KFC said it gave away all 3,000 bottles of its Extra Crispy-scented sunscreen lotion yesterday, a tongue-in-cheek enticement intended to remind the public that the brand sells two types of fried chicken (50% of consumers don’t know about the Extra Crispy version, headquarters acknowledged).
The come-on was also a nod to the chain’s running gag of using a parade of stars to portray founder Colonel Harland Sanders. The current impersonator is George Hamilton, a star known for having a perpetual near-perfect tan.
Both gimmicks are the latest in a long string of marketing ploys the chicken chain has used in recent years to snag attention and present an edgy image to the public. Here’s a review of some memorable past efforts.
Drumstick corsage (2014)
Two springs ago, KFC successfully fostered some social media buzz with a limited-time offer for prom season: a wrist corsage that featured a drumstick in place of an orchid. The notion was that the wearer could take a bite or two whenever the urge hit her.
The traditional gift for a young man’s prom date sold for $20. Buyers could choose either an Extra Crispy or Original Recipe drumstick, a reminder of the chain’s two chicken options.
The engine for the attention was a video that you can see here.
Sandwich amnesty (2010)
Instead of merely boasting about the superiority of a new sandwich, KFC promised to ease the embarrassment of fast-food workers who were forced to sell inferior lunchtime choices. It offered a free Doublicious sandwich to people who showed up in the uniform of a rival fast-food chain. Partakers were also offered a job application, in case the duplicity cost them their jobs.
The Colonel as peacemaker (2009)
A Col. Sanders impersonator figured into a stunt intended to raise awareness of a just-added new “grilled” chicken (the meat was actually baked in an oven on a plate that left grill marks). The lookalike snuck into the United Nation’s headquarters in New York City and managed to shake the hand of Ali Treki, president of the General Assembly, before the ruse was discovered. It was not clear why U.N. security forces would have admitted the Colonel in the first place, but they apparently viewed fast-food stardom as proof of diplomatic status.
The fake Colonel used the media spotlight to make a plea for a “Grilled Nation” where lovers of fried chicken could live peacefully with peers who preferred a different preparation method.
The U.N. said at the time that the stunt would be investigated as a security breach, but nothing came of it.
Secret commercial code (2006)
When binge watching was first coming in vogue, KFC hit on a way to reach customers who might have otherwise fast-forwarded through the brand’s commercials as they watched recorded TV programs. Viewers were encouraged through a word-of-mouth and marketing campaign to play the spots in slow motion. When they did, they could make out an embedded code word, “Buffalo,” which entitled them to a free 99-cent Buffalo-flavored sandwich.
A lunge for astronauts? (2006)
KFC was so proud of a new logo that it wanted other planets to grab a peek, too. So it created a depiction large enough to be seen from space (or, as news reports invariably noted, by earth-bound consumers with Google Earth loaded on their computers). The logo, which prominently featured the original Col. Sanders, was duplicated in Area 51, a section of the Nevada desert that’s as much of a destination for aliens from other worlds as Disney World is for families.
The multicolor logo was sculpted out of sand.