Case Study : Take a brand and look at how it is delivered in different countries, e.g. alcohol, tobacco, transport, cars. Is it symbolised in a different way? Why might colour or typeface have been changed? Does it work at a local level and does it work at a global level?
Task: Collect visual examples and upload onto your blog and onto the ideas wall. Debate your opinions with your coursemates – ensure you contribute and incorporate this into a short 500 word written critical review in your blog. Consider the impact the media has on your understanding of visual signs and symbols relating to that piece.
These case studies explore how society is manipulated by a message and how graphic design is deployed.
I have chosen to look at the brand KFC this week, thanks to my brother! He is a computer scientist and has lived in Tokyo, Japan, for many years with his Japanese wife. I remember when he first went to live in the country and we asked him how he would be celebrating Christmas this year, he told us that in Japan they don’t really celebrate Christmas. As it is not a Christian country they don’t have the same symbolism or traditions that we have. This is where KFC stepped in. In 1974, KFC created a national marketing plan to become the Japanese symbol for Christmas; now 3.6 million families eat KFC during the Christmas period. It was a huge branding challenge, which they pulled of perfectly, filling a gap in Japanese culture and the market. The plan was called Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii or Kentucky for Christmas. My brother said that this marketing stunt has meant ever since, the Japanese have been queuing up for hours outside KFC restaurants so that they can bring KFC special Christmas menus home to their families for Christmas. I will look at this in detail shortly but first I would like to have a look at the brief history of this iconic, global brand.
KFC is an American fast food restaurant specialising in fried chicken, founded on the 20th March 1930 – 89 years ago – in Louisville, Kentucky, by Colonel Harland Sanders. Sanders was an entrepreneur who started selling chicken from a roadside restaurant in Cordin, Kentucky during the Great Depression.
Sanders identified the potential to franchise restaurants, with the first Kentucky Fried Chicken opening in Utah in 1952 popularising chicken in the fast food industry and challenging the dominance of the hamburger.
He branded himself Colonel Sanders and became and prominent figure in American cultural history. Even to this day his image is used world wide and is instantly recognisable. He truly is the fact of the brand.
By 1964, the rapid expansion of KFC had completely overwhelmed the rather elderly Colonel Sanders. He decided at this point to sell the company to a group of investors led by John Y Brown Jr. and Jack C Massey.
KFC was also one of the first fast food chains to expand to an international scale with restaurants opening in Canada, United Kingdom, Mexico and Jamaica by the mid 1960s.
In the 1970s and 1980s the company experienced many changes including a move to corporate ownership. In the 1970s it was sold to the spirits distributer Heublein, which was then taken over by R.J Reynolds food and tobacco conglomerate. Then the company was sold to PepsiCo. It continued to grow and in 1987 it was the first western restaurant to open in China, which continues to be KFC’s largest market.
The recipe of the KFC chicken – 11 herbs and spices – is still a sworn secret for the KFC brand. Over time, larger portions of the chicken were served in buckets of varying sizes. This has become a well-known feature of the brand since 1957.
Since the early 1990s, KFC has expanded its menu to offer a wide range of sandwiches, burgers and wraps. There are even salads on the menu. There are soft drinks often supplied by PepsiCo.
It is now the second largest restaurant chain in the world (as measured by sales) after McDonalds.
In English speaking countries KFC are known for slogans such as:
“It’s Finger Lickin’ Good!”, “Nobody does chicken like KFC”, and “So good”
Controversies and Criticisms
Ever since the beginning of the 21st century, many fast food chains have been criticized for their animal welfare record and their links to obesity and environmental damage. Good references for this is Eric Schlosser’s book, ‘Fast Food Nation’ (2002) and Morgan Spurlock’s film ‘Super Size Me’ (2004).
In 2003 the PETA (People for Ethical Treatment) began a protest criticizing KFC’s poultry suppliers worldwide. The only exception in this case was Canada, who signed an agreement with KFC to only use “animal friendly” suppliers. PETA insisted that the KFC brand has the power to influence the way the poultry we eat are treated.
Another incident was when Greenpeace accused KFC of sourcing soya beans for their chicken feed from Cargill, which meant massive amounts of deforestation in order to grow the crop.
In 2010, the Australian section of KFC was accused of racial insensitivity after releasing an inappropriate television advertisement showing a white cricket fan handing our fried chicken to a group of black West Indies’ supporters. This advertisement found its way around the world and was heavily criticized by the US for associating with longstanding racial stereotypes.
