Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas? Why You’ll Eat KFC in Japan

Kunle Campbell

September 19, 2019

A group of visitors during the holiday season in the 1970s discovered that finding turkey in Japan was extremely difficult. Instead, they opted for a fried chicken Christmas dinner.

KFC capitalized on this opportunity and began serving chicken dinners at Christmas in 1974 under the promotion ‘Kentucky for Christmas.’

The campaign itself was clear, avoiding the traditional hallmarks of Christmas as recognized in the West, and instead delivering a simple message that ‘at Christmas, you eat chicken.’

This message pervaded television commercials, and appealed to one culture’s fascination with another’s cuisine in a similar fashion to the West’s adoption of sushi.

kfc chicken christmas in Japan

Photo from Smithsonian Magazine

The simplicity of the underlying message was ideally suited to the country’s appetite for foreign ideas and tastes, becoming an undoubted success. In 1971 KFC had racked up almost $1 million of debt in Japan; by 1974 hundreds of stores were generating sales averaging $29,000 each per month.

Today KFC operates more than 1,200 stores across Japan –– with monthly profits doubling in December.

The KFC Christmas dinner has since been extended from its origins, with cake and champagne added to the original staples of chicken and wine.

Christmas Eve has become KFC’s busiest time of year in Japan, and many customers now pre-order their chicken dinners months in advance to avoid hours of waiting in line. All of this for a domestically-unfathomable $40 price tag on the meal.

KFC has further extended the overall concept of “Kentucky for Christmas.” In 2012 and 2013, passengers leaving Japan on selected flights to the U.S. and Europe were served with in-flight KFC meals over the Christmas period. And Tokyo houses KFC’s only three-story restaurant with a fully stocked whiskey bar.

Holiday Marketing Takeaway

In an increasingly globalized world, capitalize on foreign goods reimagined for your regional or national market.