Fast food is a competitive industry. Advertising in the industry isn’t to let people know the companies exist; the average person can name a number of fast food restaurants off the top of their head. The goal of the advertising is to get people talking and possibly wanting fast food in the moment. Product placement is always a possibility, though it may backfire as shown with Mac and Me.

Along the way, some marketing execs figured that the best way to reach a target audience was to provide what that audience likes. The catch is to keep the cost of access negligible. The results include three X-Box and X-Box 360 video games featuring the Burger King, Wendy’s tabletop RPG, Arby’s anime-inspired Twitter account, and a KFC dating sim. Burger King was the only one of that list to charge, and even then, it was under $4.00, far below the average price of a new X-Box/X-Box 360 in 2006. The rest are at no cost to the target audience.

KFC began from humble roots in 1930, as Harland Sanders served fried chicken alongside country ham and steak at the Sanders’ Cafe in Corbin, Kentucky, across from a gas station where he began with just the ham and steak for truckers. Sanders started using a pressure cooker to seal in his secret recipe of eleven herbs and spices. Sanders’ Cafe was included in a 1935 road-food guide. Original Recipe, as the blend of herbs and spices used today are known, was perfected in 1940. The success of Sanders’ fried chicken led to him receiving the honorary title of Colonel from the Governor of Kentucky in 1950, leading Sanders to wear the white suit and black bow tie he became known for.

The first franchise was created in 1952 in South Salt Lake, Utah. When a highway bypassed Corbin in 1955, Sanders’ Cafe shut down due to a lack of travellers. Colonel Sanders sold the property and travelled across the US to sell more franchises, gaining the name Kentucky Fried Chicken in the process. Sanders became the face of the franchise until, even appearing in ads until his death in 1980. Afterwards, an animated Colonel Sanders was introduced in 1998 as a mascot for the brand. As much as Colonel Sanders had issues with how the brand was handled after he sold it off, he is still even today a part of it, with his likeness on boxes and barrels, one of the rare fast food mascots based on a real person.

As new generations are born and grow up, new ways to get their attention are needed. Dating sims originated in their current form in Japan in 1992 and made in-roads to North America riding with waves of anime series. The goal of a dating sim is to romance one or more potential match ups.  The games tend to take time as the player works magic on the preferred romantic partner. What better way to promote a brand than by having players try to romance Colonel Sanders?

Have players romance a sexy Colonel Sanders.

KFC commissioned Psyop to create a dating sim, I Love You, Colonel Saunders!  A Finger Lickin’ Good Dating Simulator.  The game was released in 2019 and available for free on Steam. The player is a student at the University of Cooking School: Academy of Learning, a prestigious school where the top chefs learn and compete. Naturally, there are rivals, including Aeshleigh, who has an extra letter in her name just because, her right-hand man Van Van the Man Man. They have a definite Team Rocket vibe. Van Van even shows a JoJo`s Bizarre Adventure influence

Fortunately, the player has their best friend, Miriam, who wants to become the foremost tiny food chef, in their corner.  On the sidelines are Pop, Clank, and a student, with Spinkles, aka Professor Dog, teaching the three-day trimester. Rounding out the cast is, of course, sexy Colonel Harland Sanders. The game plays quickly, taking about an hour to complete a play-through. There are unexpected twists and challenges, but the game’s goal is brand identification. Naturally, KFC’s menu gets mentioned.

The designers could have just created a generic dating sim and used the likeness of the Colonel, but I Love You, Colonel Sanders took a few extra steps. The game is over the top, revelling in audacity. Underneath the audacity, though, are facts about KFC and its founder. The real Harland Sanders had a full life, and the game just scratches the surface, but the details are there if the romance is successful.

Psyop put in an effort to portray the game’s Col. Sanders accurately. The real Harland Sanders was passionate about his fried chicken, complaining when PepsiCo and, later, Yum bought the company, to the point where he still had control over franchises in Canada. The game’s version is as passionate, exaggerated a little but still coming from the same place. The character’s appearance reflected the white suit and black string tie Sanders wore he was granted his honorary title. The two herbs and spices that are revealed but still  redacted are the two Sanders admitted to. The game has a heart, and that heart is Colonel Sanders.


This article was originally published at Seventh Sanctum.

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Thanks to our friends at Seventh Sanctum for letting us share this content.

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