an earned media standpoint," Rawls added.

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