Greenpeace accused KFC of wiping out large sections of the rainforest with illegal, unsustainable logging in order to make their packaging in May 2012.
In December 2012 the chain was in trouble in China for using growth hormones and excessive amounts of antibiotics on its poultry which completely violated Chinese law. In 2013 KFC admitted to this and has said it was “longer lasting and more impactful than we ever imagined.” The sales in China declined by 20 percent but they reported the sales increasing again later on.
In 2017, KFC suffered more troubled and was fined £950,000 after two workers were badly burnt by a gravy boiler. The company admitted to failing in its duty of care and were ordered by the court to pay fines.
Just last year in 2018, DHL delivery company, who had been selected by KFC to be their partners in the UK, caused a chicken shortage in the United Kingdom which is KFC’s largest market in Europe. This caused the company to close hundreds of restaurants around the country temporarily. KFC apologised by launching adverts with the KFC initials jumbled to read “FCK”, followed by an apology, which appeared to be well received.
The three countries I thought would be interesting to look at are:
I want to start by looking at the way that KFC is portrayed in Japan where my brother and his wife live. I had no idea before my brother moved to Japan that Colonel Sanders had been positioned within their marketing as a Father Christmas figure in Japan. To my even greater surprise, the tradition of KFC at Christmas has been going on since the early 1970s!
My first point of call was to interview my brother’s Japanese wife, who is 27 years old and has grown up with this as the tradition since birth. She kindly agreed to help me so I wrote a series of questions that would help me understand how KFC had positioned them selves in this way across Japan. Here are my questions:
What do you remember about the way KFC is advertised in Japan?
What are your main associations with the brand based on the advertising?
Why do you think they have focused on Santa Claus theme?
Do you think the advertising has changed your view of the brand?
Do you think the advertising has made you more of less likely to eat KFC?
Here is a video of my brother asking her the questions and her answering:
She also wrote out the answers to help me.
Image of her responses
What do you remember about the way KFC is advertised in Japan?
Her first response was fascinating because she sees KFC as a ‘family gathering food’ – a food at brings family together. I think even in western countries such as the UK and the US they are trying to navigate their menu towards foods that people can share. Many of the adverts in the UK show a ‘Bargain Bucket’ being shared at a dining room table with the whole family. But if I was to answer these same questions as a British person, I would not have said that KFC was a food for family gatherings. I see KFC as a takeout monster fast food chain that you eat perhaps after a night out with friends or on a long boring drive. KFC seems to spend its marketing budget around big holidays such as Christmas and Summer Festival in Japan to make sure that they are known as a family gathering brand; however, in the UK they seem to market consistently year-round and it is unlikely that many people would eat KFC for their Christmas meal.
What are your main associations with the brand based on the advertising?
The second question she answers simply: that she associates KFC with Christmas. She does not see KFC as something you would grab with your friends or a casual food that you would order when you want a takeout; KFC is Christmas dinner for the Japanese. This makes me wonder how large their profit must be around Christmas time to allow the KFC stores to survive for the rest of the year when there are no big holidays on. Perhaps this is why they have diversified and started to associate themselves with other holiday festivals in addition to Christmas.
How can they deal with this number of people?
How can they support making this amount of food over such a short period?
Where do they store all of the chickens and other ingredients they need over this period?
I did some research and found out through an article written in 2017 on the website Sora News 24 (a Japanese news site) that over the Christmas weekend KFC Japan earned 6 billion yen. ‘Proving that Japan loves chicken’.
This article also answered a few more of my questions about how they deal with the quantity of demand over this weekend. It is highly recommended to pre-order Christmas chicken, as perhaps the westerners would pre order the Christmas turkey or goose! ‘Especially if you want a Special Box because they might not have any left if you go in on the day’
Why do you think they have focused on the Santa Claus theme?
It is clear from Konastu’s response that Japan is very keen to follow western culture. When the campaign was created only 2% of the Japanese were Christian and so there was never any drive to celebrate Christmas; however, with the warm, festive image that the westerners portray of Christmas day, it appears that the people of Japan have started looking to create their own tradition under western influence. Having said this, in an interview, Takeshi Okawara, who was the head of KFC Japan at the time, said that he knew that indicating to the Japanese, via marketing and branding, that the westerners ate friend chicken was ‘a lie’ and he admits to it being one of the biggest mistakes he made in his career even though it had a very positive financial impact on the brand. It seems he couldn’t endure the guilt associated with the lie. (http://www.businessinsider.fr/us/kfc-christmas-tradition-japan-could-built-on-lie-2018-12). So, every Christmas holiday in Japan, all the Colonel Sanders in the country are dressed as Santa Claus and huge lines start to form outside every KFC in the country
Do you think the advertising has changed your view of the brand?
