KFC, previously known as Kentucky Fried Chicken, has suspended its use of the marketing slogan, “Finger-Lickin’ Good,” amid concerns that customers actually licking their fingers could put them at risk of contracting or spreading the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state-based health departments have all issued coronavirus-related disease prevention instructions warning individuals not to touch their face — and, particularly, not their mouths, eyes, and nose — following contact with surfaces that could host the novel coronavirus.
Since licking fingers necessarily involves contact between digits and mouth, KFC is warning customers to keep their fingers only on the chicken and the utensils provided for the company’s side dishes, like coleslaw and mashed potatoes with gravy.
The “Finger-Lickin’ Good” slogan, which KFC has used for decades, just no longer “felt quite right” its chief marketing officer, Catherine Tan-Gillespie, said in a statement.
“We find ourselves in a unique situation — having an iconic slogan that doesn’t quite fit in the current environment,” she noted.
The slogan will return when the danger of contracting the novel coronavirus has passed, the company said.
KFC is, of course, using the decision as a clever way to inject itself into the national discussion surrounding the pandemic. The announcement — which was greeted with fanfare and space on the company’s website as well as a widely distributed press release — features in a new series of ads for Kentucky Fried Chicken. The ads focus on how consumers can continue to eat fried chicken even if eating with digits is largely discouraged.
The first ad, which features the traditional KFC chicken bucket with the words “finger-lickin'” blurred out, premiered on Monday.
“To be clear, Monday’s announcement is a marketing campaign. A clever one, perhaps, with good intentions baked into it … but a marketing campaign nonetheless. KFC blurred out the slogan featured on old billboards and signs in a cheeky ad released on its YouTube page,” CNN reported. “KFC, like most fast food places, uses bizarre, self-effacing, and at times hokey marketing ploys to bring customers into their stores. Fast food is a low-growth, zero-loyalty business with razor-thin margins, so any bump in customers is a major win for quick-serve restaurant chains.”
The outlet goes on to note KFC’s earlier efforts at capturing consumer attention, including chicken-scented nail polish and a “yule log” that smells like fried chicken when it burns.
Fast food restaurants, like many national chains and small businesses, have struggled in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. KFC’s parent company, YUM Brands, which also owns Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, reported a slight sales decline of 7% in the first quarter of 2020, per Seeking Alpha. KFC sales fell by around 8%. Overall, though, the company fared well in comparison to others, buoyed by Pizza Hut’s delivery pizza service, which continued to operate throughout the shutdown and by Taco Bell’s early re-entry into the foodservice market following mandated closures.