Thursday, December 23, 2010

KFC Brings Japanese Christmas Tradition to the States

Ever since the fall of 2001, when my husband and I took my mom to Okinawa to visit her family after a 30-year absence, I've known that the Japanese eat chicken at Christmas. Fried chicken. From KFC. It's ingenious, and you can read about the American fast-food chain's marketing ploy here.  

Word is spreading about the Christmas chicken phenomenon in Japan. Check out this ABCNews report:


I love this story. It reminds me of the first time I saw Colonel Sanders dressed up as Santa outside a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Naha, Okinawa. 


The ABCNews feature is actually the first account I've read that explains how it all began. Foreigners couldn't find turkey in Japan, so around forty years ago they started frequenting Japan's Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants during the holidays. A KFC employee realized a potential cash cow, and the "Christmas Set" was born. 

Because of high demand, KFC in Japan advises customers to order their Christmas Sets early. The Christmas menu on KFC's Japanese website is amazing. A chocolate Christmas cake comes with the "Party Barrel," and they even offer roasted chicken. And KFC isn't the only chain with these deals. Last month I wrote that McDonald's has finally jumped on the Christmas Set bandwagon; read all about that here.

Now it seems as if KFC is bringing its Japanese tradition stateside. Here is this year's commercial, which urges us to "start a new holiday tradition."


This spot is the first thing you see when you go to KFC's website. This isn't KFC's first Christmas commercial, however. When I searched for the 2010 commercial on YouTube, I found this one from 1997. It's a special promotion for the Giga Pet, which was all the rage back then. 



I also found this commercial – from 1980! – on YouTube:


The difference between the older two commercials and the one from 2010 is that this year KFC is emphasizing having their chicken as your Christmas meal. I suppose they figure that since Japanese already think we eat fried chicken for Christmas, we might as well eat fried chicken for Christmas. 

I think it's telling that JapanSoc, a social bookmarking site that posts links to English-language blogs about Japan on Facebook, has this as today's status: 

"Christmas Eve! What will you be doing? Eating chicken? Going on a date? Last minute shopping?"

Eating chicken? All of this marketing is making me think I should have chicken for dinner this Christmas . . .

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