Scientists Say Lonely People Buy More KFC Because They Think Colonel Sanders Is Their Friend

Man eating chicken

Family bucket for one please.

As if ordering a family bucket for one weren’t depressing enough, it turns out that lonely people subconsciously go for the Colonel in order to not feel so alone.

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In a recent study, scientists claim that lonely people are more likely to buy fast food that features human faces on the packaging, such as KFC, in order to fill a social void. Even McDonald’s Ronald will do, apparently.


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The study was launched when University of Oregon’s marketing head Professor Bettina Cornwell found herself ordering a packet of crisps while travelling alone in France, despite the fact that she hates them. She realised that she’d gone for the packet with the smiley face and she asked herself:

What was so compelling about that particular bag of chips? Why did I almost purchase something I actually dislike?

Cornwell decided to take on academics Ulrich Orth, Jana Ohlhoff and Christiane Naber to help her find out what compelled her to buy the crisps and what this meant on a wider scale. The team carried out various tests including one where they created 18 fake brands and slogans with faces and no faces and asked participants to answer questions about the brand, the images and themselves.

What they found is that fast food brands like KFC and food brands such as Coco Pops and Kinder Chocolate are more appealing to people who are lacking in social interaction. Cornwell said:

Visuals can fill a void for consumers experiencing a lack of social connection.

When people see faces in branding materials, their likeability for that brand goes up.


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Orth added:

Our study builds on prior research by demonstrating that seeing a face in a brand visual increases a consumer’s liking of the brand, especially if they feel lonely.

So there you have it – the reason you’re stuffing your face with family buckets and Maccy’s burgers could be to do with the fact that you’re a loner. If this is the case, maybe it’s time to put the bucket down and give your mates a call.

Or you could just give in to the temptation, order loads of junk food, get yourself one of these drinking buddy robots and have yourself a lonely drunken feast for one.


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