CAMPAIGN: Launching the Colonel deep into orbit

Yum! Brands / KFC appointed Weber Shandwick Consumer to lead the global relaunch campaign unveiling the new look for its iconic founder, Colonel Sanders. Yum! Brands wanted to create a simultaneous global talking point.

Campaign Global relaunch of Kentucky Fried Chicken
Client Yum! Brands Inc / Kentucky Fried Chicken
PR Team Weber Shandwick Consumer
Timescale August to November 2006
Budget Undisclosed

To create a worldwide media moment, ensure simultaneous coverage across 30 markets involving multiple time zones. To harness social and online media to drive global consumer interaction.

Strategy and plan
For a ‘global water cooler moment’, three strategic aims had to be met.

Firstly, the logo had to be integral to the story itself. Secondly, the idea had to be universally comprehensible and to be of interest to audiences worldwide regardless of language or culture. China and US are the brand’s most important markets commercially, but are worlds apart culturally.

Finally, Yum! Brands wanted a story to capture the attention of online social media and bloggers. Harnessing this channel would establish the new brand identity among younger consumers and fuel a news cycle within the virtual world.

So how do you create global relevance for one of the world’s best loved icons while crossing cultural and language barriers? Make Colonel Sanders the first brand visible from space.

To do this, the world’s biggest logo was built in Area 51 – the US military base in the Nevada desert beloved by alien contact conspiracy theorists. The news was posted to social media sites and carried on YouTube and Google Video. A hidden message built into the face offered consumers the opportunity to win a free sandwich and received more than 800,000 hits from Chinese consumers alone.

To make it work, WS’s global offices had to co-ordinate with eight different clients, overcome freak floods, find satellite technology experts who could capture space-based photography and manage multiple technical partners.

Measurement and evaluation
More than 1,050 pieces of individual broadcast, print, online and radio coverage around the world. Over 99 per cent of the coverage was positive and 100 per cent carried the image.

In the UK more than 64 pieces of coverage were generated including 10 pieces in the nationals, 25 pieces in the regional titles, 2 broadcast items and multiple newswire and online coverage.

Highlights included Sky News, rolling news on CNN International, and hits in The Guardian and features online and PermaBlog sections. More than 3,355 individual blogs cov­ered the story, many with images and video provided.

Video of the build posted on YouTube was viewed more than 124,344 times and the picture was Yahoo’s most viewed on launch day.

To date the story has generated more than 550 million global TV, print and online media impressions, with an advertising equivalent value of £23m. Hits to the website increased by 45 per cent in the days following launch and global sales of KFC products increased following the coverage.

Client leader Amy Sherwood, VP Public Relations and Consumer Relations, Yum! Brands said of the campaign: ‘The team did an absolutely outstanding job.’


Jane Baerselman (l) is a director at food and drink specialist Nexus Communications: If a picture paints a thousand words, then this campaign must be a dictionary and thesaurus all in one.There is nothing new in using outsized art to promote brands, Budweiser and McVitie’s spring to mind. But The Face from Space takes it to a new and dizzy height.

Developing a campaign that resonates in 30 countries and delivers key messages across all territories is no mean feat, and the team at Weber Shandwick rightly used strong imagery to achieve this. Keeping it simple also made the campaign hugely effective.

The added competition element with the hidden message in the face encouraged consumers to get involved. It was a clever twist. While reviewing this case study I couldn’t help scrutinising Colonel Sanders’ beaming face and emailing my answer in when I found it.

Strategically, it is refreshing to see WS successfully exploit this brand through online media like YouTube and Google Video to reach the younger generation.

However, the question I keep coming back to is ‘did it do anything to enhance their reputation?’ I would like to know if KFC’s core audience have since been persuaded to choose Colonel Sanders over his (debatably) better known clown rival. I have to say, I have yet to be convinced.

Overall though, I applaud WS for a high impact, positive story that generated massive media interest around the world.

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