KFC - Finger-lickin' deceptive
We all know what it means, right? Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Not so fast.
Tell anyone from around the world that you're from Kentucky and immediately they'll come back with "Kentucky Fried Chicken?" I've seen it happen time and time again. I've known people who could barely speak English but who can say "Kentucky Fried Chicken."
Somewhere in our cultural past, fried foods became taboo. Pinpointing this is tricky, because surely we all knew fried foods weren't good for us for quite some time before the "new health consciousness" kicked in. And just as the new health consciousness is telling us now that carbs are bad for us (though last I checked, they were the base of the nutritional pyramid), somewhere along the line this way of thinking came to outlaw fried foods.
And it's true. They're right, you know. The new health consciousness is dead on in its targeting of fried foods. They clog up your arteries. Lead to heart disease. They're not good for the human body. Fried foods are trouble all 'round.
And here's KFC's problem -- how can they rebrand themselves when, for years, the word "fried" has been part of the name of the product? Never mind that it's paired with the word "Kentucky," and that culturally Kentucky and fried chicken go together like pickin' and grinnin'.
As an advertising writer myself, I've been in much the same spot. I've been asked to write "fresh, healthy" copy for a product that was neither fresh nor healthy. I'd routinely get notes back -- "we can't say low-carb, how about we say 'lower-carb', that way the customer knows it's not high, because we can say it's not high" or "legally we can't say fresh, since they come from a freezer in Minnesota."
KFC's clearly up against the wall. Time for some good, old-fashioned ingenuity. And that's where they dropped the ball.
Change the name from Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC. Nowhere in a KFC restaurant will you see the name Kentucky, unless it's in a promotional piece featuring the slowly-fading icon of Colonel Sanders. They'll simply call themselves KFC from now on. And that'll be that. No more "fried", since they can't think of another word to replace "Fried" with that still works in context with "Kentucky" and "Chicken." And to be fair, it worked. The public vernacular now refers to it as KFC.
They're getting buried with the fried thing. But hey, chicken's good for you, right? So technically, since fried chicken isn't a greasy cheeseburger, it's healthy. Well, healthier, at least. So they go with the healthy message.
Now, I don't know if you were lucky enough to see any of the spots that followed this strategy, but the commercials born of this thinking were borderline absurdist. One featured a young wife bringing home a bucket of chicken home to her couch-anchored husband with the line "it's okay. It's healthy." Needless to say, this spot lasted only a few weeks because we, the general public, while easily hoodwinked, are not about to believe that fried chicken is healthy. We may miss a lot, but give us a little credit.
An extraneous strategy, really. Seems everyone still knew that the "F" in "KFC" still stood for fried. But they changed it already, remember? It's not "fried" anymore, it's KFC! Apparently there was some need felt in corporate to make sure the fried message disappeared entirely. So what now?
They change the "F", that's what. We make sure that everyone knows the "F" stands for "fresh," not "fried," and we call the whole product "kitchen fresh chicken." And the spots? Several people sniffing into the air saying "is that kitchen fresh chicken?" Of course it is! And it's delicious!
So what are we left with? Chicken, that's true. From Kentucky? Not anymore. Fried? Yes, but let's pretend it's not. Fresh? No, but let's pretend it is. Kitchen? I suppose in some loose way, it is created in a "kitchen" (but only with added finger quotation marks).
In the end, you really can't fault KFC for at least trying. Though they vastly overrestimated the susceptiveness of the American consumer, they had to do something. And short of changing one's name and brand history altogether, they weren't left with much of an option. It's just unfortunate for them that while the consumer population was so quick to accept fried foods as Satan incarnate, KFC was unable to turn the same easily-fooled public around to believe that they were, in fact, "kitchen fresh chicken."
And KFC seems to still be doing just fine. So don't lose sleep.
Instead, save your tears for the pork rind industry.