As far as fast-food brand mascots are concerned, it’s comeback season.
KFC announced on Tuesday that it was bringing back its antebellum oldster Colonel Sanders, just days after McDonald’s rebooted the Hamburglar as a hipster dad.
Hamburglar, who has been transformed from a rosy-cheeked cartoon into a flesh-and-blood human, gives off playground creeper vibes, while Colonel Sanders, played by Saturday Night Live alum Darrell Hammond, cranks up the Southern charm.
But how are they playing to their intended audiences? We pitted the two against one another on different platforms to find out.
While Hamburglar has been hijacking the McDonald’s handle in between his burger heists, Colonel Sanders has been personally replying to people (and publications) tweeting at him with finger-lickin’ sass on KFC’s account.
Here’s Hamburglar, lamely.
— McDonald’s (@McDonalds) May 12, 2015
And here’s Colonel Sanders landing a few solid digs.
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According to data analytics firm Crimson Hexagon, there have been 1,349 posts about Colonel Sanders since May 19, expressing largely positive (and neutral) sentiments towards KFC. Hamburglar, for his part, has been mentioned in 9,662 posts since May 7, and although people had a lot of feelings about the new bandit, he has not had an impact on brand sentiment around McDonald’s more broadly.
In contrast to its status on Twitter, McDonald’s has not been “taken over” by Hamburglar on Facebook. Instead, there, it’s business as usual for the burger giant, which is using the platform to promote its new burger — the sirloin third pound burger — which it is trying to safeguard from Hamburglar’s hands.
This post is one of the several Hamburglar-related posts that McDonald’s has put out, all of which together have amassed approximately 150,000 likes so far.
Watch your selfie! The Hamburglar is out of hiding and there’s nothing he wants more than our tasty, juicy Sirloin Third Pound Burgers.
Meanwhile, the three posts that KFC has posted featuring the new Colonel so far have gathered nearly 15,000 likes on Facebook.
On YouTube, KFC’s Colonel seems to be making more waves, garnering 2.5 million views in only two days views as compared to McDonald’s’ Hamburglar video, which has got only 92,000 views since being posted on May 6.
“One potential explanation for why KFC’s ‘The State of Kentucky Fried Chicken’ video was such an outlier with engagement compared to McDonald’s is that Darrell Hammond plays the role of Colonel Sanders,” said Rick Liebling, head of global marketing for data analytics firm Unmetric. “Leveraging a popular actor — in this case a renowned impressionist and comedian like Hammond — could have boosted the video’s popularity. It’s important for brands to have a view of what content works best, as this data can inform their own social efforts.”
KFC is pulling out all the stops, even developing a new Colonel-centric website, ColonelSanders.com, where users can explore a “Hall of Colonels”: a digital scrapbook of photos and video reels from this new Colonel’s past. There is even an in-site video game called “ColonelQuest” where, as Colonel, players must dodge teachers, save babies and punch people.
While Hamburglar doesn’t have his own dedicated site, he has been pretty social media savvy otherwise — making Vines and even taking over Snapchat.
Both characters were culture icons before their reboot, so both new campaigns were ripe for parody. Virginia-based production company Whiskey Tongue has gone rogue with an #OGHamburglar campaign, which features a series of short films starring the original Hamburglar. One, for example, features Ronald McDonald and Grimace picking up OGHamburglar just as he’s getting out of jail.
Conan O’Brien, for his part, trolled the timing of Colonel Sanders’ comeback, with this post on his show’s Facebook page.