As a kid, I rode my bike all over the place… and when I was riding around the streets of Kerrisdale, I’d usually go by the Kentucky Fried Chicken on West Blvd. near 45th. I wouldn’t go in… I’d just coast by slowly and inhale the heavenly fumes emanating from within. Rumour has it that they used to (still do?) pipe out the smells to attract people. Whether it was on purpose or not, who knows… either way, it works very well.
The history of that entire chain is interesting. Everyone knows it was Colonel Harland Sanders who created the whole thing, but what most people don’t realize is that The Colonel was 62 years old when he launched that first franchise. He died at age 90, so that last 28 years of his life was quite the wild ride. Not that it wasn’t before that; on top of the usual assortment of early-century jobs (farmhand, dishwasher, painter, blacksmith-assistant, many trainyard jobs), Sanders became a lawyer… and the future of fried chicken as we know it might have been quite different, had his legal career not come to a crashing halt… and that’s a good way to put it. Sanders got into a serious disagreement with his own client… in a courtroom… which led to an actual courtroom brawl. That destroyed Sanders’ reputation, and he ended up moving back home with his mother. Back to work… labourer, life-insurance salesman, ferry-boat operator, lamp manufacturer, tire salesman, service-station manager, hotel operator.
It was in that hotel that he perfected his secret recipe, and from there, as they say, the rest is history.
Managing the entire massive enterprise was too much for Sanders, so he sold the whole thing a few years later, but held on to the Ambassador role we all know so well. He also hung on to all of the Canadian rights, moved to Mississauga, and collected franchise, royalty and appearance fees for the rest of his life.
In the early 90s, Kentucky Fried Chicken officially changed its name to KFC. If was of course known as that colloquially, long before that. But they made it official. And the reason they really did that was to remove the word “Fried” from the prominence in the name. That was when “Fried” went from being yummy… to being unhealthy. Nothing else changed; same chicken, same cole slaw, same biscuits and gravy… but hey, we won’t remind you that it’s fried, nor will we remind you that it’s perhaps not as healthy as you may have hoped.
In the last couple of days, KFC has dropped the “finger-lickin' good” slogan. Again, not because the food has changed. It is, still, undoubtedly, finger-lickin' good… but in these days of C19, they’ve decided that’s a poor message to promote. I’m not sure most people need to be told not to lick their fingers, but ok… I can see someone suing KFC for $50 million, claiming they contracted C19 because, you know, they said I could lick my fingers… or something like that.
Maybe they’ll never bring the slogan back. Maybe they’ll never put the word “Fried” back in the name. Sign of the times; but it doesn’t change anything. It’s still Fried and it’s still Finger Lickin' Good… just like it was before C19, and just like it’ll be after.
Optics – which applies to so much these days. The underlying issue hasn’t changed; just the messaging. Don’t fix things that aren’t broken… just fix things that might make it look like they are.
Is this a good time to talk about the messaging behind masks and social-distancing? Probably not. The people who’d tell you masks don’t work and social-distancing is nonsense and it’s all a hoax… well, I suppose they’re the ones who’ll continue to lick their fingers in defiance.