KFC logo with Colonel SandersThe geezer with the goatee that appears on KFC's logo -- real person or a cartoon character? In a new survey of Americans 18-25, more than 60% of respondents didn't know that the geezer, Colonel Harlan Sanders, was a real person and founder of the fried chicken empire. How fleeting is fame.

Don't expect that ignorance to last much longer, though, as the company has announced one of the most esoteric PR campaigns in recent memory. The winner of the KFC Cooks Up Challenge will be commissioned to paint a portrait of the Colonel using paint supplied by the company, paint "infused with original recipe herbs and spices."

Don't try this at home, though -- your dog might lick the Colonel right down to the gesso.

Luckily, you won't be competing against Norman Rockwell (you do know who he is?), who painted the Colonel back in 1973. To enter the contest, you can upload a sketch of your proposed work to a dedicated website before the end of the month. The winner will get $1,100 (11 herbs and spices -- get it?) and the chance to paint the portrait, which will hang in the company's headquarters.

The contest could be an attempt by the company to emphasize its roots after taking heavy criticism from franchisees who felt that, in introducing grilled products and using KFC in place of the Kentucky Fried Chicken moniker, the company was abandoning the core of its market strength; fried food. Sales suffered as a result; during the second quarter of 2010 they were down 7% over the previous year among stores open more than a year.

As a result, franchisees represented by the KFC National Council & Advertising Cooperative have sued KFC owners Yum! Brands and attempted to take control of ad strategy. They should be pleased with this campaign, since it hearkens back to the days before we worried about cholesterol and obesity, when flavor was king and the Colonel reigned supreme.

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