- KFC is working with Nimbus, an independent Kentucky-based multicultural agency, on a year-long partnership with the hip-hop artist Jack Harlow, according to a press release.
- The celebrity tie-up is intended to attract a younger, more diverse consumer set to the Yum Brands chain, the announcement said. Nimbus is handling the creative vision and talent acquisition portion of the effort. Famous After Death, a Latinx-lead production company, helped design the promotional materials for the kickoff.
- KFC x Jack Harlow went live on Dec. 13 with a food truck outside of the musician's first hometown show in Louisville, where the brand promoted its fried-chicken sandwich. Ten-foot buckets blasted some of Harlow's tracks in the city on Dec. 15-16. The partnership will add new elements throughout 2022 and is indicative of how KFC is switching up its marketing in an intensely competitive fast food category where winning the next generation of diners is key.
KFC is jumping on the celebrity partnership craze through a year-long pact with Jack Harlow, an up-and-comer in the hip-hop scene. Fast food brands have recently turned to stars on menu collaborations and ad campaigns as a way to reach Gen Z consumers who tend to avoid traditional advertising.
McDonald's, which helped kickstart the collaboration trend by linking with Travis Scott on its Famous Orders platform last year, has stated the strategy is creating a positive impact on sales and app engagement, an increasingly important mandate as the pandemic changes ordering habits to prioritize digital and mobile channels.
For KFC, the move speaks to a changing of the guard on the operational front as well. The marketer is working with a fellow Kentucky-based business, Nimbus, which emphasizes a focus on diversity and inclusion. Nimbus was named Ad Age's 2021 multicultural agency of the year.
KFC's marketing has become well-regarded for its off-the-wall humor and a rotating cast of recognizable faces filling in for the role of brand mascot Colonel Sanders. But the fried-chicken chain has been seeking out new agency partners after years of handing off creative duties to Wieden + Kennedy, whose contract expires in January, Insider previously reported. Motivating the switch-up in agencies is a desire to connect more with young audiences and stay competitive in the so-called chicken sandwich wars, where rivals like Popeyes to McDonald's are amping up their own offerings..
"For Nimbus it's always about real representation and bringing culture forward," said Dawn Wade, Nimbus managing partner and chief strategy officer, in a press statement around the Harlow partnership. "Through strategic partnerships and culture-based storytelling, we were able to launch a framework that will help to evolve the brand while activating against the cultural elements that give younger and diverse consumers a reason to buy KFC."
Taco Bell, a fellow Yum Brands chain, in August tapped Cashmere as its first culture agency of record in a similar move. KFC earlier in the fall also appointed Nick Chavez, a vet of the video game company Nintendo, as its new CMO, replacing Andrea Zahumensky, who led the brand's marketing efforts for years.
While platforms like Famous Orders center on limited-run promotions, KFC is betting on Harlow for a full year, which could help better connect with fans of the "Whats Poppin" rapper. Updates will be pushed through the KFC mobile app and social pages on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The brand recently shared a Change.org petition to place Harlow on its meal buckets, temporarily swapping out the Sanders iconography. It had accrued a little more than half the needed signatures to pass at press time.