How KFC stayed top of mind despite having to close its doors

Amid a global crisis, KFC saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to flaunt its slogan in a way that would boost word of mouth by over 3,800%.


When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, for the first time all of KFC’s markets faced the same challenge at the same time: they were forced to close.

This brought about two fundamental challenges for KFC: how could the brand stay salient with its doors closed and how could it make sure customers would return when restaurants reopened?

With commercial survival in the balance, KFC and long-standing creative agency partner Mother London saw a crucial opportunity to speak to all of KFC’s customers globally with one brand voice. The brand saw an even bigger opportunity to flaunt its world-renowned ‘It’s Finger Lickin’ Good’ slogan amid the crisis. But in a way that would suit the times.

KFC launched its first global marketing campaign with part of its famous slogan censored out. By taking advantage of the Pratfall Effect, KFC hedged its bets on using weakness to try and make people warm to the brand.

‘It’s __ __ Good’ was accompanied by a public information campaign, which told people: “that thing we’ve been saying over and over for the last three quarters of a century? Ignore it for now.” KFC pixelated the lines on images of large KFC buckets and replaced them with crowd-sourced suggestions for alternatives, while influencer partnerships were used to drive engagement.

The campaign reached over 2 billion impressions and brand word of mouth soared by 3,842%. In the week after the campaign, there was a 2% uplift in global sales, translating to a profit gain of $8m and profit ROI of £2.27.

KFC’s Pratfall Effect approach not only delivered a boost in short-term sales and positive brand uplift, it also won the brand the 2021 Marketing Week Masters award for Brand Innovation.