How a fast food restaurant has become a Christmas tradition for millions in Japan?

Image source —

You have to wonder why are Japanese so obsessed with KFC when it comes to Christmas! When only 1–3% of the overall population in Japan are Christians.

It’s all thanks to the successful “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas!) marketing campaign in 1974, Japan can’t get enough KFC on Christmas Day.

There are many legends about how the then store manager Takeshi Okawara who managed the first KFC franchise in Japan, got this idea.

Some say he got the idea from a dream, some say he was inspired by American’s Christmas tradition of serving turkey on holidays or he was recommended the idea by some foreigners. But the real version is, Okawara was met by a kindergarten spoke-person who came into his branch with a proposition that his school will order from KFC for the Christmas party if Okawara came and delivered the food while dressed as Santa. Word spread, and the idea was a hit among other schools soon.

And Okawara capitalized on this idea & conceived the “party barrel” along with the catchphrase “Kentucky for Christmas”, taking the advertisement national and starting an instant phenomenon.

But why was it such a big hit? The Japanese were keen on celebrating Christmas in a non-religious way, the party barrel idea just strikes the sweet spot.

Japan is well known for taking foreign products and ideas and adapting them to suit domestic taste, and Christmas is no exception.

Slowly but surely, an entire nation was convinced that going to KFC was a Christmas tradition.

Since the mid-1980s, life-size Colonel Sanders statues — dressed as Santa during the holiday — have welcomed droves of locals and tourists alike across the country. And year after year KFC has been running ads during Christmas, making it almost impossible to not think about it.

How a fast food restaurant has become a Christmas tradition for millions in Japan.
Image Source — Flickr

The End Result- KFC managed to capture the imagination of people in Japan and create a national phenomenon. Each year, millions of Japanese people eat KFC on Christmas Day. KFC estimates around 10% of the annual sales for Christmas Week.

It takes a lot of planning for getting a KFC meal on Christmas and even placing orders up to 2 months in advance.

And now after 4 decades, there’s a certain amount of nostalgia attached to the KFC Christmas meal. And people try to pass the tradition on to their children making it an ongoing tradition.

It sure is a campaign every marketer could hope to create in terms of ROI.

Fun Fact — Okarawa, who started as a store manager, later became the CEO & President of KFC Japan from 1984 to 2002



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Sagar Bhatnagar

Sagar Bhatnagar

Marketing takes a day to learn & lifetime to master