KFC and a Cultural Tradition in Japan

Capitalising on the wish for the Japanese to follow the American way within the local cultural norms made KFC a tradition

Christmas in Japan has become synonymous with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken thanks to some brilliant marketing in the 1970s. KFC has enjoyed their busiest time of the year during Christmas for the past 50 years.

Kentucky For Christmas

It all started in 1974 when KFC launched a new marketing campaign during Christmas. The Western Christmas tradition of a turkey feast is said to be the inspiration. Turkey wasn’t available in Japan back then, and it still isn’t now. Since they could not get a turkey, the foreign Christian population of Japan opted for the brand as the next best thing. The ‘Kentucky for Christmas!'(‘kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!’) slogan was established when KFC recognised this as an opportune chance to begin a Christmas campaign aimed at both the Japanese and foreigners

Few Japanese identify as Christian, and Christmas isn’t observed as a national holiday or for any of its religious overtones in Japan. Yet, it’s a joyous time of year, and many people celebrate by throwing Christmas parties or decking out their homes, businesses, and retail establishments. It is also a time to conduct many Christmas led promotions. Safe to say that KFC started the trend of Christmas marketing in Japan.

KFC in Japan does the best during Christmas. Wait times of two hours or more necessitate the help of all personnel, even those who normally work behind the scenes. Some meal specials at the restaurant can only be pre-ordered at this time of year because of the high demand.

Many factors contribute to KFC’s long-term success in Japan during the Christmas season. The first is the concept’s simplicity. In Japan, eating chicken at Christmas is now a cultural custom that may never go out of style. Additionally, the company’s catchy Christmas motto is helpful. Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii is much more easily said than kurisumasu ni wa makudonarudo for McDonald’s.

The mascot of Kentucky Fried Chicken has a striking resemblance to Santa Claus. Many Japanese children confuse Santa and Father Christmas because of the similarity of their appearances in pop culture and media. Each holiday season, the Colonel Sanders statues at the restaurant are dressed festively in red and white attire.

So How Did This Happen?

The origin has different versions.

One story is that the KFC was inspired to sell their goods for Christmas after a delivery guy in a Santa Claus outfit made a huge effect on a kindergarten class

According to another story, it all began with Takeshi Okawara, the manager of the country’s first KFC. Okawara woke up at midnight and jotted down an idea that came to him in a dream: a “party barrel” that would be sold on Christmas Eve.

He got the dream after hearing two foreigners lament about not eating turkey for Christmas dinner. In an attempt to make up for the lack of turkey on Christmas Day, Okawara started promoting his Party Barrel as a means to enjoy the occasion. The original holiday meal came with a bottle of wine and was marketed to adults hosting Christmas parties.

A significant amount of advertising was necessary, of course, as “Kentucky for Christmas” became popular. While “My Old Kentucky Home” may have been playing in the background, the conventional KFC Christmas commercial of that time period would have featured a family feasting on golden, fried chicken while the song was playing.

My Old Kentucky Home” is hardly a Christmas carol, but these commercials were great in their ability to link fried chicken with both the holiday season and a desire to consume expensive food. Evidently, the concept caught on. If you were looking for an authentic way to celebrate in the classic American spirit, KFC was the obvious choice.

KFC’s long-term success can’t be entirely credited to clever advertising — it also has to do with the brand’s conformity with pre-existing cultural standards.

A popular traditional Japanese cuisine called karaage, which includes small pieces of panko-breaded, deep-fried meats like chicken or fish, is comparable to KFC.

As a result, the “party barrel” of fried chicken, coleslaw, and cake is perfectly suited to the Japanese dining ritual.

In Japan, it’s considered a social must to be able to share meals with others. A bucket of fried chicken, on the other hand, provides a comforting taste and the opportunity to share a meal with friends.

The Harvard-educated Okawara climbed through the company ranks and served as president and CEO of Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan from 1984 to 2002.

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