A short treatise on “A Recipe for Seduction”


Every once in a while a brand does something so fascinating and unexpected that we have no choice but to marvel at the sheer strangeness of the world we live in.

Kentucky Fried Chicken is that brand, and today Kurt Ravenwood will be gracing us with his thoughts on their collaboration with the Lifetime Channel entitled A Recipe for Seduction.

We weren’t sure if it was real, so we fact-checked just to make sure.

It’s definitely real. And it’s definitely coming to your living room on Sunday.

Latest marketing headlines & resources

Just one link today. It’s the trailer for A Recipe for Seduction. Starring Mario Lopez of Saved by the Bell fame, who plays Colonel Sanders in his younger… erm, sexier… years. Does the young mustachioed chick magnet work as a cook for rich people, or something? Screw it, here’s the logline:
As the holidays draw near, a young heiress contends with the affections of a suitor handpicked by her mother. When the handsome chef, Harland Sanders, arrives with his secret fried chicken recipe and a dream, he sets in motion a series of events that unravels the mother’s devious plans.

A short treatise on “A Recipe for Seduction”

Hi all, Kurt here.

I want to preface this by exposing two of my more shameful loves in life: The KFC Double-Down Sandwich and steamy romantic stories about aristocrats. My vegetarian wife supports my love of one of those things.

Point is, I’m not above A Recipe for Seduction. I just can’t tell if it’s the smartest advertising move in recent memory or a sign of the apocalypse. I suppose the two aren’t mutually exclusive, sort of like the many different ingredients in the Double-Down Sandwich that coexist in a magical yet revolting way.

I’m going to set aside my questions about what the hell a mini-movie is and leave them to much more capable writers. Let’s look at this from your perspective, the marketers.

Was this a good idea?

From a marketing perspective, unequivocally. I can’t stop thinking about KFC. The internet can’t stop talking about it. It’s the very best of stunt marketing. And it’s a great pivot away from the “Finger Lickin Good” campaign they had to take down because of COVID.

From a sales perspective? I would bet $100 that in a week we’ll be reading the Ad Age article about a surge in sales. I’ve already had to stop myself from running out and “doubling down” a few times today.

From an investment perspective? Duh. Lifetime Movies have the quality of student films (seriously, try watching them sometime) and after you’ve paid Mario Lopez, you’re looking at… maybe $4 million? $5 million? And you’ve already generated more buzz than a Super Bowl ad.

From a societal perspective? I mean… look, we already live in a circus world where our folk heroes are characters that were created to sell us comic books and garbage food. We’re in it. It’s real. I’m hungry. Also confused.

From a filmmaking perspective? Stop it, we’re dead already.

What makes it work?

Before you go calling Lifetime to make your own steamy version of the Harley Davidson origin story (actually, I’d watch the hell out of that), consider a few things:

  • Colonel Sanders is an American visual icon. In stunt / viral marketing, we have to get it in one second. I’m pretty sure the real Colonel Sanders wasn’t Hispanic or skinny, but you know immediately who this is, thanks to the mustache and tie:
  • KFC has been building this zany brand for over a decade. They took a decidedly wacky tone right around the time Old Spice did the same and they’ve never looked back. This feels totally expected. For God’s sake, this is the company that made a sandwich that replaced bread with two juicy breaded chicken breasts surrounding a delicious combination of cheese, bacon, sauce and zesty Zinger® coating.
  • However, as I said a few weeks ago — you have to mix in some “unexpected” with your “expected” to catch people’s attention. If KFC released this as a digital short, or trailer, it would have gotten some laughs but probably petered out. The fact that it’s a Lifetime Movie is the key ingredient for viral success here.
  • The embedded irony gives this so much wiggle room to succeed. If they tried this with Comedy Central, it wouldn’t work as well. Pairing a goofy fast-food brand with a channel known for producing earnest, saccharine, melodramas puts an IRONIC FORCE FIELD around the whole affair. People who hate it can’t take it too seriously. Mario Lopez’s career will be fine because it’s an obvious joke. I’m trying to find any angle where it’s offensive and I just can’t.
  • It really can’t be duplicated. KFC will always own this. Lifetime might try to make a series of this, but it will never have the power of this original stunt. And if other fast-food chains do it, people will say they are “doing the KFC thing.” It’s a checkmate.

All in all, a brilliant move that maybe only Burger King could have also pulled off.

It’s fun as a small unhealthy distraction, just like the double-down sandwich. Except for this mini-movie probably won’t give you hypertension, unless you actually watch it expecting it to be a worthwhile piece of entertainment.

But what if it’s actually good. Can you imagine? If, despite all indications that it will be a contrived soulless piece of crap, it was Emmy-worthy? That would be the ultimate coup.

I’m not putting my money on it.

In fact, I’m putting my money into a drive-through window because it’s 2020 and I just need a little guilty pleasure, dammit.

– Kurt