Reviewed

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Yesterday, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC to friends), unveiled a new logo that, in a nutshell, stripped Colonel Sanders’ signature white double-breasted coat and adorned him with a red apron while maintaining the identifiable thick-rimmed glasses, goatee and string tie, all in a neatly contemporary and fresh style.

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KFC has maintained a remarkably consistent brand identity over the past 50 years, putting all its efforts into Colonel Sanders’ image and has only manipulated its depiction five times in five decades — always maintaining the defining elements while adapting to the unavoidable visual shifts of the fast food industry. In the past five or seven years most fast food chains have been TacoBellized: logo at an angle, dimension (with flat colors, not gradients, thank you) and bright and bold colors.

The new KFC brand will be implemented in 14,000-plus restaurants spread throughout 80 countries in the next few years and is accompanied by one of those stunts that sound great in a boardroom but just leave everyone else wondering “is it really worth it?”: A 65,000 square foot giant logo in the Area 51 dessert — seriously?! — that can be seen from space — for all of us that commute from Pluto we can take advantage of the gridlock around the moon to enjoy the logo while bottle-necked — code-named the “Face from Space” and consisting of “6,000 red, 14,000 white, 12,000 eggshell, 5,000 beige and 28,000 black” tiles. In the skeptical, mocking words of Borat: Niiiice! I rarely preach social consciousness but, c’mon, save the money, donate the cost of those tiles and manpower as food for shelters. Stunts like these are unimpressive and a waste of resources.

As with some branding projects, the firm is left uncredited and e-mails to PR Folks are left unresponded so, dear readers, I have no clue who is responsible for this new identity work. Perhaps as the discussion progresses we will be dutifully tipped. And as with all rebrandings the press releases are full of hot air of which I have no desire in blowing more of here. I can, however and as always, give you my impression. I, surprisingly, really like the new logo, the drawing of the colonel is dynamic, it is very precisely reduced to the most defining elements of the face and I simply adore his cool, gray-haired, almost-blowing-in-the-wind flock of hair. The drawing has dimension, depth and dynamism, without resorting to shading, proving that a well-conceived set of shapes can communicate more boldly and directly than any amount of shading will ever do. Even the “Kentucky Fried Chicken” typography is working for me, as a modern interpretation of the very first logo, the “Chicken” might be too retail for my taste, but I find it to be digestible.

The new overall brand feels to me like a succesful culmination and evolution of the effort that KFC has made in the last two or three years to enliven the brand with fresh and energetic ads and position it to compete against McDonald’s and Crispin-led Burger King. This is Branding 2.0™ done well: it breaks away from the stodgy stigma that traditional corporate identity entails and it pushes the bubbly, friendly, angle-y graphics into appropriate territory; this is a brand that works well across TV, print, web and environmental contexts and, more importantly, is appropriate for its market, audience and visual context.

Colonel: I salute you!

Update: The new KFC identity was designed by San Francisco-based Tesser. Don’t miss a PDF with highlights of the new logo — including an explanation of the three stripes on the apron.

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Reviewed November 15, 200611.15.06 by Armin


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