- KFC's limited-edition holiday buckets will this year include original illustrations for the first time, which tie into a #SecretSanders contest the brand is running, according to news shared with Marketing Dive. The Yum Brands chain has made seasonally themed buckets part of its marketing tradition going back to the '70s.
- The original artwork was created by award-winning children's book author and illustrator Nicholas John Frith. As part of the effort, KFC is launching a #SecretSanders sweepstakes that offer the chance to win one of 11 KFC gifts inspired by its 11 herbs and spices.
- Images of each gift are hidden in the bucket illustration. They include a Colonel Santa suit, a Colonel Nutcracker and a Colonel Tree Topper. To enter, KFC fans must post a photo of their favorite item in the illustration between now and end of day on Dec. 22 to Instagram using the hashtags #SecretSanders and #Entry.
KFC is tying together custom-illustrated packaging and a novelty gift giveaway in a push that mirrors other promotions the chain has run around the holidays. The Yum Brands marketer two years ago released a collection of stocking-ready swag, including pillows, apparel and wrapping paper themed around its menu items and Sanders, and sold it through a dedicated e-commerce store.
This year, KFC is switching up the approach by leaning more into social media and Instagram, in particular, to drive user engagement. KFC's bids at hawking branded merchandise have frequently proved popular with consumers, and Frith's unique artwork on the holiday buckets could create additional appeal.
Fried chicken-scented "seasoned tickets" for orders of Kentucky Fried Wings available via StubHub sold out within two hours of going live in October. Earlier in the year, a limited-edition run of Colonel Sanders figurines made in collaboration with Funko sold out within 11 minutes, according to the chain.
These efforts attempt to reinforce KFC as a lifestyle brand that fans are proud to represent and engage with outside of its core restaurant business. Fellow Yum Brands chain Taco Bell has also ramped up its focus on this front, including through refurbishing a hotel over the summer to cater to its most ardent followers. Reservations at the destination dubbed The Bell were fully booked within two minutes, and the campaign drove 4.4 billion impressions, executives told Adweek.
But KFC's seasonal packaging play also reflects campaigns other marketers have recently launched for the holidays. Kraft-Heinz's Oscar Mayer is giving away a 15-pound "BAEcon" weighted blanket via a Twitter promotion that ties into cuffing season, or the period of the year where singles seek out partners to keep them company for the chillier months. In another gag gift play, beer maker Busch is selling a five-foot long insulated stocking that doubles as a cooler through its e-commerce shop.