Wednesday, October 28, 2009

He's not dead, Jim. The "Harlan" of Harlan Koch crashes the United Nations

Back in January, I wrote a post that I've revisited several times since. The original post, entitled "Why Harlan Koch needs to run Starbucks," argued that passion is a good thing. The post cited two people whose passion bordered on insanity, one of whom was "Colonel" Harlan Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame.

Perhaps you've heard of Harlan Sanders, better known as Colonel Sanders. He opened a cafe in 1929, created his special fried chicken recipe in 1939, and was considered synonymous with his fried chicken recipe until his death in 1980. Actually, even afterwards, but the post-1980 cartoon character can't compare with the real thing.

Basically the corporate automatons at Kentucky Fried Chicken - whoops, I mean KFC - turned the Colonel from an insane guardian of a secret recipe to an old man in a white suit who smiled a lot.

But perhaps the insanity is coming back, at least from the marketing folks. Kim LaCapria tells what happened.

Actor Robert Thompson, dressed as the iconic Colonel Sanders, got as far as posing for a picture with President of the UN General Assembly Ali Treki, before his presence was detected and he was ejected from the area.

The incident ended up being raised in an October 26 United Nations briefing. After answering questions about such inconsequential items as Israel and Afghanistan, the UN spokesperson addressed of the matter.

Question: Michèle, what about this Kentucky Fried deal…

Spokesperson: Yes, what about it?

Question: The person who came and took all these pictures and all that.

Spokesperson: Yes. Well, we are still trying to find out exactly what happened. It was a very unfortunate incident of someone trying to use the UN for commercial purposes, which is something we have always condemned and that we do not accept. In this specific case, there was some lapse in security and, as you know, the individual in question was escorted to the regular visitors’ entrance. He came into the regular visitors’ entrance and he was then on the initiative of one security guard, was taken a little beyond that limit, which is the limit for visitors, into the UN and he came to the second floor, which was a very unfortunate thing. It did happen. I’m not saying the contrary. It should not have happened. That I will stress very strongly.

Question: He breached security with the help of a security guard. Is that right?

Spokesperson: Yes.

Question: [laughter]

Spokesperson: He was escorted by a security guard.

Question: Because I’m wondering from, I mean, Kentucky Fried Chicken or KFC is owned by something called Yum Brands, a conglomerate. It actually has a kind of a partnership deal with the World Food Programme and puts out press releases saying we work with the World Food Programme obviously trying to advertise itself. What’s the UN going to do on it, because KFC also wrote a letter supposedly to the Secretary-General. Are you aware, they’ve put on their website a letter they claim…

Spokesperson: I can tell you that the Secretary-General never received that letter.

Question: Okay.

Spokesperson: And, at any rate, that letter is void to us. It has absolutely no meaning whatsoever. The UN cannot be involved in a commercial venture, period.

Question: But then, so what are the repercussions for Yum Brands or KFC for having kind of used the UN somewhat effectively to advertise themselves.

Spokesperson: Well this is being, being touched upon by our legal department. Yes.

Question: And what happened to the security guard in question?

Spokesperson: I have asked. I don’t have the answer yet. Okay. Thank you all.

Now, the original Harlan Sanders may have done some weird things, including the entire claim to be a "Colonel" in the first place, but to my knowledge he never tried to crash the headquarters of a multi-national organization.

But then again, the original Harlan Sanders never tried to hawk GRILLED chicken either. And new products call for new thinking.

(Picture source, license)
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