Prediction: What I will probably think about this KFC campaign after it’s over.

1. I will probably think it was mildly amusing.

2. I will probably think people who defend it will have at some point uttered the phrase “win over Millennials” and maybe the phrases “love irony” and “in on the joke.” I am certain the words “meta” and “to make the Colonel relevant today” were spoken at some point.

So many Colonels. Which is the real Colonel? Oh wait, I know, the real one is the one who passed away with dignity intact on December 16, 1980.
So many Colonels. Which is the real Colonel? Oh wait, I know, the real one is the one who passed away with dignity intact on December 16, 1980.

3. I will probably think they misjudged two things, A. and B.

A. How funny we all think this rotating cast of Saturday Night Live alumni is. These ads are kind of an in-joke, and self-aware to the point that it looks like it’s having its own little party and we’re just too enervated ourselves to try and catch up. Like at the beginning of SNL when they show the cast members hooting it up together in a bar, and you can just imagine being part of the “other patrons in the background,” super-aware that you’re not having as much fun as they are. Sometimes I think it’s charming when performers look like they’re amused at themselves. Other times, and this is one of those times, it just feels like a bunch of snarky ad-libbing that worked better in rehearsal. Lorne would probably have cut this sketch. Or broadcast it after 1:00 a.m. EST.

B. People who live in the South are a probably a pretty sizable market for KFC. And you know how much they love it when they feel like people from the East Coast are mocking their accents and their heritage. They typically think it’s a stitch when someone makes them and their ancestry look like goobers.

4. I will probably wonder if there are other ways they could have leveraged the Colonel. I totally sympathize with their dilemma: here they have one of the most iconic faces in restaurant history, certainly within the QSR category. They’ve brought him back as a cartoon, they’ve posted his history in store displays, they’ve put his big face on their redesigned signage. They couldn’t run old footage without fearing the appearance of seeming out-of-date, I expect, and they couldn’t get someone to portray him seriously, probably. That would be even weirder. What can they do with the Colonel? I know. Get moderately well-known and somewhat well-liked comedians to portray him in a self-aware-so-square-it’s-cool execution.

Louisville is so proud of the Colonel they put him on the side of a building so people in downtown traffic jams might gaze upon his works and not despair.
Louisville is so proud of the Colonel they put him on the side of a building so people in downtown traffic jams might gaze upon his works and not despair.

5. And this is what I will probably conclude (as I did in the book, in Chapter 7): using your founder as your chief marketing device is a perilous route. Short and midterm it can make you famous. Longterm it can make you vague about your brand to the point that you never again come up with a campaign that eclipses the owner’s influence over every aspect of communication. They really don’t know what to do with their brand voice, in general. Dave Thomas. Bob Evans. The Colonel. They all took their brand equity to the grave in some respects. McDonald’s and Chic-fil-A are lucky Ray Kroc and Dan Cathy never wanted to be the face of their companies.

Take note, Papa John, take note.