KFC stops targeting finger-licking fatties

KFC has re-branded its famous `Finger Lickin' Good' slogan in a bid to launch a healthier image. But is this simply a cynical marketing exercise or a step in the right direction?

Fast-food chain KFC has announced that, after half a century, they are ditching their well-known ‘Finger lickin’ good’ catchphrase – and replacing it with the much blander strapline ‘So good’.

Why? What’s wrong with presenting junk food as finger-licking good? Who is turned off by the idea that people do not simply eat at KFC and feel full, but feel compelled to lick their fingers afterwards? What’s wrong with targeting customers who typically lick their fingers after eating some cheap fried chicken?

Hmm, put it that way, and you can see exactly why KFC has changed its strapline. The change is subtle, but in marketing terms, it’s effectively like putting up a big new sign outside all of its shops saying: ‘Fat people are no longer quite so welcome here’. Or ‘Greedy people – please lick your fingers somewhere else.’ Perhaps even: ‘We’ve realised licking has a ‘g’ in it, because our customers are no longer those notoriously obese Americans.’

It’s certainly no coincidence that KFC has introduced this clever PR overhaul at the same time as it ditches one of its most fattening ingredients: trans fat. It also comes as KFC’s 800 outlets in the UK and Ireland pledge to stop using palm oil to fry its food, and splurges £7m on new ovens so it can griddle, rather than fry, some products.

KFC claims these measures will reduce saturated fats across its menu by 25 per cent.  Furthermore, the chain will start showing the calorie content of every item on its menu from September, in keeping with new food guidelines. It also plans to cut food miles by sourcing rapeseed oil from Kent, and is embracing the sustainable food agenda.

So what?

OK, so the Colonel has some new clothes. So what?

Some may see this makeover as just a bit of spin: junk food sold as ‘good for us’ by a clever ad campaign.  Tell a lie often enough and people will believe it.  But I think the ‘all fast food is evil’ mantra is old news. Things have moved on since Morgan Spurlock’s junk food expose ‘Super Size Me’ (2004).  Yet every step of progress fast food chains make is routinely bashed by official bodies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) – not to mention sceptical shoppers– as either sanctimonious or greedy.

It’s time we started praising fast food chains for taking action to address our health concerns, while still serving the food their customers want to buy.

After all, profit and popularity suggests these chains aren’t going anywhere soon, in which case surely an attempt to do something is better than nothing.


Of course, KFC isn’t the only fast food chain to attempt a diet. 

In 2004, motorway diner Little Chef downsized its trademark tubby cook to a more svelte version of its mascot, whilst cutting down on salt and adding fruit to its menus. 

Pepsi has tried to shake off its unhealthy image by cutting the sugar in 60 per cent of its cola drinks. 

Similarly, McDonald’s has reduced the salt content of its fries by 30 per cent and has broadened its menu to include fruit bags and bottles of organic British milk.  Their salad days, however, may be over, with claims that their Chicken Caesar Salad is as fattening as a burger, but the company claims to be the first restaurant chain to provide nutritional information for all its products.

Slow progress

Miracles don’t happen overnight, but I think this growing culture of change within fast food brands is a sign of progress. 

It’s unrealistic to expect KFC to become the sister company of Whole Foods, but by increasing choice and promoting the healthier option, I think they are doing the right thing.

How about you? Do you think KFC’s move is ‘So Good’ – or are you taking it with more than a pinch of salt? Let us know using the comments box below!

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