And KFC’s first female Colonel is…

Country music fans might instantly recognize the voice of the first woman to play KFC’s Colonel Sanders, but for others, it could take several seconds before figuring out who’s in the sparkly white suit.

“I’m Colonel Sanders,” Reba McEntire, disguised as the man himself, belts out in the opening seconds of the chain’s latest spot. “Same as always, absolutely nothing’s changed.”

McEntire the colonel is on stage at a honky-tonk bar, and when she starts singing, the audience goes nuts. She tosses her white cowboy hat out into the revelers, revealing a quick cut of the “real” McEntire, who catches the hat on her head.

Wearing a wig, facial hair, glasses and a fringed, sparkly white suit, McEntire dons a look similar to that of the nine male celebrities who have starred in the ever-changing Colonel role. She’s the first woman, and the first music superstar, to play the part, which originated with Darrell Hammond in May 2015. Her spot, from KFC agency Wieden & Kennedy Portland, is also the first one to feature dancing policemen.

“I grew up with Kentucky Fried Chicken,” McEntire said in a KFC statement. “It’s part of my story, and I’m so excited to now be part of theirs. I’ve held a lot of roles in my life—sort of like the Colonel himself— but this is certainly the most unique one yet.”

What she’s part of, specifically, is selling the chain’s newest regional flavor, Smoky Mountain BBQ fried chicken.

Smoky Mountain BBQ is the Yum Brand Inc. chain’s third southern-inspired flavor. Vincent Kartheiser played the Nashville Hot fried chicken colonel in 2016, followed by Billy Zane as the Georgia Gold Colonel in 2017. Ray Liotta was then the face of both of those flavors in a campaign that broke in September.

The colonel who came just before McEntire was unknown actor Christopher Boyer, a non-celebrity chosen to be the value colonel. The others, in order of appearance, have been Hammond, Norm Macdonald, Jim Gaffigan, George Hamilton, Rob Riggle, Kartheiser, Zane, Rob Lowe and Liotta.

KFC isn’t the only brand McEntire works with. Her other projects include a “REBA by Justin” footwear line, Reba apparel at Dillard’s and a line of cosmetics.

from Creativity-Online: http://creativity-online.com/work/kfc-honky-tonk-smoky-mountain-bbq/53698

White Castle Consolidates Creative with Merkley+Partners

The country’s oldest burger chain has consolidated its creative account with Merkley+Partners.

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White Castle selected Merkley+Partners as its new creative agency of record without a review after assigning the retail portion of its creative account to the agency last July. Resource/Ammirati formerly handled the fast food portion of the account, after being selected as agency of record following the brand’s last review in 2014, replacing Zimmerman Advertising. Crossmedia New York continues to handle media buying and planning for White Castle.

White Castle spent around $7.8 million on measured media in 2016 and $7.6 million in the first six months of 2016, according to Kantar Media.

“Certainly, there are efficiencies by consolidating our business with one agency. However, having worked with Merkley for some time now, what really excites us are the ideas and energy we know they will bring to our communications with our consumers, also known as ‘Craver Nation’,” White Castle CMO Kim Bartley said in a statement.

“Expanding our relationship with White Castle satisfies a craving we’ve had for some time now,” added White Castle CEO Alex Gellert. “It makes us very proud to be awarded additional assignments from clients that you already know, respect and really enjoy working with.”

from AgencySpy: http://www.adweek.com/agencyspy/white-castle-consolidates-creative-with-merkleypartners/142412

What to Expect from Taco Bell in 2018

Taco Bell has been busy lately, from unveiling self-serve kiosks to releasing of Nacho Fries to bolstering its leadership team—most notably hiring Julie Felss Masino as brand president—in just the last two months. And the brand is not stepping away from the spotlight anytime soon. “We’ll definitely be innovating more in 2018,” says Matt Prince, Taco Bell spokesperson.

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In terms of what to look forward to, Prince says, “Fans will see familiar favorites with a fun twist, as well as completely new items. We’ll also continue the innovation off the menu—continuing to push culturally relevant moments and collaborations as we did in 2017 with Lyft, Forever 21 and OpenTable.” In July 2017, Taco Bell and Lyft unveiled the companies’ “Taco Mode” partnership, which allows Lyft customers to tack on a ride-thru at Taco Bell on the way to their destination of choice through Lyft’s app. Starting in October 2017, Taco Bell fans can now pick up the restaurant’s hot sauce–inspired apparel at Forever 21; and, also in October, Taco Bell partnered with OpenTable to open up reservations for a special National Taco Day dinner at the Taco Bell Test Kitchen.

“The primary factor at the root of our continued success is our innovative spirit,” Prince says. “Ever since Glen Bell entered the burger marketplace with tacos, Taco Bell has pushed innovation, accessibility, and affordability. We also lean into the passion and cult of our fans, connecting them with each other and their passions.”

In 2018, then, expect more partnerships capitalizing on the brand’s fandom in the vein of the 2017 Lyft, Forever 21, and OpenTable collaborations.

Keeping the brand agile, 2017 brought technology innovation to Taco Bell, an arena where, Prince says, the company will continue to focus efforts. “Our fantastic relationship with our franchisees has allowed Taco Bell to fund new technology initiatives for 2018 and beyond,” he says. With 2017’s digital efforts of expanded delivery, group ordering, and self-serve kiosks, Taco Bell is aiming to improve the customer experience with “frictionless digital experiences,” Prince says.

