Chapter 10 Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas? Why You’ll Eat KFC in Japan

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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.

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.

Table of Contents

Intro150 Years of the Best Holiday Campaigns
Chapter 1 The Genesis of Holiday Window Displays
Chapter 2 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Brings Spectacle to the Season
Chapter 3 How Coca-Cola Invented The Father of Christmas (Or did they?)
Chapter 4 Budweiser Celebrates the End to Prohibition
Chapter 5 Montgomery Ward Employee Invents Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Chapter 6 Campbell’s Soup Speaks to the ’50s Housewife
Chapter 7 Mr. Potato Head Becomes First Toy Ever Televised
Chapter 8 NORAD Tracks Santa’s Journey Around the World
Chapter 9 Norelco Popularizes Stop-Motion Animation
Chapter 10 Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas? Why You’ll Eat KFC in Japan
Chapter 11 Folgers Advertises the Intangible
Chapter 12 Hershey’s Holiday Bells Defy an Ad Agency
Chapter 13 Coca-Cola’s Polar Bears Humanize Global Warming
Chapter 14 Coca-Cola’s Christmas Fleet Brings Truckloads of Cheer
Chapter 15 M&M’s Stumble Upon Santa –– No One is Left Standing
Chapter 16 Starbucks Red Cups Spark Consumer Salivating (and Controversy)
Chapter 17 Target Keeps it Simple with Their Black Friday Catalog Focuses on Price
Chapter 18 Pampers Silent Night Raises $40 Million for Charity
Chapter 19 Give a Garmin Hits on Travel, Humor and Holiday Stress
Chapter 20 John Lewis Focuses on Storytelling Over Brand
Chapter 21 Macy’s Believe Campaign Raises $10 Million, Involves Schools
Chapter 22 American Express Small Business Saturday Supports Local
Chapter 23 Apple Misunderstood Campaign Makes Technology and Family a Priority
Chapter 24 REI’s #OptOutside Campaign Bucks Tradition