It is interesting that Konastu mentions that they have a special Christmas song which they play every year. This is also filling another gap in the Christmas market. Helping people to relate the song with family time and celebration. The song appears to be catchy and the adverts are filled with warm cosy Christmas images. The Christmas turkey with all the trimmings is replaced with what looks like a table of chicken nuggets ready to be served by a grinning Colonel Sanders.
Do you think the advertising has made you more of less likely to eat KFC?
It was interesting to hear how confident Konastu was with her last answer. She was sure that if she heard the theme tune for KFC, even if it wasn’t the festive holiday season, she would feel like she wants to eat a KFC. If this is the case for the other people who live in Japan then this is an incredible marketing stunt that the company has managed to pull off.
KFC marketing and branding in Japan
Now I would like to analyse the way in which they use branding to enhance their marketing campaigns. When I started researching this, there were so many images I didn’t quite know where to start so I will look at the basic logo to see if there are any significant differences with the American KFC logo. Then I will go on to look at the Christmas brandings, significance of Father Christmas and the television advertisements and song.
Japanese KFC Logo
If I look at the difference between the original American KFC logo and the one used in Japan, there is really no difference apart form a slight variation in the height of the typography with the ‘K’ finishing at the bottom of the necktie of Colonel Sanders in the Japanese image and The typography finishing slightly higher in the one from the US; however, this might just be due to the formatting of the sign. If I search on Google images there are many slight variations in terms of the placement and colour of the typography. Sometimes the typography is black, red or white depending on where it is positioned on the logo. So it isn’t the name or the brand logo that changes, it is the marketing campaigns, which change the image of the brand so much from country to country.
I think that KFC is great at knowing their target market and speaking directly to them. Even though this varies from country to country, they seem to be very good at adapting themselves to their surroundings whilst keeping a strong brand image of their founder and a consistent typography style.
Christmas branding KFC logo
This is the image that KFC Japan used with their Christmas branding in 2018. They maintain a western, Christmassy flavour, but instead of turkey on the table there is an assortment of KFC products. I have noticed that there is always the symbolic image of Colonel Sanders smiling at you on every piece of packaging, including special Christmas boxes. It is interesting on the Kentucky Christmas box and on the signature bucket of chicken there appear to be references of snow within the branding. I have looked at the typical weather forecast for Japan in December and it appears very rarely to snow in most of the south east. It is interesting that they use snowy images when the temperature in Okinawa in the south, reaches lows of just 21C, which is warm enough to leave the house without a jacket and doesn’t really have the environment of warm open fires and big winter coats. The snow must add to the western attraction of the brand and give the Japanese to a sense of what it might be like to live in America or the UK or somewhere else where there is at least a possibility of snow for Christmas. Having said this if you live in the north of japan there is a certainty of snow at this time of year and you might be rather sick of it by the time Kentucky for Christmas starts to go no sale two months before Christmas weekend (so that people can begin to place their orders).
Also, I noticed the references to holly in the reef around the face of Colonel Sanders. Image of this? This is strange as the Christmas reef was created by the Christian community as a symbol representing the sharpness of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore. The red berries represent the drops of blood that he shed for salvation and the shape of the leaves, the flames that reveal God’s burning love for his people. Also, it retains its bright colours throughout winter, which is why the Christians have used it since medieval times to celebrate Christmas. Japanese people are not religious in general and holly does not grow in Japan – at least not the kind that is represented here.
