There's a new Colonel Sanders at KFC — again.
The fried-chicken chain has hired actor George Hamilton to portray its founder, Colonel Sanders, in television ads for Extra Crispy Chicken.
However, there's a twist. Hamilton will be playing the "Extra Crispy Colonel," the first Colonel Sanders to represent a specific product: Extra Crispy Chicken.
"Extra Crispy is a huge opportunity for our business," KFC CMO Kevin Hochman told Business Insider. "Over half of people don't know that we have more than one recipe."
Hamilton is the fourth actor to play Colonel Sanders since the chain brought back the figure in marketing last year. Jim Gaffigan, who followed in the footsteps of Norm MacDonald and Darrell Hammond, will continue to serve as Colonel Sanders in marketing for Original Recipe chicken.
Unlike the Original Recipe, Extra Crispy Chicken is double breaded and open-fried. This creates a crunchier chicken, which Hochman says most Americans actually prefer compared to the Original Recipe chicken — despite the fact that many don't realize it's an option.
Hamilton was chosen as the Crispy Colonel because, according to Hochman, he embodies the Extra Crispy brand.
"Extra Crispy Chicken is fried to a golden brown. George Hamilton isn't fried to a golden brown, but he is tanned to a golden brown," Hochman says, noting that the actor's bold personality matches the chicken's bolder flavor.
While the Extra Crispy Colonel represents something new for the company, the new ad campaign also demonstrates a major change at KFC, as the chain doubles down on what it calls its "food story."
The ads show Hamilton preparing Extra Crispy Chicken by hand on the beach, in the same way it is prepared in each KFC location. It's a little detail, but for KFC it's part of a larger move to put the food front and center — and convince customers that the chain serves authentic, reliable food.
Internally at KFC, Colonel Sanders represents high-quality chicken and "doing things the hard way" — something that Hochman hopes Sanders will soon represent to the general public as well. KFC lore says that the Colonel would travel to restaurants around the US in the 1970s, testing gravy with a golden spoon. If he didn't like it, he would dump that gravy on the floor of the restaurant.
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Commercials starring "Colonel Sanders" attempt to make the connection of Colonel and quality for the average consumer, especially in instances such as the "Crispy Colonel" hand-breading Crispy Chicken on the beach.
KFC is further doubling down on this "food story" with new packaging for buckets that spell out the step-by-step process of fried-chicken production. The new buckets are rolling out now through July.
With programs like Re-Coloneization — a public recommitment to quality involving national employee retraining and a new satisfaction guarantee — and an endless parade of Colonel Sanders, KFC is eager to prove it makes chicken the "hard way."
Originally, bringing back Colonel Sanders was intended to grab Americans' attention — something, Hochman says, marketing succeeded in doing. Now new Colonels including the Extra Crispy Colonel, are tasked with convincing Americans that they can trust KFC when it comes to well-prepared, reliable fried chicken.
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