KFC Brings Sanders To Robotic Life

It's National Fried Chicken Day, and what better way to celebrate it than ordering a meal from your local animatronic Colonel Sanders? 

To celebrate the day (July 6), the fast-food chain has rolled out a Human Assisted Rooting Linguistic Animatronic Networked Device (H.A.R.L.A.N.D., for short), a Sanders-shaped speaker that allows people to order directly from the Colonel himself. 

“Most people grew up knowing Colonel Sanders as KFC's iconic founder, but many millennials and younger consumers know the brand a bit differently, with our introduction of different celebrity Colonels,” George Felix, director of U.S. brand advertising for KFC, tells Marketing Daily. “H.A.R.L.A.N.D. is a nice way for us to honor and pay homage to the Colonel in celebration of National Fried Chicken Day, bringing him to life in a new and technology-driven way that makes sense to younger consumers.”



The device (created in partnership with W+K Lodge, the design engineering group of agency Widen+Kennedy) uses speech recognition, artificial intelligence and text-to-speech software to transform the local KFC operator’s voice into Sanders’ Southern drawl. While it will only be available at a few places in the country, the company produced a video demonstrating the technology. In the video, H.A.R.L.A.N.D. head pops out of a KFC bucket to speak directly to the audience. 

KFC also teamed with Funny or Die to produce an informational video about H.A.R.L.A.N.D., tracing its “history” back to the 1960s, as an idea developed by Sanders himself. The video also includes scientists explaining the technology behind the animatronic device and disputing the notion that it’s “the disembodied torso of Colonel Sanders … talking to you.”

KFC will be showcasing H.A.R.L.A.N.D. through social media and other “earned” opportunities, Felix says. Its also scheduled to make an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on Thursday night.

The tongue-in-cheek approach to National Fried Chicken Day is just the latest in far-out marketing stunts KFC has pulled-off this year. Among the others: commissioning Sanders-themed romance novels for Mother’s Day and sending a chicken sandwich into space

“Our marketing campaigns are all about developing fresh, slightly ridiculous, marketing ideas that embody the spirit of KFC,” Felix says. “We continue to evolve operations and marketing campaigns to keep up with the latest technology.”

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