Japanese Christmas Symbolism
I should start by saying that because of the small number of Christians in japan (less than 2%) Christmas is by no means a religious celebration. Christmas Eve is seen as perhaps being more important than Christmas Day as it is viewed as a romantic day, a bit like our Valentine’s day, where couples exchange presents. Couples go for long walks under the lights and booking a table in a restaurant can be almost impossible if you haven’t planned ahead. Besides loads of friend chicken, another famous tradition is Christmas cake. But not a rich fruit cake, a light sponge cake with cream and a strawberry on top. The emoji on our iPhones symbolizes the Christmas cake in Japan. Most of us use this emoji without having any idea of why it was designed as it is. https://www.whychristmas.com/cultures/japan.shtml
Significance of Father Christmas in Japan and around the world
The original images of Father Christmas look remarkably like Hotei. Hotei is one of Japan’s 7 lucky Gods. They believe that Father Christmas is similar firstly because of his pot belly and his permanent grin. However, in Santa’s case his obesity is too many pies and Christmas treats; Hotei’s protruding stomach is because ‘his immense soul is overflowing with love for mankind.’ Hotei is a strange character as when you translate its name its actual meaning is ‘cloth sack’. He is often drawn carrying this cloth sack, which of course is similar to Father Christmas’s sack of presents. We are not actually sure what is meant to be in Hotei’s sack. Perhaps, more love for mankind? There are legends that the sack could be anything from modest clothing to a rice plant, to the entire woes of the world. However, there is also one legend that suggests he carries small presents for children that he meets on his travels which is more relatable to good old Saint Nick! Hotei is said to be kind to children but in many references, he also uses children as his slaves; in one image in particular he is seen reclined in a chariot being pulled by small children. Maybe not quite so efficient as reindeers? https://blog.gaijinpot.com/japanese-santa-claus/
Television advertisements and Christmas Song.
Back on track, I wanted to look at the famous marketing television adverts that portray the image KFC Japan is trying to promote to the Japanese people as the ‘perfect Christmas time‘. First of all, here is one of the original Christmas adverts from the 1980s that advertised the ‘Kentucky Christmas’
I think that this advert is very interesting because the Japanese actors have been styled in western clothes, western settings and even have semi-westernised hairstyles. There is the tall man in a Burberry coat walking home for Christmas, as if down New York street in an American film. There is a man in a London red phone box with a Christmas bargain bucket in his hands. A woman and her child have been styled with hairstyles and clothes that have a very American character. There is no Christmas song at this point, so I wonder at which point they decided to add this very effective additional element.
I would also like to look at the current Christmas advertisements that Konastu, my sister in law, knows and enjoys watching to think about Christmas and family time, prompting a desire for KFC.
How do I feel when I watch this?
This is a kind of mash up of all of the recent Christmas adverts from KFC Japan at Christmas. The first one I thought it was quite entertaining, insofar as it is amusing to see western traditions celebrated by the Japanese. The image of the family sitting round together with this big Christmas box of KFC was actually quite appealing. The music almost sending you into a bit of a trance and it is undoubtedly true that it prompts a desire to eat KFC. I have tried KFC twice in my life: I didn’t think it tasted very nice, but suddently I think that there nothing more I would want for Christmas than a bargain bucket Kentucky Christmas special box!
I wanted to analyse the menu options, I starting with an item that seems to be the main feature of all of these meal options.
The big red Christmas bucket. This seems to be a symbol of what is meant to be brought home to the family at Christmas time, a bit like our Christmas stockings or tree. The adverts seem to suggest that every household should have this big red bucket on the table to live up to their western Christmas image.
Colour scheme and symbolism on packaging
The colour scheme of the menu is very festive using the classic red, white to symbolise snow, greens for the holly and Christmas trees and then, in some images, a mustard colour which I think is meant to symbolise gold. Red and gold are used on many of the temples and sacred buildings and shrines in japan. They are lucky colours and I think this was another clever way to entice people to buy the product. This colour scheme also works well on the box, on which they have formed a heart shaped reef instead of the traditional round one – quite possibly picking up on the romance associated with Christmas Eve in Japan. This makes the bucket more personal to Japan, removing it from western culture just enough for the Japanese to be able to relate to it within their own traditions. The friendly smile of Colonel Sanders pops out from the middle of the reef making the box inviting and friendly for the whole family. The box is presented as something that you are meant to take home and share with your family as opposed to something you can quickly consume from in the street as in the UK. The menu options include suggestions for serving plates that you could use to present what is inside the box at home. Everything is written in Japanese here apart from the message on the top of the box which reads ‘Merry Christmas’.
If you are eating alone this Christmas, then you can always buy a box for one which doesn’t look quite as luxurious as the beautiful gold and red family box but remember that Christmas is not an official holiday in japan. I picture someone sitting at their desk treating themselves to a Christmas meal whilst working, perhaps away from their family, unable to take the time off with so little holiday allowed every year.
