This week’s #ThrowBrandThursday takes us a long way back to 1970s and to a campaign that managed to make eating the product a national custom and it has become so popular that stores need to take reservations months in advance. There are plenty of varieties of Christmas dinners world-wide, from eating roasted turkey with mashed potatoes, fish with potato salad, to even pudding containing suet (if you are brave enough and want to check other weird Xmas dinners, watch this episode of Good Mythical Morning).

But with the lack of turkey on offer at the beginning of the 1970s in Japan, foreigners went for an alternative poultry for their dinner – to Kentucky Fried Chicken. Since Christianity doesn’t really have a long history in Japan, and it is among the nation’s minority religions with around 1 percent of the population claiming Christian belief or affiliation, it really was up to KFC Japan’s advertising to make everyone want “Kentucky for Christmas”.


So, how has a brand made Christmas day the busiest day of the year with an estimated 3.6 million Japanese families treating themselves with meal sets costing around $39 ? After opening its 100th store in December 1973 (and posting monthly sales of 3 million yen), the company’s performance stabilized and starting December 1974, KFC Japan started to extensively promote its fried chicken as a Christmas meal, with a long-running advertising campaign “Kentucky for Christmas” (Japanese: ‘Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii’ or クリスマスはケンタッキー). Then in 1985, KFC Japan presented the ‘Party Barrel’, which consisted of chicken, salad and ice cream and this idea of having chicken on Christmas continued to spread and it made eating KFC as a Christmas-time meal become a widely-practised custom all over Japan.

Japan Today wrote a more thorough story about how “The tradition of eating KFC at Christmas [began] when an expat customer at the chain’s Aoyama store observed that, in a land bereft of Yuletide turkey, fried chicken was the next best thing. The store’s canny manager was paying attention and passed word on to the higher-ups, leading the company to launch its ludicrously successful ‘Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!’ (Kentucky for Christmas!) campaign in 1974.”

Nowadays, a modernised version of the advert is still rolling and KFC Japan’s 2016 festive menu certainly does presents certain appeal. Although, it still might seem odd to us that KFC outlets across the country dress their popular store-front Colonel Sanders statues in red and white costumes — that strongly resemble Santa Claus — as they prepare for the restaurant’s busiest time of year, it certainly was an advertising masterpiece.



Cover photo by Mark, Flickr