LOUISVILLE Ky. KFC said it is moving forward with an online campaign to find a new mascot for its Kentucky Grilled Chicken despite some backlash from customers who have told the chain they'd rather the Colonel stay right where he is.
Earlier this month, KFC launched a search for the "Ultimate Kentucky Grilled Chicken Fan" to serve as the face for the new product line. Since then, the chain has received several phone calls, e-mails and messages at social networking sites from customers concerned KFC was getting rid of Colonel Sanders.
KFC said customer comments have included “Why? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and “Wake up! He is worth keeping. Nothing new will be better than KFC’s history.”
“We've received a lot of interest in our 'Ultimate Kentucky Grilled Chicken Fan' contest," said KFC spokesman Rick Maynard, “but we've also heard from some very passionate fans of Colonel Sanders. The feedback we've received so far shows Colonel Sanders remains a beloved figure around the world, nearly 30 years after his death and that makes everyone at KFC very proud.”
KFC said the Colonel would continue to be the face of the brand, but that it would continue its search for the Ultimate KGC Fan. The contest, which continues through July 8, invites customers to submit a video on KFC's MySpace page, www.myspace.com/unthinkkfc , explaining why he or she should win. The public will vote for the winner, and three finalists will be named July 25. The chain plans to announce the winner in August.
“Of course, the Colonel will continue to represent KFC,” Maynard said, "but we decided to let America vote to get a sense for how big a part our contest winner should play in the marketing of Kentucky Grilled Chicken."
KFC’s grilled chicken line has been beset by marketing glitches since its rollout in April. A massive giveaway promotion in May faltered  because of technological problems and supply limitations, and KFC ultimately issued staggered rain checks for the free two-piece meal plus a soft drink. Earlier this month, two customers sued KFC  over the giveaway, accusing the chain of false advertising, fraud and unfair business practices.
At the time the suit was filed, KFC spokesman Maynard said the chain had “received an overwhelming response" to the giveaway and apologized “to any customers who were inconvenienced."
KFC has more than 15,000 locations worldwide, including 5,000 domestic units.