KFC prides itself on its famous slogan, “It’s finger-lickin’ good.” The line captures the essence of KFC’s promise: irresistibly tasty chicken that might compel diners to lick their fingers, savoring every drop of flavor.
Well, that didn’t exactly translate well when KFC expanded into China in the 1980s.
A Finger-Lickin’ Faux Pas
Successfully entering a new market involves more than just setting up shops; it’s about making sure the brand’s message resonates with the local populace.
In the 1980s, KFC translated its iconic slogan into Mandarin to appeal to the Chinese market. But this attempt resulted in a phrase that sounded less than delicious.
“Finger-lickin’ good” became something more like “Eat your fingers off.”
So instead of imagining the delightful experience of enjoying KFC’s chicken, Chinese customers encountered an oddly gruesome suggestion.
The KFC Slogan Gets Lost in Translation
Effective translation isn’t a straightforward task. It requires deep knowledge of local idioms, expressions, and cultural subtleties.
Mandarin, with its intricate tones and nuances, can entirely shift the meaning of phrases. Furthermore, the richness of Chinese culture, steeped in symbols and metaphors, means brands must navigate carefully.
Of course, upon recognizing the error, KFC immediately set things right. The company collaborated with local experts to refine its brand message for the Chinese audience.
Beyond just a slogan correction, KFC began to delve into Chinese culinary preferences, introducing menu items such as congee, Beijing Duck wraps, and spicy Sichuan chicken.
It kind of sounds like something they should have done to begin with…right?
Getting It Right
KFC’s initial hiccup in China highlights the crucial importance of cultural sensitivity for international businesses. While the “Eat your fingers off” incident brings chuckles now, it could have tarnished KFC’s image among Chinese customers permanently.
However, today, KFC has thousands of outlets across China and enjoys a reputation as one of the country’s top fast-food chains. Its dedication to understanding Chinese tastes and culture played a significant role in this achievement.