Taco Bell’s expansion last year, however, was not limited to the digital world. “2017 was a year that included a great deal of international expansion in Europe, China, and elsewhere, bringing our global total to over 400 restaurants in 26 countries,” which brings Taco Bell’s count today to around 7,000 restaurants, Prince says. Globally, the company hopes to grow to 9,000 restaurants over the next five years. And, in each new market, Taco Bell is bending and adapting as needed to fit local tastes, cultures, and preferences. In December, the company announced two new Shanghai, China restaurants, the menus of which feature a ribeye steak and mushroom taco, beef kebab nachos, and the Shanghai Cosmopolitan cocktail.

But don’t think that, with so much expansion elsewhere, Taco Bell would let its American menu stagnate. “We’re planning to roll out 20 new $1 test or limited-time-offer items through 2018 as part of our biggest value push in company history,” Prince says. “This begins with our highly anticipated $1 Nacho Fries [in January], and will include some fun takes on some our most popular menu items as well.”

“Whether it’s the unexpected flavors of the Naked Chicken Chalupa [the chicken-shelled menu item released in January 2017] or turning breakfast inside out with the Naked Egg Taco [fried egg is the taco shell here], Taco Bell takes fan feedback to heart and uses it to drive improvement and innovation,” Prince says. “We’ll continue to test menu items in select markets to gauge consumer reaction before we consider debuting them nationally.“

The Yum! Brands chain enjoyed a strong 2017 financially, reporting worldwide system sales growth of 6 percent in the third quarter versus the prior-year period. Yum! opened 70 Taco Bells in the quarter to bring its total count to 6,738. In the third quarter, the company debuted 15 new international units.

from QSRMagazine.com: https://www.qsrmagazine.com/competition/what-expect-taco-bell-2018

White Castle opens Valentine’s Day dinner reservations via OpenTable

White Castle partnered with OpenTable for its 27th annual Valentine’s Day dinner event, allowing diners to make reservations via the company’s website or app, a news released announced.

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Customers who attend the dinner, held on Feb. 14 from 4-9 p.m. at most White Castle locations, are encouraged to take photos and post them on social media using the hashtag #whitecastle. The brand is also creating a holiday-themed Snapchat geofilter.

White Castle’s Valentine’s Day dinners feature hostess seating, tableside service, decorations and a special menu. Customers are encouraged to book their tables early because tables tend to sell out, the company said.

Dive Insight:

Though the White Castle Valentine’s Day promotion has been going on for years, the brand is taking concrete steps to bring it into the digital age in 2018. By partnering with OpenTable, the burger chain could tap into a larger, more digitally-savvy audience since the booking service, which is part of The Priceline Group, seats more than 24 million diners each month at more than 43,000 restaurants, per the release.

Other fast-food brands have partnered with the company to promote special events and engage with mobile-minded customers. Taco Bell offered OpenTable reservations for its Test Kitchen and other promotions last year, including one around National Taco Day and the release of is Naked Egg Taco.

The Valentine’s Day dinner is a good fit for the social media-minded, with special themed decorations and a potential kitschy charm. Marketers are more often attempting to design out-of-home and event marketing in this way, where the experience itself encourages customers to create content that is shareable and will help spread reach and brand messaging even to those who can’t make it into store locations.

Other social elements of the White Castle campaign, including the location-based Snapchat filter, could help the brand connect with younger consumers. A recent StubHub survey found that 63% of Gen Zers send Snapchat messages during live events, compared to 40% of millennials.

from Marketing Dive: https://www.marketingdive.com/news/white-castle-opens-valentines-day-dinner-reservations-via-opentable/514879/

KFC Is Now Accepting Bitcoin for Buckets of Fried Chicken

Oh, cryptocurrency.

Despite warnings from the Oracle of Omaha (and our own common sense), everyone we know is still trying to cash in on Bitcoin-driven hype with embarrassing earnestness. Brands included. (To be fair, the results enjoyed by Long Island Iced Tea—or shall we say Long Blockchain Corp.?—hasn’t helped matters.)

But KFC Canada has found a wily way to ride the coattails while deriding the entire damn concept. With help from agency Grip Unlimited, meet “The Bitcoin Bucket,” an attempt to convince Canadians to exchange their Bitcoins (thus relieving them) for buckets (of chicken, thus enriching KFC while the going can be got).

Jokingly dubbing it the “crypto-chicken space,” the brand explains the move by writing, “Despite dramatic swings in value, long and short-term volatility, and general confusion around cryptocurrency, the Colonel’s Original Recipe chicken remains constant—it’s finger lickin’ good.”

What better reason to invest in your belly, and not a bubble?

“We’re upgrading the $20 Bucket to the 0.0041 Bitcoin Bucket, or whatever its ever-fluctuating value happens to be at the moment,” the brand wryly continues in an email.

Canadians are invited to visit the brand’s online store, ColonelAndCo.ca, to exchange their digital currency for a bucket of chicken tenders, which would be delivered between Jan. 12 and Jan. 19.

The Bitcoin Bucket started trading at 3 p.m. on Thursday. A Facebook Live video is currently tracking the bucket’s real-time value in Bitcoin:

In the (we hope) rare event that you like the idea of informing your day-trading with promotional foodstuffs, but KFC just isn’t your thing, there’s always the WhopperCoin.