Last week, KFC launched its first ever female Colonel Sanders. In the chicken chain’s latest marketing campaign, they feature country singer Reba McEntire playing the iconic Colonel. However, rather than making Colonel Sanders a woman, they opted to have her dress up as a man, complete with beard and moustache.
Many people are praising KFC for breaking gender barriers; others are asking why the new colonel has to be a woman pretending to be a man, rather than just a woman.
“It’s something that, in a way, you can kind of poke fun at yourself by dressing up as the colonel,” McEntire said. “But, in a way it’s very respectable because he’s been a part of our growing-up years.”
KFC’s CMO said that McEntire perfectly “embodies the values of Kentucky Fried Chicken.”
The role of Colonel Sanders
In the past, Colonel Sanders has been depicted by plenty famous faces. That list includes actors like Rob Lowe, Ray Liotta, and Billy Zane. However, in the company’s 90 year history there’s never been a woman step into the famous white suit. As the new face of KFC’s Smoky Mountain BBQ chicken, the country music icon will sing in commercials and swap between roles as herself and Colonel Sanders.
Despite skepticism, some of McEntire’s dedicated fans aren’t on board with her decision to take on the role. But KFC’s new chief marketing officer Andrea Zahumensky believes a female Colonel Sanders will contribute to a new image of the brand.
Colonel Sanders died 36 years ago and later disappeared from ads for nearly 20 years. However, he was brought back in 2015. The original Colonel Harland Sanders first started selling fried chicken from one restaurant in 1940. After he sold his franchise, he remained on as the iconic spokesperson. There are now 18,875 branches of KFC across the world.
While the first female Colonel Sanders may not be the beacon of feminism the Women’s March asked for, perhaps it’s the one they need right now.
As for McEntire’s thoughts on the matter? “I thought the transformation was really funny. I got a big kick out of it.”