There’s no such thing as one-size fits all. Or even one-size-fits-most.

That goes triple for branding campaigns.

If it’s not custom fit and true to the real you, your branding campaign will yield mediocre returns at best, and disastrous sales declines at worst.

So why doesn’t everyone launch authentic-to-them brand campaigns?

Two reasons:

  1. Your ad team has to do a proper Uncovery if they’re to custom craft a campaign that’s unique and authentic to you and your business.
  2. Not everyone will like the authentic you; you can’t be authentic and be all things to all people at the same time.

And of those two reasons, the second is probably the more common, as it’s tough to intentionally chose whom to lose.

But you’ll lose far more customers masquerading as something you’re not, while the customers you do get won’t be a good fit.

How & Why KFC Lost Their Mojo

This is what happened with Kentucky Fried Chicken throughout most of the new millennium.

The Colonel was seen as old, outdated, and associated with the old south. Tragically unhip for a newer, younger audience.

So they ditched the Colonel.

And the “fried” in Kentucky Fried Chicken was seen as a reminder of how unhealthy the food was.

So they ditched their name in favor of “KFC”

To make matters worse, “Finger Licking Good” was seen as implying “greasy.” Not good in a health-conscious culture.

So they ditched “Finger Looking Good” too.

One supposes this all made a certain amount of sense for a fast food chain looking to appeal to a multicultural, health-conscious, millennial consumer.

Except it makes no sense to erase your real identity and pretend to be something you’re not.

I mean, it’s not like fried chicken suddenly lost it’s appeal.

Heck, Chick-fil-A quietly overtook KFC as the largest chicken restaurant in the US during this time.

How Kentucky Fried Chicken Got Its Colonel —and Its Mojo – Back

Fortunately for KFC, they were smart enough to hire the ad geniuses at Wieden & Kennedy to turn around their decade long sales slump, starting in 2015.

So what was Wieden & Kennedy’s first step?

Doing a proper Uncovery, going through the brand’s archives, and looking to bring KFC back to its roots.

They called their strategy the Re-Colonel-ization of KFC.

Because the brand’s entire existence goes back to Colonel Harlan Sanders.

So they brought him back, starting internally with the phrase “Make the Colonel Proud” and “Fried Chicken the Hard Way.”

They also brought back the full name “Kentucky Fried Chicken,” along with the “Finger Looking Good” tagline.

Wieden & Kennedy taught KFC to openly embrace their real brand identity.

They launched the Colonel back into action with TV Ads starring SNL alumnus Darryl Hammond:


But they didn’t just leave it to the TV Ads.

Wieden & Kennedy also brought the Colonel back as a comic book at Comic Con and as a romance novel for Mother’s Day.

Within the first year, same store sales were up 4%

And then they moved the campaign to genius territory by “rotating” the actors playing Colonel Sanders, switching to Norm MacDonald for year two.

And eventually using Jim Gaffigan, George Hamilton, and even Rob Lowe.

And, yes, sales continued to improve as the brand was revitalized, helping the chain generate positive same-store sales for five straight years.

Do YOUR Ads Embrace Your Real Authentic Identity?

Sure, this is a cool story about Kentucky Fried Chicken and an amazing ad campaign created by Wieden & Kennedy.

But what really matters is the takeaway for YOUR brand.

If you’re not quite getting the results you’re hoping for from your advertising, it could well be because your ads haven’t embraced your authentic self.

And if they’re not, it’s worth asking why not. Heck, it’s probably worth asking if it’s time for new ad team.

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