KFC's president reveals how the chain picks who plays Colonel Sanders as the brand cycles through countless versions of the character

George Hamilton KFCKFC

  • KFC's US president, Kevin Hochman, says the chain is "very, very deliberate" when it comes to casting its Colonel Sanders.
  • The chain said it needs to determine what new products need a Colonel to make a splash, as well as make sure there is an actual link between the actor and the new menu item or deal.
  • Past Colonel Sanders have included Reba McEntire, Jason Alexander, George Hamilton, and a Chippendales dancer.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

There's a method to the madness of KFC's constantly rotating cast of Colonel Sanders.

"It's very, very deliberate ... A lot of people think it's random, but it's not," KFC's US president Kevin Hochman told Business Insider. "There's some really smart people behind trying to figure this stuff out."

Read more: KFC is meeting with plant-based 'meat' makers as chains like Burger King and Del Taco jump on the vegan bandwagon

There are two major points that KFC considers when picking a new Colonel Sanders. The first is deciding which product launches deserve a new Colonel.

A quirky new menu item, such as its Cinnabon Dessert Biscuits, will typically be accompanied by a new Colonel - in this case, a shirtless Chippendales dancer. When KFC launches delivery nationally later this year, there will be a new Colonel whom Hochman says the chain has already selected.

"We can't blow the budgets," Hochman says. "We look at the year and say, 'What are our big bets?'"

KFC Jason AlexanderKFC

Next, KFC needs to match the correct Colonel Sanders to the right product.

The chain hired Jason Alexander, the actor best known for playing George Costanza on the television show "Seinfeld," for a series of ads spoofing traditional sitcoms. Reba McEntire told Business Insider that her Oklahoma roots helped her become the first female Colonel, selling the Smoky Mountain BBQ chicken. George Hamilton was hired as the "Extra Crispy Colonel" in part because of his iconic tan.

Hochman says that fans can continue to expect KFC to push the boundaries of who exactly can serve as the next Colonel Sanders.

"It's a real challenge," Hochman says. "This poor marketing team's got to figure out how to keep this interesting."

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