- KFC and agency Wieden & Kennedy, Portland have set up an e-commerce shop with branded merchandise, including Colonel Harland Sanders t-shirts, hipster-friendly sweatshirts and a single, 400-year-old meteorite carved to look like the KFC Zinger sandwich, which is priced at $20,000, according to Ad Age's Creativity.
- While all of the current line-up of products is strictly limited edition, KFC intends to work with more apparel and lifestyle brands further down the road, Creativity said. When asked whether the $20,000 meteorite is a joke or something the brand expects people to actually buy, Steve Kelly, KFC U.S. director of media and digital, said "yes" to both.
- In related news, KFC is also rolling out a branded, bright-red smartphone exclusive to China that prominently features mascot Colonel Sanders' visage along with the KFC logo and the date 1987, representing its first year in the Chinese marketplace, according to Ad Age. The device, in celebration of 30 years of operation in the region, comes pre-loaded with the KFC app and a new music feature where people can pick songs they want to hear on the speakers at one of KFC's locations in China.
KFC's initiative follows a trend in the food and CPG categories of offering consumers branded merchandise both as novelty gags and also to accommodate those who are genuine super-fans of the brand. Branded e-commerce had an impressive showing during the holidays last year, with a catalog from Cheetos and a gift website from Oreo, and has continued to gain traction into 2017 with campaigns like Pepsi’s "Uncle Drew" website that rolled out for the NBA All-Star weekend and a second effort from Cheetos tied to Easter and done in partnership with the e-retailer Betabrand.
KFC's store takes some cues from the holiday offerings — especially Cheetos, which featured cheeky jewelry that was also priced at $20,000. The hope is that the sheer ridiculousness of these efforts gets people talking and sharing on channels like social media, but, at least in Cheetos' case, a lot of the online merch also sells out quickly.
The e-commerce store and branded smartphone are also just the latest in marketing tactics from KFC that go beyond traditional advertising and brand awareness plays. For a Mother's Day promotion this year, the Yum! chain released a full-length e-book novella starring Colonel Sanders as a romance novel hunk; last week, it celebrated National Fried Chicken Day by installing an AI-powered, animatronic Colonel Sanders to take orders at select drive-thru locations.
The common thread among all these campaigns, as well as its main linear TV advertising, is a focus on Colonel Sanders harkening back to a time when the now-deceased actual Harland Sanders was the brand spokesman and face of the company, which remains the most popular fast food chain in China. According to Ad Age, KFC has made significant strides in remaining up-to-date in the region through accepting mobile payments, launching mobile games and staffing a Shanghai restaurant with robots.