Here are various different options for your KFC Christmas meal. As you can see, the majority of options fit alongside the Christmas theme and colours apart from the bright purple that is used in the illustration for what appears to be the most expensive option – apparently roast, as opposed to fried, chicken. They call this the premium series (written in English). I think this is strange as purple is not a Christmas colour in western Christmases – but perhaps evidence of the luxury of being free to embellish existing traditions.
Here is another option (image?) in which they have used bricks all over the side of the bucket so that it symbolises a snowy chimney that colonel sanders will climb down at Christmas time with a bucket of chicken. Again everything is written in Japanese apart from the words ‘Kentucky Christmas’ in script at the top. They have used different effects and textures in this advert as well as different shades of red. The writing on the box and the menu looks like the kind of script font you would pick for a Christmas card. In fact, a lot of the stylistic inspirations for this marketing image appears to be reminiscent of classic red and green Christmas cards you might have received in the post from a distant relative or grandparent.
KFC Chicken bath bombs – Limited edition
Japan has been under a Kentucky of Christmas spell for the last few decades, exposed to clever but highly misleading images in KFC Japan’s yearly Christmas marketing campaigns, encouraging people to experience what can only be described as a fake Christmas. It is fascinating to see how KFC have drawn upon and combined Japanese symbolic figures such as Hotei the god and his sack of who knows what and the retro, very westernised, I would say mainly American, inspired Christmas experience. They have not been able to resist to add dashes of untraditional elements to the mix with the bright purple, non uniform premium bucket of chicken, not forgetting the fact that the concept of fried chicken for Christmas is also a very large side step from the original Christmas feast. However, I find the openness of the Japanese to explore celebrating Christmas in their own way endearing. The typography and colour schemes used in the campaigns as well as the hint of Christian references are things that they probably don’t realise the meaning of, but all of these elements have anyway become highly commercialised and there are many people in western countries that don’t know what they mean. In terms of the brand, I think it must be one of the biggest marketing stunts to have been pulled off: persuading a whole country to celebrate a major event such as Christmas with your product and your product alone. Remember that there are other companies in japan selling fried chicken, but they are not interested in purchasing from these people. They are only interested in the special KFC boxes with the smiling face of Colonel Sanders.
I have chosen to look at the UK because this where I am from. Although I spend a lot of time in France, my base is Cambridge, UK. I have to admit, I do not know whether there even is a KFC in Cambridge, although I am sure there is somewhere; however, I remember going to a KFC once when I was at university in Leicester.
The brand image for KFC in the UK differs significantly from that in KFC Japan. I notice some similarities however: even though KFC advertise all year round, they do have a Christmas advert; they have some similar products and packaging; the logo is pretty much the same. These are things I have noticed at first glance. In relation to further analysis some background information to KFC UK might be helpful.
In May 1965, in Preston, Lancashire, the first branch of KFC was opened. It was the first American food chain in the country and predated MacDonald’s, pizza hut and Burger King by almost a decade. The experienced franchisee Ray Allen was the first person to open the branch in the UK, followed shortly afterwards by another brand that opened in North Finchley, the first London branch. By 1971, the company had opened 31 outlets and by 1975 there were no less than 250 outlets spread out across the UK. It wasn’t until the 1980s that KFC started to introduce seating into their outlets changing the emphasis from takeaway food to a restaurant concept where you could sit in or take out. This concept worked extremely well and by 1984 there were almost 400 outlets.
In 2014, KFC increased its menu meaning that sales grew from around 500 million to 1 billion.
In 2018, KFC had to temporarily close 575 of its UK outlets and restrict menus and opening hours in the branch. This is because they signed a contract with DHL that failed to deliver the chicken to all the outlets. This was obviously a huge disaster for the company but they reacted by changing their packaging to play on the words KFC to ‘FCK’ on all of their buckets. This apology was well received and people actually thought it was very clever.
By 2019 there are around 110 Halal approved KFC restaurants out of 900 outlets.
They redesigned they’re bucket recently changing slightly the face of Colonel Sanders and altering the colours to make the bucket predominantly white and not red. They took a lot of the shading out of Colonel Sanders’ face so make his image black and white. He no longer has a body attached to his head, just a head. Maybe this made sense in terms of placing him on smaller products and turning him into an emoji or other formats.
The stripes or bars of red appear to have also changed. They have been made wider and the placement is different.
This rebrand seems to be a reference to the original KFC bucket, which comprised simple red and white stripes with Colonel Sanders on the box.
The typography has now been changed, with a condensed sans front paired with some brush fronts which I think are quite effective. Here are some examples of designs they tried which weren’t chosen for the final version but you can see the angle they were aiming at: hinting at their heritage whilst trying to keep the design simplistic and modern.
Here is an image of the whole product range with the new packaging. I like the simplicity, which stands in stark contrast to the crazy Japanese Christmas boxes. They have even cast a new Colonel Sanders look alike to add to the brand image.
Looking at the UK KFC marketing, I like the fact it looks very modern and clean and fresh with the typography on the headers matching perfectly, while at the same time achieving a perfect balance between old and new; hinting reassuringly at their heritage while suggesting KFC is a very user friendly and efficient place to buy your fast food.
Overall brand image in the UK
In Japan the brand image was very much about family and bringing people together to celebrate the festive season. There are some references to sitting down and eating bargain buckets here In the UK but they seem to realise the need to appeal simultaneously a younger, single market – young adults who are perhaps living on a budget in a big city, trying to make it and find their way in the world. They portray a street style and often do competitions and creative projects with designers in order to attract a certain target market. For example, they challenged the young designer Katy Eary to create a whole collection in her lunch hour with the idea that you can ‘pack more into your lunch hour’ if you eat KFC. They want to make the brand seem, quick, easy and accessible. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TydKXyIutg They also serve the same menu all year round unlike in Japan. This means they have an undifferentiated targeting strategy.
KFC UK try to appeal to two markets, the idea of the family gathering bucket that can be shared at home with the family but also the younger, street style market for people who might be short of money.
‘Kentucky Fine China’
KFC UK are very keen on limited edition runs. Here is some fine bone china that they produced for the Royal wedding of Meghan and Harry, their reasoning being that, according to Harry, he proposed to Megan over a roasted chicken dinner. They are hand made by English pottery manufacturer Milton China and designed by Iris Worldwide. They have 22 carrot brushed gold rims and there were just 25 buckets made. They could be won by Colonel Club members through the app.
Another Royal connection KFC have is that Meghan’s father has been seen repeatedly visiting KFC in the press.
The UK KFC marketing contrasts strongly with slightly eccentric character of KFC Japan. They are modern and fashion forward and enjoy embracing and targeting their predominantly younger market. The branding on the packaging is simplistic and more stylish than the crammed Christmas themed boxes in Japan. One comparison is that there is a a family element to both markets. KFC UK also has this concept of sharing a bucket of chicken at a table but not around Christmas time as the menu does not change for Christmas. The adverts are very modern with interesting marketing concepts, there is not Christmas jingle and the graphics appear much more modern than Japan. Some adverts are a bit like small films and always have a clever concepts behind them. There are also many more options for snacking than in japan.
After already researching a little bit into the history of KFC America, I want to start by looking at their branding in comparison to the UK and Japan.
It appears that KFC USA applies very similar branding to that in the UK, particularly in terms of box design; however, there are a few significant differences: Kentucky Fried Chicken is written underneath instead of KFC on some of the signs; there are many more slogans in stores and on written adverts. Here are a few examples of wordplay and slogans being used in the US at the moment:
Personally, these slogans don’t really appeal or impress and they don’t make me want to eat a KFC. It is also worth pointing out that they have used a burger form to sandwich the words together – somewhat mystifying when their unique selling point is chicken wings. It appears they are trying to advertise chicken burgers which might appeal more to the American than the British or Japanese market. On Japanese menus there did not seem to be a single burger on the menu; in the UK there are lots of snacking boxes and deals that appeal to the younger market. In the US and in the US it seems the main advertising emphasis is on volume: stacked burgers and supersize options. I think it is fascinating how the brand varies so much from country to country and these variations are undoubtedly a significant part of the company’s global success.
Another point to mention is that KFC US branding focuses on the neck tie of Colonel Sanders – even sometimes using this symbol instead of his full head. It is interesting to see that they are almost moving away for the image of Colonel Sander on the box. I am not sure this will ever happen but they are pushing minimalism in the style of their marketing (as opposed to volume in its content) more than the UK.
Advertising campaigns US
The adverts in the US are all very picturesque and Americanised. They advertise giving away free food when you buy a certain amount. People in the UK might not necessarily want more than they purchase but in the US ‘more is better’.
