KFC Ad Director's Restaurant Franchising and Innovation keynote keys in on 'keepin' it fresh'
"Keep it fresh" is a phrase pizza restaurateurs might as well have tattooed on their foreheads for the daily challenges it presents, if nothing else. And today more than ever, that certainly applies to a brand's marketing and advertising efforts. That’s why news of this year’s keynote speaker at the Restaurant Franchising and Innovation Summit should perk up your ears, since KFC Director of Advertising George Felix has mastered this approach for the longtime chicken chain in ways few brands can match.
After all, at 65, KFC — born as Kentucky Fried Chicken under the watchful eye of Col. Harland Sanders — has morphed into a global restaurant powerhouse, now under the ownership of Yum Brands. And for the last few years, it has really made a name for itself as an offbeat marketer that appeals widely to both that treasured 18-to-35 demographic, as well as their older Baby Boomer parents and beyond.
That’s a bit of a trick as any marketer knows, and Felix will let the summit's attendees in on some of his strategies at the summit, which takes place in the Derby City of Louisville April 9-11, just weeks before the annual Run for the Roses. Felix will detail how his "secret (marketing) recipe" is resonating with both millennials and Baby Boomers. But as we said, be forewarned, sometimes it involves embracing the weird.
Under Felix's leadership, working with Wieden+Kennedy, KFC has come up with several unusual ways to connect with younger consumers — including creating chicken-scented sunblock and launching a chicken sandwich into space — but it hasn't forgotten about its older demographic.
Felix, for example, was instrumental in bringing Colonel Sanders back as an advocate for the brand. Of course, his team has put a modern and funny twist on the character hiring a revolving list of actors, including George Hamilton, Rob Riggle and Ray Liotta to portray the beloved colonel.
"To move KFC forward as a brand, we've gone back to our roots, which means the colonel's way of doing things: 'The Hard Way.' We refer to this transformation and re-commitment to Colonel Sanders' values as re-colonel-ization," Felix said in an interview with FastCasual. "As part of that larger effort, we've re-inserted the colonel — the ultimate chicken salesman – into our marketing over the past few years, both in our traditional advertising and in unexpected places, like in the wrestling ring, comic books, or sending a chicken sandwich to space."
Felix, who lives in Louisville, is excited to keynote the event in his home state, and he's not the only one. Kathy Doyle, president and publisher of Louisville-based, Networld Media Group — the company that produces the summit — said Louisville was an easy location choice.
"With major players in the restaurant industry headquartered in Louisville — Yum Brands, Papa John's, Texas Roadhouse and Long John Silver's — along with the city's welcoming nature when it comes to small business owners, it just made sense," Doyle said. "We're also excited to bring the summit to our hometown and about being the very first event to book the new Omni Louisville Hotel. The Bourbon Trail is another part of the culture that we think everyone will be excited to explore."
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Other speakers confirmed for the Summit include:
- Carin Stutz, EVP and COO, Red Robin.
- Travis Doster, senior director of public relations, Texas Roadhouse.
- Peter Boylan, president, Ballard Brands.
- Stacy Brown, founder, Chicken Salad Chick.
- Steve Rothenstein, senior director of franchising, Dippin' Dots.
- Scott Taylor, president, Walk-Ons.
- Rich Mainzer, chef/owner, The Boneyard Truck.
- Chris Cheek, chief development officer, Newk's Eatery.
- Doug Hogrefe, senior operator, Amerigo.
- Richard Simtob, president/partner, Zoup.
- Donna Josephson, SVP and CMO, Corner Bakery Cafe.
- Jodie Conrad, VP of marketing, Fazoli's.
- John Hughes, brand ambassador, Jersey Mike's.
- Dennie Laney, VP of training and people development, Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes.
- Scott Iversen, VP of marketing, Toppers Pizza.
- Shannon Salupo, corporate beverage manager, Quaker Steak & Lube.
- Chip Hamm, attorney, Kaplan & Partners LLP.
Cherryh Cansler Before joining Networld Media Group as director of Editorial, where she oversees Networld Media Group's nine B2B publications, Cherryh Cansler served as Content Specialist at Barkley ad agency in Kansas City. Throughout her 17-year career as a journalist, she's written about a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry and technology to health and fitness. Her byline has appeared in a number of newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine. She also serves as the managing editor for FastCasual.com. www