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Marketer's Brief: KFC's Newest Colonel Is Decidedly Unknown

Published on .

Welcome to the latest edition of Marketer's Brief, a quick take on marketing news, moves and trends from Ad Age's reporters and editors. Send tips/suggestions to eschultz@adage.com.

Baby wipe sales are boosting Amazon and Taco Bell has a new beer. Yes, beer. Find out about that and more below. But first, we check in on KFC's newest ad star.

This ad is celebrity-free

You probably won't recognize KFC's newest colonel. And that's the point. The chicken chain tapped unknown actor Christopher Boyer for the leading role in its newest ads, breaking a string of celebrity colonels that has included Rob Lowe, Jim Gaffigan, Norm Macdonald and others. Boyer's version is known as Value Colonel, with the gimmick being that the chain can offer cheap prices by not shelling out money to secure a celeb. The effort, which included the TV spot below, is by Wieden & Kennedy Portland.

Taco Bell Beach Bell beer.
Taco Bell Beach Bell beer. Credit: Taco Bell

Making a beer run to the border

California Taco Bell fans might want to bring their ID on their next run to the border. The chain's newest Cantina location in Newport Beach serves its own exclusive beer, Beach Bell Amber Lager. The limited-time brew, made in partnership with local Huntington Beach brewery Four Son's Brewing, is Taco Bell's first branded beer. But the Yum Brands chain already sells alcohol, including boozy slushy drinks, at other Cantina locations. Taco Bell described Beach Bell as "a Mexican-style Amber Lager made with a unique flavor profile to enhance and compliment Taco Bell's food and flavors. The light, crisp, and refreshing beer has a smooth and robust taste with a clean finish that makes it the perfect beverage to pair with a Taco Bell meal." Newport Beach is the chain's 11th Cantina location. Instead of a drive-thru, this one has a walk-up window, and it carries the vibe of some of the other Cantina spots with details like an open kitchen and artistic murals.

If you can't beat them, buy them

Small brands have been beating big packaged-goods players for years, creating an insatiable appetite for acquisitions. Kao Brands is the latest into the game, buying high-end Oribe Hair Care for an undisclosed sum on Wednesday. It will become part of Kao's Salon Division. That follows Unilever's acquisition of Schmidt's Naturals deodorants last week, its acquisition of Sundial Brands last month, and Procter & Gamble Co.'s acquisition of the Native natural deodorant brand last month. Expect more next year, as U.S. companies, flush with more cash from the tax cut, look for new ways to spend their money.

GMA is running out of members

The Grocery Manufacturers Association is running low on members, and not because they're all being acquired. Unilever and Tyson Foods joined a growing number of big players who aren't re-upping in the primary trade association that represents packaged-goods players, Politico reports. Nestle, Mars, Dean Foods and Campbell Soup Co. are among others that have left. Politico attributes the defections to disagreements with the GMA's aggressive opposition to such things as labeling foods with genetically-modified-organism ingredients. Unilever didn't say so much, but did note in a statement that it wants to focus on advocacy aligned with its Sustainable Living Plan.

Amazon's baby wipes are cleaning up

As if Amazon hasn't dominated 2017 enough (Alexa, order the congratulatory champagne), a new report suggests its private labels, which the Seattle-based ecommerce giant has been ramping up, saw blockbuster growth this year. Such growth was led by AmazonBasics, which generated $400 million in estimated sales, year-to-date, or 85 percent of Amazon's total private brand stable, according to data tracker One Click Retail. Baby wipes, in particular, nearly doubled in sales year-over-year to nearly $15 million in 2017. That's a lot butt cleaning.

If the pants fit…

JC Penney is going after post-holiday shoppers with a new "Find the One" campaign. Running from Dec. 29 through Jan. 1, the promotion, which was created in-house, assigns a personality profile to each pair of pants, taking a cue from modern dating sites. For jeggings, for example, a promo reads, "On a typical Friday night I am…Always up for anything. Pair me with sneakers, booties & so much more." The struggling retailer is also offering buy one, get one-type offers and reward points for loyal customers. "Research shows that once a customer finds a specific pant fit they love, their brand loyalty increases tremendously," wrote a JC Penney spokeswoman via email. After recent sales declines that led to lowered financial expectations, JC Penney is desperate for the perfect match.

The millennial path to financial success

Ally Financial has tapped Vice for a new content series focused around the topic du jour—millennials and money. Called "The Right Start," the digital series covers the generation's untraditional pursuit of American dreams like buying a home, starting a family and purchasing a car. The content will be pushed out on Ally and Vice sites and social media channels.

Would You Buy This?

Kombrewcha unveils 3.2% Hard Kombucha
Kombrewcha unveils 3.2% Hard Kombucha Credit: Kombrewcha/Business Wire

A brand called Kombrewcha purports to be the first hard kombucha, checking in a 3.2 percent alcohol by volume, which is about a point less than the average light beer.

Number of the Week

56.2 million: Forecasted 2018 new and used vehicle sales from Cox Automotive, which would be flat compared with 2017.

Tweet of Week

Moves

No executive moves to report this week. Perhaps everyone is staying put for the holiday weekend.

Contributing: Jessica Wohl, Jack Neff, Adrianne Pasquarelli, E.J. Schultz

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