KFC makes finger-lickin’ a dirty word

The QSR gets back to brand investment by tweaking its historic tagline for the times we live in now.


It’s a historic slogan that will be history for the time being, as KFC is temporarily suspending “it’s finger lickin’ good,” the tagline with which the QSR has been inextricably linked for more than 60 years.

kfc-3“The pandemic means our tagline doesn’t feel quite right at the moment,” says Katherine Debicki, marketing director at KFC Canada. “We wanted to call out the elephant in the room and offer a witty, self-aware response to our tagline in a way that can make people smile, provide a moment of relief and remind people that, just for now, resist licking your fingers. It’s not that people’s behaviour is wrong. It’s our bad, not theirs.”

As a result, it’s taking the “finger-lickin’” out of its slogan temporarily – leaving only “it’s good” – and issuing instructions to “wash fingers thoroughly before lickin’” on its buckets, as well as in a campaign launching today that includes print, out-of-home, online video and social.

From the moment the pandemic began, Debicki says ensuring restaurants were able to operate responsibly has been KFC’s number one priority in Canada and across all of its global markets.

Now, Debicki says, the restaurant has made the strategic decision to invest in brand building over the long-term after months of restaurant closures and consumers being unwilling to go out created a sizeable dent in QSR business category-wide. According to parent Yum Brands, Q2 system sales for KFC declined 18% globally, though CEO David Gibbs said it saw “consistent strength” in Canada, the U.S. and Australia. 

One of the ways KFC is investing in its brand is through brand building campaigns such as this one, which target a mass audience and maximize reach, referencing a tagline with decades of equity but turning it into a message appropriate for the time to help build further equity and salience.

“Our media plan is built to deliver against this objective, leveraging multi-channel buys with an integrated campaign to deliver effective reach,” she says. Spend has been weighted towards the campaign launch to build mass awareness and promote cross-channel engagement, but it will be sustained through owned channels until the QSR brings the tagline back.

“We’ll be bringing it back when the time is right,” Debicki says. “‘It’s Finger Lickin’ Good’ is part of our DNA and just like Schwarzenegger, it will be back. Bigger and better than ever.”

Earlier this month, KFC Canada launched a campaign promoting the national launch of its plant-based chicken sandwich, which playfully asked Canadians to “relax” about the rollout, inspired by the knee-jerk aversion some people have to anything vegan-related.

Mother, KFC’s U.K. creative agency, lead the global campaign development. The QSR partnered closely with creative agency John St., media agency Wavemaker and PR agency Edelman to add local relevance.