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George Hamilton is the New Colonel Sanders, If You Can Believe That

George Hamilton poses as Colonel Sanders, the spokesman for Kentucky Fried Chicken, in a spot for "extra-crispy" fried chicken in 2016.

George Hamilton is Colonel Sanders. Yes, you read it right.

Kentucky Fried Chicken’s wonderfully bizarre reboot of its corporate icon is continuing with new ads featuring the extra-tan actor as the “extra-crispy Colonel.”

If you haven’t been following the Colonel Sanders update by KFC, it began last year with commercials featuring Saturday Night Live alumnus Darrell Hammond playing the Colonel. The original spots were just dry enough to make you wonder what was going on. In fact, if you weren’t paying attention you might not have noticed anything was going on at all.

A few months later, a twist: Hammond passed the torch to comedian Norm MacDonald.

True to his style, MacDonald couldn’t resist winking at the camera. Which was the point, of course. And in the end, it didn’t matter because the bucket of chicken, the biscuits and the tagline “Finger Lickin’ Good” do the selling no matter who’s holding the platter. Sure enough, a few months later comedian Jim Gaffigan grabbed the tray, with KFC going full meta in the process.

And now we’re on to George Hamilton, just in time for the sultry (er, extra-crispy) days of summer 2016.  He’s spreading the word with attitude and an open collar:

George Hamilton is “the first product-specific Colonel,” according to AdAge. It’s not too big a surprise to learn that the agency behind all this is Wieden + Kennedy, famous for its similarly wacky and effective commercials for Nike and Old Spice. If anything, Old Spice was an even more retro brand than KFC; if W+K could work with the aroma of after-shave, they could surely work with the aroma of fried chicken.

Wieden+Kennedy also did this truly remarkable commercial for yet another old-timey brand, Southern Comfort, a few years back.

But back to KFC. Greg Creed, CEO of parent company Yum! Brands, said last year that it was all about relevance:

“So far the response has been about 80% positive, 20% hate it. But you know what? That’s better than 100% being indifferent. And that really is what’s important … we had lost relevance in the U.S. Sixty per cent of millennials had not eaten KFC… And I am actually quite happy that 20% hate it, because now they at least have an opinion. They’re actually talking about KFC, and you can market to love and hate; you cannot market to indifference.”

Sure enough, some are calling George Hamilton’s Colonel “extra-creepy.” It’s working! Congrats to all involved.

You can see more of the spots on KFC’s YouTube channel.



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Comments ( 4 )

  • As much as I love the new Colonel Sanders commercials, that Southern Comfort one did the better job of completely rebooting a brand in my mind.

  • Yep I’m in the 20% went so far as to write them and told them so. Haven’t been to a KFC since. The colonel is turning in his grave. So disrespectful to his memory.

    • The original colonel was a fried chicken salesman. These people are doing exactly what he did! Hock fried chicken on TV. I doubt the colonel is offended. I think he’d find it humorous.

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