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Problem Solved #9: The inside scoop on KFC's 'Finger Lickin' Good' U-turn

Problem #9: how KFC gave the finger to bad press

To mark the launch of our new manifesto – setting out The Drum’s editorial mission to help readers solve their problems – we’re christening today Solutions Day on And to set the tone, over the course of 24 hours our team of worldwide journalists will be spotlighting 24 recent examples of times when our industry demonstrated its remarkable talent for solving problems.

Problem: A KFC UK marketing campaign in February pushed how ‘Finger-Lickin' Good’ its meals were. At the same time, the government was pushing the handwashing and anti-face touching messages to curb the spread of Covid-19. The campaign sparked some complaints from the public. The tone clashed with the PSAs - despite finger-licking obviously posing little risk.

Solution: The ads were paused, the business safely reopened with a reference how people admirably tried to make their own KFC. But looking to spin the loss into a positive, KFC re-released the campaign cleverly ‘censoring’ the catchphrase, acknowledging the sticky situation earlier in the year. It's a marketing team keen on using a negative story as a ramp for something more.

KFC worked with Mother for months to deliver the February campaign, and over the next few months had to start from scratch. The new 'censored' work was so beloved by the corporation that it ran internationally across numerous markets. Here we offer a closer look at KFC's plucky plan:

  • Back in March, all 900 of KFC's UK restaurants were shut overnight. KFC UK had managed to make the most out of a chicken shortage in 2018. It had experience thinking on its feet.

  • In the battle for share of voice, KFC acknowledged some fault which would have made for a more compelling news hook.

  • It reinforced its catchphrase by obscuring it, thus proving how distinctive an asset it is.

  • Finger Lickin’ Good was never a threat to the public, but KFC was sensitive to the tone of its creative. It has remained so.

Hermeti Balarin, executive creative director at Mother, said: “If you're just aware of cultural context around you, the turbulent times that we're going through right now offer plenty of opportunities for very tuned in marketeers and agencies to figure out how to cut ahead."

Read more Problem Solved articles in our Solutions Day hub.

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