KFC Made Chicken Cool Again Through Virtual Influencer Marketing

Editorial TeamNews

KFC is remaining relevant in the most irregular way.

Remember the KFC Colonel? The older, bearded gentleman who once graced our TV screens, encouraging us to divulge in fried chicken for dinner? If the answer is no, we almost forgot him as well.

That is until KFC found a way to resurrect him from outdated cartoon obscurity and transform him into a cooler, more relevant CGI character.

Recently, KFC launched their own virtual influencer, bringing back Colonel in virtual form, except he is no longer the man who resembles your grandfather. He now is looking better than ever with sleeker glasses, a well-groomed beard, a sleek fitted suit, and about 20 years younger. He’s more relatable than ever, in an era where virtual influencers are on the rise and infiltrating our social media feeds more than ever before.

KFC recently ran this campaign for approximately three weeks, posting 21 pictures of the Colonel in different locations, from different angles, and with different women on his arm. During this short timeframe, KFC realized tremendous success thanks to their newest virtual influencer. The results were astounding.

Engagement Skyrocketed
KFC saw their Instagram engagement double during this campaign. The statistics speak for themselves:

Average Post Engagement (21 pre-campaign pictures)

  • 12,986 average likes per post
  • 177 average comments per post

Average Post Engagement (virtual influencer campaign pictures)

  • 24,696 average likes per post
  • 351 average comments per post

The outcome was staggering and proved the use of a virtual influencer both intrigued their audience and encouraged them to talk about their brand more than ever.

Not only were they talking about the new Colonel on KFC’s Instagram page, they were taking the conversations to other social networking mediums as well. People were commenting on how attractive he’d become on Twitter. Others were asking their friends if he was a real person. The buzz generated around KFC was more noticeable than ever.

KFC Succeeded with More Than Just Their Chicken

KFC ran a strategic virtual influencer campaign. They kept the campaign brief, ensuring they didn’t oversaturate their audience or come off too “try hard”. The campaign was also a short enough time-span that it left their consumers wanting more and wondering when they’ll see the new Colonel next in their feeds.

They also leveraged a broader network of influencers, collaborating with both traditional and virtual influencers to widen their reach. By doing this, they were able to tap into the other influencers’ networks and be seen by a wider range of consumers of varying demographics.
Perhaps most importantly, they became an early adopter in the virtual influencer space by being the first major brand to execute a campaign of this nature. The Colonel is the first, of many, legacy character to be transformed into a virtual influencer.

Our Recommendations for Improvement

At Spark CGI, we know a thing or two about how to run effective digital influencer campaigns.
After all, it’s our core focus and what our work revolves around every single day.

If we could give a recommendation for KFC’s next virtual influencer campaign we’d recommend the following:

Be More Consistent

We would’ve liked to see a more consistent storyline. The content, captions, and the environments were somewhat scattered. One minute the Colonel was in the dessert. The next he was flying in a private jet. We’d recommend a less random and more fluid approach to create a better storyline.

Minimize Hashtags

Hashtags are the name of the game and one of the best ways to be found in Instagram, however there is a fine line of too little and too much. If they wanted the Colonel to be perceived as a true “influencer”, we would recommend they use less hashtags in each of their posts. The majority of high-level influencers don’t include as many hashtags, and therefore come off less spammy or as a blatant advertisement.

Enhance Community Engagement

When influencers respond to their fans comments, they build a connection. A deeper relationship is established, and fans are more encouraged to come back to their feed. KFC should’ve responded to more of their fans comments and engaged with their community. By neglecting to do so, they missed opportunities to build stronger relationships with their community, and shown they cared about the excitement surrounding the new Colonel.

Additionally, they could have also responded to fans on other influencers photos as well. For example, @lexihenseler, a popular influencer with over 340K followers, posted a photo with the Colonel on her Instagram account. She received over 229,990 likes and 119 comments on their photo. By not responding to any of those 119 comments, there is a missed opportunity to engage with new followers and potentially encourage those followers to follow the Colonel as well.

Overall Thoughts

Overall, we applaud KFC for their innovation and staying ahead of the trend. They built a relatable, attractive, modern-looking replica of their historical mascot, and it got their audience and others talking. It also helped solidify the power of virtual influencers and the role they are playing in marketing. We expect other brands will soon follow suit, and a new wave of virtual influencers to be coming our way sooner than later.