KFC Drops Iconic ‘Finger Lickin’ Good’ Slogan, Citing Covid-19

'That thing we always say? Ignore it. For now.'

KFC might be tasty, but now isn't the time for licking your own hands. KFC / Mother / Freuds

It’s been a few years since KFC played up its famous “finger lickin’ good” tagline in the U.S., where the infrequently used line was quietly dropped back in March. But the phrase has continued to be a central pillar of its marketing globally—until now.

The slogan has been in place for six decades across some of the fried chicken chain’s global markets, including the Netherlands, South Africa, Canada, parts of Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and the U.K (where it was dropped for almost a decade in the 1990s, revived in 2008, axed again in 2011, and then finally resurrected).

But now, KFC has taken the bold decision to temporarily pause using its “finger lickin’ good” tagline, admitting it doesn’t quite work during a global pandemic that requires people to stay ultra hygienic—and avoid touching their faces, not to mention putting their hands in their mouths.

In a new global campaign by Mother and PR agency Freuds, which will span those markets, the fast-food giant is ditching its “beloved” slogan because it “doesn’t feel quite right.” A replacement is currently being cooked up.

“This is a big step for us, but let’s be honest, our slogan is probably the most inappropriate out there right now,” KFC acknowledged in a statement.

The move comes after KFC pulled a commercial showing people licking their hands in March, at the peak of the pandemic in Europe. It pulled the ad following complaints to the U.K.’s advertising watchdog that it was irresponsible.

In a series of outdoor ads, buckets of chicken are shown carrying tongue-in-cheek disclaimers, including “Finger lickin’ not currently advised” and “Wash fingers thoroughly before lickin’.”

A TV ad, which shows the logo blurred out on KFC buckets and signs, says: “That thing we always say? Ignore it. For now.”

Kate Wall, head of advertising KFC U.K. and Ireland, said: “We aren’t about skirting around issues at KFC, and fortunately, in Mother and Freuds, we have agencies that are as into big and bold ideas as we are.

“I think we all know it has been a tricky year for the hospitality and advertising industries but, like our slogan, we’ll bounce back. Bigger and better than ever.”

Client: KFC
Campaign: It’s Finger Lickin’ Good
Strategy: Mother
Creative: Mother
Production: Mother
Stills photography: Martin Poole 
Digital production: Wellcom
Music: I’ll Be Around by Fog Lake
PR: Freuds

@saramayspary sara.spary@adweek.com Sara Spary is a freelance journalist based in London. She's been a reporter for eight years, covering advertising and consumer brands.