KFC’s Comms Are Finger Lickin’ … Oh, Never Mind

Thom Weidlich 08.27.20


KFC’s approach to crisis communications has long been noteworthy (in a good sense), and now we have another example: the way the company just announced that it’s suspending its longtime tag line.

On Aug. 24, the fried-chicken purveyor issued a press release saying it’s pausing the slogan — “It’s Finger Lickin’ Good” — as not in keeping with the hygiene demands of the COVID-19 pandemic. The move is part of its first global campaign; a spot pixels out “Finger Lickin’” and ends with “That thing we always say? Ignore it. For now.”

You could argue the move was a little, uh, tardy, but it’s the lighthearted way it was done that stands out. Not many companies would headline such a press release thusly: “And the Winner of the Award for the Most Inappropriate Slogan for 2020 Goes to…KFC.”

The chicken chain went on to explain that, although the catchphrase is 64-years-old and accurately describes its product (natch), “right now, our slogan doesn’t feel quite right.” Thus the pause.

“We find ourselves in a unique situation — having an iconic slogan that doesn’t quite fit in the current environment,” the release quotes KFC Global Chief Marketing Officer Catherine Tan-Gillespie.

This raises another theme we like to emphasize: When a crisis hits, you need to check your marketing messages to see if they clash with said crisis. If so, yank them.

Supply Chain

KFC, formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken, is owned by Louisville, Kentucky-based Yum! Brands Inc. Over the years, we’ve had occasion to praise KFC’s crisis communications. Most notable was how it handled its 2018 supply-chain nightmare in the UK, which caused it to shut down stores. Its responses, including in advertisements, were full of apt humor. “A chicken restaurant without any chicken,” it wrote. “It’s not ideal.” Its print campaign won a Cannes Lion award.

Years ago, we also highlighted KFC’s deft responses to a false “fried rat” incident and a false allegation of kicking a little girl out of one of its restaurants.

On the other hand, in January we criticized the company for its inept handling of a tone-deaf advertisement in Australia.

For those crestfallen over the banning of the KFC slogan, fear not: The company promises the tag line will eventually rise again.

Photo Credit: KFC via YouTube

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