The Drum Awards Awards Case Studies Crisis PR

No more finger lickin’: why KFC put its famous strapline on ice


By Awards Analyst, writer

July 9, 2021 | 5 min read

Mindshare UK, with Mother and Freuds, won the Grand Prix, as well as the Retail and Ecommerce and Best Pivot categories at The Drum Awards for Marketing 2021, with their work for KFC. This fresh and self-deprecating campaign impressed the judges by leveraging a decades-old slogan to find humor in a difficult time.

The challenge

Covid-19 hit KFC hard. Stores closed in the March lockdown and opened only slowly over the following months, with staff and customer safety the priority.

During lockdown the brand managed to generate several key moments of positive engagement by inviting people to post their re-creations of KFC menu favorites (to be subjected to unforgiving assessment in characteristic KFC style).

But as stores reopened and advertising ramped up again following the lockdown pause, KFC needed to drive salience to ensure customers would in fact return. And perhaps even more importantly, it needed to face the issue of its strapline. ‘Finger Lickin’ Good’, one of the world’s most famous lines, was also now perhaps the world’s most inappropriate.

The strategy

KFC is known as a brand that marches to the beat of its own drum. Its strategic approach can be broken down into three ‘inappropriate decisions‘ that flew in the face of conventional wisdom:

  • Decision #1: Don’t empathize, make it all about yourself. “We didn’t have a right to talk about customers’ experiences. So instead of trying to be empathetic, we would make it about ourselves. ‘Brand out‘ became our mantra.“

  • Decision #2: Don’t play the sad violin, play the banjo. “People wanted a break from the depressing real world. Our job would be to lighten the mood; instead of playing the sad violin, we would play the banjo.“

  • Decision #3: Don’t avoid the hard sell, sell harder. “People were crying out for treats to make a tough situation a little more joyful. So instead of avoiding the hard sell, we would focus unapologetically on the craveable taste of our chicken.“

Finally, a natural part of any global KFC campaign would be the world famous endline - had the licking of fingers not been deeply, and uniquely, unsuited to the times. The appropriate response would have been to steer clear. That might be what other brands would do. But not KFC.

The campaign

The team realized the inappropriate endline wasn’t a threat, it was actually an opportunity. It allowed KFC to take advantage of a powerful piece of behavioral economics; the pratfall effect. Through its inappropriateness, it could use its weaknesses to make people warm to it.

The public information campaign strategy had two components: Spike (a short, sharp delivery of our news through pixelating the logo on huge posters of the iconic KFC bucket) and Tail (revealing the alternative temporary taglines suggested by fans).

The Spike element included:

  • A four-day AV launch hand-picking the biggest programs, buying first-in-break and boosted by VOD to get the highest possible reach.
  • Piccadilly Lights! Just for 5 days, the biggest possible site for the announcement, supported by high-profile large-format sites and a two-day roadside buy.
  • Social takeover: a reach-focused 2-day campaign on social channels, utilizing prominent and unmissable formats.
  • Print. One day, all national papers, full-page.
  • Display. Reach-driving page takeovers and pre-roll, supported by programmatic reach-based buys.
  • Earned. A global media response working with multiple markets to spread the news far and wide.

The Tail component included:

  • Talent and influencer partnerships. Working with known brand fans such as Professor Green, Chris Stark and Emma Louise Connolly for them to involve their followers in the creative process behind them submitting a new tagline for KFC.
  • OOH. Heavyweight national D6s campaign delivered by Kinetic, showcasing multiple crowd-sourced tagline variations, deepening and lengthening the campaign.
  • Paid media partnership. Putting crowd-sourced taglines back into real communities through a 3-part, celebratory, localised content series with Reach to sustain engagement.
  • Social. Re-targeting engaged audiences and reaching those who missed the initial launch. Additional support featuring crowd-sourced tagline variations with a focus on re-targeting those exposed to the launch, serving multiple executions out sequentially.

The results

The campaign was covered in 97 countries and received over 2 billion impressions. Brand word of mouth went through the roof, up 3,842%. In the UK alone, the campaign achieved over 600 pieces of media coverage, reaching 83% of UK adults across national, broadcast, consumer and regional titles.

Through influencer partnerships creating the new slogans, the campaign made 6,990,949 impressions, with an average engagement rate of 4.31% (ERR).

The week after the campaign, there was a 2% uplift in global sales. And as we know, a tiny percentage against a huge global footprint is a massive absolute number. It translates as a profit gain of $8 million - from just a few days activity. And an impressive profit ROI of £2.27.

This project was a winner at The Drum Awards for Marketing 2021. Find out which competitions in The Drum Awards are currently open and don’t forget to visit our new interactive calendar.

The Drum Awards Awards Case Studies Crisis PR

Content created with:


Mindshare is a global media and marketing services company created in 1997. As one of the world’s largest media agencies, Mindshare is responsible for a large...

Find out more

More from The Drum Awards

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +