KFC pushes pause on its ‘Finger Lickin’ Good’ slogan, saying it feels a ‘bit off’

“Finger lickin’ good,” has been a central plank of the KFC brand for 64 years, but the catchphrase has become problematic in recent months as the world grapples with a highly transmittable virus.

The chicken chain pulled a March campaign in the U.K. that was built around images of people gleefully licking their fingers. And on Monday, KFC announced it is temporarily removing the “Finger Lickin’ Good” phrase from its advertising around the world, explaining that it feels a “bit off.”

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The move is being supported by a new campaign created by Mother and adapted for Canada by John St. featuring shots of KFC packaging with “finger lickin'” blurred out as if they’re dirty words. The Canadian ads are running on transit shelters, billboards, social media and digital.

Ads will also feature messages like “Finger lickin’ not currently recommended” and “Wash fingers thoroughly before lickin’.”

“We find ourselves in a unique situation—having an iconic slogan that doesn’t quite fit in the current environment,” said KFC’s global CMO Catherine Tan-Gillespie in a release. “While we are pausing the use of ‘It’s Finger Lickin’ Good,’ rest assured the food craved by so many people around the world isn’t changing one bit.”

KFC has demonstrated a unique ability to react to crises and deliver key messages to consumers in recent years. In 2018, it responded to a U.K. chicken shortage that led to a restaurant closures by taking out a full-page ad in the Sun and Metro dailies that rearranged the letters in its name to spell “FCK,” accompanied by a message apologizing for the shortage.

The witty mea culpa earned KFC massive media attention (according to the U.K. trade title Campaign it garnered more than 700 newspaper and TV discussions) as well as enormous consumer goodwill and plaudits including one silver and three gold Lions in Cannes.

Chris Powell