Who Is This Strange Goateed Man Trying To Sell Us KFC Products?

For those of us who grew up watching Colonel Sanders (or rather, some guy dressed up as Colonel Sanders) on ads for Kentucky Fried Chicken, it might come as a shock to learn that the fast food chain’s own survey found that more than 60% of Americans between the ages of 18-25 couldn’t identify the man.

In addition to people not being able to identify the Colonel, 50% responded that they thought he was just a made-up icon and not the founder of the chain.

KFC says that they have launched an all-out blitz on social media after learning that so many people in their target audience couldn’t name the man whose name and face had been synonymous with the brand for so many decades.

Says a rep for the company:

As time has gone by, the younger generation didn’t get to see and experience him like other generations did” in ads and personal appearances… We plan to celebrate the fact that our founder was a real person.

Earlier this summer, we wrote about the growing number of KFC franchisees upset with the company’s actions in recent years that they believe have taken the emphasis off the fact that they are primarily a fried chicken joint.

Meanwhile, rival restaurant Popeyes recently got a boon by beating KFC in a taste test.

KFC tries to revive founder Colonel Sanders’ prestige [USA Today]


Edit Your Comment

  1. mk says:

    “We plan to celebrate the fact that our founder was a real person.”

    I would guess that all founders are real people. Now, letting people know that the mascot/icon of your restaurant is an actual not made up person, I guess if that’s how you want to spend your marketing dollars.

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      The pink unicorns that founded Rainbows and Sunshine Corp., LTD. found themselves unable to attract any venture capital.

      • Zarf says:

        So, a fictional spinach-loving sailor was able to create a successful chicken restaurant that shares only his name, but fictional pink unicorns were not able to start a successful rainbow and sunshine business despite their expertise.

        Obviously, fictional characters should never exercise their areas of expertise. Dexter and Mandark should pair up and create an ice cream shop.

    • WorkingDad says:

      “I would guess that all founders are real people.”

      Heh – I was about to make a similar comment. I can’t think of any company founded by a non-person.

    • captadam says:

      Well, when you turn a real guy into a cartoon, don’t be surprised if people don’t know that the cartoon guy is, in fact, a real person.

    • mcpeepants says:

      next you’ll be telling me Ronald McDonald didn’t build those arches with his red-nosed magic…

  2. Dopaz says:

    Bah, next the Christians will be trying the same thing.

  3. backinpgh says:

    mmmm Popeyes…

    • Jfielder says:

      Yep… Delicious. Given the choice I’ll take Popeyes over KFC any day.

      • AnthonyC says:

        The other day (In pittsburgh, actually, assuming that’s what “backinpgh” refers to) I drove by a KFC next door to a Popeye’s. That was odd.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        Me too, because the last time I ate at Popeye’s I didn’t get sick. Which I did the last time I ate at KFC.

  4. Bativac says:

    Just don’t do anything like those creepy-as-hell commercials from a couple years ago, featuring a reanimated Orville Redenbacher.


  5. digital0verdose says:

    “We plan to celebrate the fact that our founder was a real person.”

    As opposed to… what? Fictional founders like Ronald McDonald and The King?

  6. Magspie says:

    Oh, I hated the Colonel with is wee *beady* eyes, and that smug look on his face. “Oh, you’re gonna buy my chicken! Ohhhhh!”

  7. HaveSomeCheese says:

    I sure hope no one ever forgets Dave Thomas

  8. MaliBoo Radley says:

    I’m heartened by this. Isn’t it a good thing that kids don’t know (or give a fuck) who Colonel Sanders is? This feels like a modicum of progress. Call me when kids can’t identify the guy on the $5 bill.

  9. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Next up: a poll showing how many still know what KFC stands for.

  10. humphrmi says:

    KFC says that they have launched an all-out blitz on social media after learning that so many people in their target audience couldn’t name the man whose name and face had been synonymous with the brand for so many decades.

    One more reason I won’t follow businesses on Twitter, or like or friend them on Facebook. My Twitter feed and Facebook news feed are amazingly free of advertising SPAM.

  11. xguile says:

    It’s sad to think that people won’t remember Dave Thomas (who worked for Sanders) or that Wendy’s is named after his daughter.

    • MaliBoo Radley says:

      Yes, because fast food restaurants and their history is so vital to American culture as a whole.


      • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

        Why not? A lot of the American Fast Food pioneers started from nothing. Nothing says American Dream to me more than working hard, being clever, and raving tenacity. It might be a fiction in today’s world dominated by multinational corporations, but proven examples of the idea that a common person can build something greater than him or herself is absolutely essential.

        Now, when the founders die or has the company go public (ie. sell out) and what they built turns evil, that’s something else entirely. (by the way, I think that’s important to American culture, too, but more as a warning than a beacon of hope.)

      • Marshmelly says:

        well we partake in fast food enough…I would argue that these places ARE vital to American culture whether you chose to enjoy them or not. Most of these American chains have expanded across the world. People in other countries associate things like McDonalds and Coca-Cola instantly as being classic American products, so whats wrong with knowing the history behind some of the founders? Especially since most of them are good examples of American entrepreneurs. You disliking fast food doesn’t make it any less culturally significant than my hating baseball or nascar.

        • mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

          But then has McDonald’s EVER really made any big media push centered around Ray Kroc, let alone the McDonald brothers? I couldn’t even guess who founded Coca Cola way back when without a quick Google/Wikipedia excursion,

        • MaliBoo Radley says:

          The thing is that I don’t hate fast food. I have fast food every couple weeks. It’s a treat and I enjoy it. The problem is that it has such cultural significance. I simply wish that we, as Americans, were know for more than war and fast food.

      • aloria says:

        Well, considering the role they’ve played in how obese the nation has become… I’d say they are.

        • Groanan says:

          What role would that be? Are you suggesting that fast food is worse than what Americans normally eat at home when they don’t get fast food? Or when they go out to sit down restaurants?

          Americans got fatter because our culture changed, first the TV, then video games, and now the internet and computers. We are not working at a factory or playing outside, we are sitting in a chair, motionless, for the majority of our waking hours. Blaming the food while basically being an invalid aside from finger and eye movements is a bit narrow sighted.

      • xguile says:

        I think fondly of Dave whenever I bite into a delicious Spicy Chicken Sandwich.

  12. Liam Kinkaid says:

    Next they’re gonna try to tell us that alligators aren’t so ornery because they got so many teeth and no toothbrush.

  13. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    If you think this is sad, I wonder how many people 18 to 25 could even identify people like Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr., and other historic figures. And how many people in general still think Betsy Ross designed and made the first American flag.

  14. aloria says:

    There are also a lot of people who can’t identify all 50 states (or at least know their relative geographical location) or tell you the three branches of government or the molecular composition of water, etc, etc. I wouldn’t be too upset that people don’t know who Dave Thomas was. It’s not exactly a topic you’ll find in your history book.

  15. Nighthawke says:

    The likeness of Col. Harland Sanders Yum Brands puts on their products these days does not look like him at all. They photochopped his likeness, slimming his face down, making it more oval and trimmer. Harland had a fat face if you might call it that, more cherubic, but the picture they use is not him at all..

    Considering the turmoil KFC is putting themselves through, poor Harland is spinning in his grave, throwing a fit worth a Kentucky Colonel.

  16. TBGBoodler says:

    I visited the original Sanders Cafe location in Corbin, Ky., in May. There’s a museum inside a working KFC. It was nice to smell the chicken while perusing through the KFC and Colonel Sanders memorabilia.

    Never thought to ask my kids if they knew who the heck Harlan Sanders was.

  17. dpeters11 says:

    Maybe to revive his prestige they should make his picture look like him. I can see this happening. To be honest, I was surprised when I found out that Duncan Hines and Chef Boyardee were real people. I bet some of these people think Betty Crocker was real.

  18. Battlehork says:

    The Colonel would demand satisfaction over the decline of the product quality before that of the marketing.

  19. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    My family used to eat at the original Harmon’s KFC in SLC. We’re quite familiar with this character. It was a nice place to eat, not a fast food joint.

  20. SharkD says:

    Will the new campaign also address the Pentaverture?

    You know: the secret society that runs the worlds and meets tri-annually at a secret country mansion in Colorado — known as the Meadows — comprised of the Queen, the Vatican, the Gettys, the Rothschilds and Colonel Sanders (before he went tits up).

  21. dolemite says:

    That’s always the problem with the younger generation. They get jack. Instead of listening to Michael Jackson, they get R. Kelly. Instead of Saved by the Bell and Transformers, they get “Jersey Shore”. They are really deprived!

  22. Vandil says:

    -Willard Scott played the first, live-action Ronald McDonald!

    Your bucket list is now complete.

  23. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    I’m surprised that 40% did recognize him. KFC has a rapidly aging primary market – they’re not interesting to younger generations. KFC is going to be like Lava soap…still around, but only old people want it.

  24. Jemaine says:

    I’d like to know who that woman advertising Popeye’s is. She says it’s HER chicken, but really it’s Popeye’s, right? Anyways, I’m 23 and I knew Colonel Sanders is the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Dave Thomas who is the founder of Wendy’s worked for the Colonel and that’s how he got Wendy’s started. Just sayin’.

  25. misslisa says:

    When I moved to Texas in the early 80s, one of the most common questions I got from folks upon hearing I was from Kentucky was, “Is Col. Sanders a real person?” Once I mentioned that my grandparents were buried near Col Sanders’ grave, and everyone laughed at me because they thought he was fictional.

  26. H3ion says:

    When large percentages of Americans can’t name their Senators or Representatives, can’t name four Supreme Court Justices, can’t find Iraq on a map, I’m not too worried that they don’t recognize Colonel Sanders. Keep moving, nothing to see here.

  27. Charmander says:

    Sheesh, I’m old enough to remember when it was called Kentucky Fried Chicken.

  28. sopmodm14 says:

    truth be told, never really recall seeing a kfc commerical

    perhaps their marketing/advertisement dept should do a better job

  29. Groanan says:

    They need to install a generator at Colonel Sanders’ grave to capture all that free energy he produces every time he turns over.

    Should be able to power a large city with whatever KFC has in store for his likeness.
    Colonel’s getting funky.

  30. FilthyHarry says:

    Looks like Larry King

  31. Kid Notorious says:

    Talk to me when its time to educate the youth of America about Ol’ Colonel Angus.

  32. Razor512 says:

    It is a vector image of an evil man (the goatee makes him evil :) )

    His one goal is to overcharge you for substandard chicken while clogging your arteries.