KFC drops ‘Finger Lickin” slogan around the globe as hygiene concerns persist

Dive Brief:

  • KFC is pausing the use of its long-running “It’s Finger Lickin’ Good” slogan in marketing and advertising materials as hygiene concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic persist, according to a company announcement.
  • The Yum Brands chain first pulled ads broadcasting the 64-year-old slogan in the U.K. at the outset of the health crisis in March, but expanded the pause around the globe Monday. KFC said it will resurrect the iconic line when it feels the time is right.
  • The chain launched an awareness effort that shows the catchphrase blurred out on KFC marketing materials throughout the years, including billboards and vintage fried chicken buckets. The self-censoring video is part of the brand’s first global marketing campaign, which has a strong digital focus and was made with KFC’s U.K. agency Mother London, the same shop that developed the initial U.K. push, Muse by Clio reported.

Dive Insight:

KFC expanding a pause on its signature slogan around the globe signals that consumer hygiene concerns related to the pandemic will continue to impact marketing strategies for the foreseeable future. As in the U.K., KFC dropped the catchphrase in the U.S. back in March, according to Nation’s Restaurant News, but is now extending the freeze to the Netherlands, Canada and the Middle East, as well as parts of Asia and Africa.

While the health crisis has raised sensitivity toward what’s depicted in ads — simple actions like handshakes or showing people without a mask can raise red flags with viewers — it also presents an opportunity for marketers to pivot their messaging to be more timely and health-conscious.

“Think we can all agree, this year has been like no other and, right now, our slogan doesn’t feel quite right,” KFC’s announcement reads.

For KFC, hitting the brakes on “It’s Finger Lickin’ Good” after 64 years acts as a runway for the chain’s first global marketing effort — one that rolls out as fast-food restaurants are looking to capitalize on the boom in delivery and takeout ordering. Digital video ads appear on YouTube as well as social media platforms including TikTok. Large out-of-home buys share lines like “Finger lickin’ not currently advised” and “Wash fingers thoroughly before lickin’,” per Muse by Clio.

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The messaging shows that, rather than shifting to a somber approach, KFC is aligning the move with its broader focus on off-kilter humor. The official announcement grants KFC the “award for the most inappropriate slogan for 2020,” another self-effacing gesture.

Other marketers have run campaigns that acknowledge sacrifices made during the pandemic. KFC’s push, while intended to be fun, has raised scrutiny in some circles, as there remains a lot of confusion over what is and isn’t a health risk when it comes to COVID-19. In this light, KFC’s move appears to be raising more questions for consumers than actually moving the discussion forward. Comments on YouTube, for instance, are critical of the decision, suggesting that finger licking is only a big health risk if the person in question is licking someone else’s fingers.

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