Kentucky for Christmas

December 23rd 2022 By Aaron Wise 1 minute read

Like all good Christmas stories, we start in the past – 1974 to be exact. Having opened its first store in Japan just four years earlier, KFC decided to launch a ‘Kentucky for Christmas’ campaign. It consisted of ‘Party Barrels’ and the idea of families coming together on Christmas Day to share the Colonel’s iconic crispy chicken. Quite a harmless campaign and not too dissimilar to today’s festive PR from the brand, such as the prominent use of gravy in its UK meals this time of year.

Fast forward almost half a century though and it’s since become a cornerstone tradition to millions of families across Japan to tuck into a bucket of the golden goodness at Christmas. The twist? Back in 1974 – and even today – only around one percent of the Japanese population identified as Christian. The other 99 per cent had no ties to the festive season whatsoever, making them a prime target to introduce a new tradition. If we put this into context, this has to be one of the most successful, impactful, and lasting PR campaigns ever, right? It’s literally ingrained in Japanese culture to eat KFC at Christmas now!

 It makes you wonder at the strategy behind this PR campaign back in the mid 70s. Was this a speculative shot in the dark? Or was it a carefully thought-out plan to capitalise on the rise of Western consumerism in the country? Luck or not, KFC won’t care, as it’s now a staple part of the festivities in a country that doesn’t even celebrate the man in the big red coat (or indeed, baby Jesus). It’s actually quite surreal when you think about it – has any other fast-food chain had such an influential impact on a country outside its origin that’s tied to a religious holiday? How did they do it? Just like the Colonel’s recipe blend of 11 herbs and spices, it’ll likely remain a mystery…

 But we’re feverishly brainstorming how to create a tradition of doing a family PR press release to celebrate Christmas in North Korea should it ever come out of international isolation. ‘PR Barrels’, ‘Pic Party PR’, ‘PR Party with Pic’…we’ll keep thinking.

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