KFC US also are trying to branch out and devise projects that encourage their target market to get involved in developing their brand image. For example, the KFC Innovations Lab pushes the idea of crowd funding to develop innovative future marketing projects from budding entrepreneurs. Again, in the advert for the Innovations Lab, KFC use just the necktie of Colonel Sanders as opposed to the whole of his face and shoulders – perhaps as a play on the fact that the associate the necktie with people who are well educated and smart. Or maybe it’s to do with this minimalist image they are trying to push throughout the brand. Having watched a few episodes of the KFC innovations Lab on YouTube, I am not sure whether it is meant to be a joke, but I think not! This concept would never work in the UK. People would just think that the investment proposals were unamusing and time-wasting – eg a Kentucky Fried hot tub or a bowtie tracker with app. Something must be appealing to the American’s here!
It appears that in America the target market is more about the whole family – perhaps people who want to buy a bucket to share with their family or people who just want to eat a large meal alone. There is no concept of KFC food being a quick snack but a meal involving large quantities of food. The menu has many more fattening options on it such as the chicken and waffles with syrup all over them, a combination of sweet and sour that would be an anathema to the British or Japanese market.
Conclusion The American branding is not dissimilar to the UK branding however they have emphasis on different things. For example, KFC US have focused in on the bowtie as a kind of symbol for the brand whereas the UK has a black and white outline of the head. The equivalent in Japan is a full colour Colonel Sanders in big in a heart-shaped Christmas reef. The US advertising campaigns are like small films to the accompaniment of joyful, happy Disney like music, focussing solely on showing the food up close and making people hungry. They show the sheer quantity that you can eat, the many dessert options, and options to mix savoury food with sugar and syrup.
Final 500 Words – Kentucky for Christmas
The second largest global fast food franchise in the world, KFC has chosen to quite drastically diversify their marketing strategy from country to country using variations in symbolism, target market and branding, while at the same time managing to keep its core commercial identity and values.
A prominent example of this is KFC Japan, who, in 1974, decided to launch an advertising campaign which at once created and filled a gap in the Japanese market. With only 2% following the Christian religion in Japan (with Shinto and Buddhism the main religion, as Ella points out), there was never any question of making Christmas a day for celebration until Takeshi Okawara, the head of KFC Japan, had the idea and ran with it. Dressing up Colonel Sanders as Santa Claus, he managed, via marketing campaigns showing western styled Japanese actors in American style Christmas scenarios, to convince the Japanese that the western Christmas meal was fried chicken. The Japanese adored the concept and ever since, 3.6 billion families in Japan eat KFC over the Christmas period. A clever jingle in the adverts has a near brainwashing effect, evoking a feeling of Christmas festivity, together with a craving for fried chicken. KFC Japan’s target market is families and they have created a big red Christmas box in which people can carry their Christmas chicken home in to their families, often including a free Christmas plate as a gift inside.
The use of the western figure Santa Claus, impersonated by Colonel Sanders, surrounded by traditional Christmas symbols with Christian origins, is interesting to observe. While the Japanese have little if any realisation of these signifiers, they have started to attach their own meanings to Santa in the form of Hotei, one of their seven gods representing happiness and contentment, often carrying a large sack and giving out presents to children.
The question that arises is whether there is something immoral about advertising campaigns, based on western religious symbols and traditions, being introduced to Asian cultures for commercial gain; or whether, as Tony suggests, modern Christmases are anyway now primarily commercial events – ‘about getting presents and treating oneself, not religion’ – fulfilling a yearning for festivity and feasting – what Ella describes as an ‘extravaganza’ – which KFC has filled: as Ella says, ‘if they aren’t following or celebrating Christmas as we do here for the reasons we do, I feel why not celebrate it with the Colonel?’.
For the Japanese, KFC symbolises a festive and seasonal family gathering. The KFC UK’s approach seems very different: branding is modern, minimalist and clean, the symbolic Colonel Sanders is black and white, represented as a floating head on buckets of chicken. References from the original packaging have been used alongside a condensed sans typography with some brush fronts, in a perfect balance of old and new. The same packaging is seen in KFC US, with some prominent differences. The UK tries to promote their brand towards younger consumers, who want accessible and cheap food, carrying out collaborations with young designers and people from their target market. The priority of KFC US seems to be providing their customers with quantity (including food giveaways), using the symbolism of the necktie alone to remind people of the origins of the brand. Adverts seem to have less of a brainwashing intention and instead use the latest clever marketing tricks and wordplay to add ‘street cred’ to the brand.
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