In the summertime battle of the fast-food chicken chains, each of the biggest contenders is showing its true stripes—or spots—on this, National Fried Chicken Day in the US.
KFC is doubling down, again, on its lead as the world’s biggest seller of fried checken of the Colonel Sanders character. But instead of making up Rob Riggle or Jim Gaffigan or Rob Lowe or someone else in the Colonel’s character and using him as the emcee for the company’s latest promotion, the Yum! Brands-owned chicken franchise is going robotic.
To celebrate National Fried Chicken Day, KFC is bringing the Colonel to a drive-through in Torrance, CA, as a spokesbot “robot chickenexpert (named) H.A.R.L.A.N.D.,” KFC said. The tongue-in-cheek acronym stands for “Human Assisted Robotic Linguistic Animatronic Networked Device” and the spot was produced in partnership with Funny or Die.
The animatronic, KFC said, includes a “state-of-the-art voice modulator system that gives drive-through customers the experience they’ve always dreamed of: ordering from an animatronic Colonel Sanders head that speaks in the voice of Colonel Sanders.”
In case you don’t remember hankering for such a greeting, it might help to know that H.A.R.L.A.N.D. repeats whatever the drive-through operator speaks, so customers “can have unique and interactive conversations” just as with the real Colonel Sanders. The animatronic head will be taking orders from customers at select KFC drive-thrus in the US.
“What better way to celebrate National Fried Chicken Day than by ordering KFC from the Colonel himself?” George Felix, KFC U.S. director of advertising said in a statement. “We suspect drive-thru designers are heralding the H.A.R.L.A.N.D. technology as the greatest industry advancement since the addition of two-way communication itself. Not only do we have a real person as our historic brand icon, but now we have the ability to bring that real person back as a real robot. The future is now.”
H.A.R.L.A.N.D. also made an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live:
By contrast, Chick-fil-A is going old school, not new tech, with its 13th annual Cow Appreciation Day event next week. On that day, customers who show some bovine flair—from a full cow costume to a touch of black and white cow motif on a piece of clothing or accessory—will receive a free entree at Chick-fil-A’s more than 2,100 restaurants nationwide.
Why cows? Of course, because while KFC has been falling in and out of love with Colonel Sanders as a brand character for decades, Chick-fil-A has stuck fastidiously with its use of cows as an advertising gimmick, as they urge consumers to “Eat Mor Chikin.” Fans also can share pictures of their costumes on social media.
“Every year we are amazed at the number of customers who participate in Cow Appreciation Day,” said Jon Bridges, Chick-fil-A senior vice president and chief marketing officer.