- KFC's latest social media campaign features a computer-generated version of the fast-food chain’s iconic founder, Colonel Sanders, according to information provided to Mobile Marketer by the brand. The suave Virtual Influencer Colonel has taken over the @KFC account on Instagram to show off his fabulous lifestyle with posts tagged #secretrecipeforsuccess.
- Dr. Pepper, TurboTax and Old Spice are among the brands that Virtual Influencer Colonel will showcase on Instagram until April 22. The @KFC account introduced the CGI Colonel with a series of posts showing his "secret recipe for success" tattoo and crossed over with digital model Dagny.
- "Basically, I am an international mogul turned virtual person who wants to inspire the world with my amazing life," Virtual Influencer Colonel says in his mock media kit, which touts "Authentic Gen-Z Engagement" as one of his services.
The growing popularity of social influencers has invited plenty of satire, and KFC’s latest campaign featuring the Virtual Influencer Colonel is a humorous take on the marketing trend. Adobe also recently parodied influencers in a short-film featuring a number of celebrities. By casting Colonel Harland Sanders as a handsome hipster with all the trappings of a influencer, KFC is extending a long-running campaign that plays on the looks of its iconic founder. Colonel Sanders has been played by a variety of real celebrities since 2015, when "Saturday Night Live" cast member Darrell Hammond first impersonated the fast-food star. This time, the Colonel is highlighting his status as a hard-charging entrepreneur who still has a folksy side.
Instagram is an especially popular platform for influencer campaigns, and KFC has 1.3 million followers on the Facebook-owned app. More than 68% of marketers said image-sharing app Instagram is the most important social network for influencer marketing, followed by Facebook (51%), per influencer marketing firm Linqia. The number of sponsored influencer posts on Instagram grew 39% to 2 million last year as brands piled into influencer marketing campaigns, per data from influencer marketing platform Klear.
Influencer marketing has grown as brands try to reach younger audiences whose media consumption has shifted to mobile devices and social media from traditional marketing channels like TV and print. Influencer marketing also helps brands to reach the 25% of U.S. internet users who use ad blocking software to avoid ad banners that may slow download times on mobile devices, per research published in Harvard Business Review.
KFC, which is owned by Yum! Brands, often utilizes an offbeat sense of humor in its campaigns, which are geared for social media virality. Campaigns this year have included a Funko Pop figure, a crowdfunding campaign for half-baked ideas and a Valentine's Day contest that gave fans a chance to win a late-night package that included a limited-edition faux bearskin rug resembling Colonel Sanders. That campaign extended past Valentine's-themed promotions such as scratch-and-sniff fried chicken-scented Valentine's cards and GIFs featuring the Colonel, buckets of chicken and love-themed messages for people to share on social media.