Finger Lickin’ Gross: KFC Goes Too Far

What’s got me grossed out and ticked off this time? Ogilvy & Mather teaming up with food technologists at McCormick — the folks behind the Colonel’s secret mix of spices and herbs — to create edible finger nail polish for KFC Hong Kong.

Happy Tuesday! Let’s discuss how gross humans’ fingers are, ridiculous product creation and, in my humble opinion, bad marketing.

What’s got me grossed out and ticked off this time? Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong teaming up with food technologists at McCormick — the folks behind the Colonel’s secret mix of spices and herbs — to create edible finger nail polish for KFC Hong Kong.

KFC edible nail polishI’m sorry … that’s disgusting.

How disgusting? Well, various bacteria, fungus and yeast call the fingertips home. Staphlococcus aureus can be found under nails, and can cause all sorts of skin infections, as well as boils and abscesses. On. Your. Face.

And yet … despite this, the folks at Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong thought, “Hey, you know what could drum up some excitement in Hong Kong for KFC’s fried chicken? LICKABLE NAIL POLISH … P.S. It also contains glitter.”

OMG gifExcuse me for a moment. My head exploded.

From Ogilvy’s creative director John Koay:

The recipe for our edible nail polish is unique and was specifically designed to hold the flavor, but to also dry with a glossy coat similar to normal nail polish. This campaign is designed to be intriguing and fun to increase excitement around the KFC brand in Hong Kong.

Isn’t fried chicken exciting enough? But this parade of “What Were They Thinking?!” keeps marching on. From TIME:

KFC has released [a] music video celebrating the breakthrough in chicken technology, in which one person displays his nails while dancing, and another licks hers in shots when she is not solving a rubix cube.

Breakthrough in chicken technology? It’s NAIL POLISH.

For your viewing displeasure, my dear readers, here is that video. I only hope you don’t spontaneously combust with rage over downright ridiculous product creation and useless marketing.

As for me, this is my reaction every time I see that video, and I’m pretty sure IT is sick of me destroying computers.
Smash computer gifReading various articles and social postings, the reaction is either to simply report on the product — which comes in Original or Hot & Spicy flavors — or to be disgusted. No one is really saying, “This is what has been missing from my life!”

I’m a firm believer in creating and marketing worthwhile products. Does that mean I’m anti-fun? No. But there are limits, and lickable nail polish exceeds the limits for me.

I’d be curious about what David Ogilvy would have thought of this campaign, were he still alive. Something tells me that the man behind “The Man in the Hathaway Shirt” ad and AmEx “Don’t leave home without it” tagline would not be amused. And he’d probably find a really classy way of saying so.

Author: Melissa Ward

Melissa Ward is the managing editor for Target Marketing, and she has opinions! More importantly, she's a nerd for great copy and design, a disciple of authenticity, and really loves it when marketers get it right.

17 thoughts on “Finger Lickin’ Gross: KFC Goes Too Far”

  1. HA! I couldn’t have said it better myself. What a disgusting idea. What does nail polish have to do with chicken?! They lost focus and are promoting the spread of germs and eating chemicals. Vile.

    1. We just have to hope the nail polish doesn’t contain the usual nasties, like formaldehyde, which is often in nail polish.

  2. I think the concept is rather amusing. People eat all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons and this doesn’t even register on the disgusting list. I will avoid listing them as its long. Microbiological safety is not a reason to hate this (raw oysters are far more dangerous). Think about all of the places your hands are in a day and all of the times you touch your mouth, eyes, face etc. before washing your hands. As for chemicals, what do people think food is, but an interesting mix of chemicals. If the nail polish chemicals are on the GRAS list, there is little hazard. Now to the ad. It was poorly done, it was boring and pointless. It didn’t make a connection with what was being sold until the very end and that was not well connected to the brand.

    1. Hi Kipling, thanks for weighing in! To me it’s absurd to lick your fingernails … so the amusement of KFC’s edible nail polish is lost on me. If you want something that tastes good, then why not eat something? I think I could handle fried chicken jelly beans or chewing gum better than lickable nail polish.

      I don’t see how the product or the marketing behind it furthers the KFC brand, which is my biggest issue (or at least, ties with being grossed out). I agree … there’s almost no connection being made. I almost didn’t watch the entire thing the first time because it seemed pointless, but I stuck around, waiting.

  3. I couldn’t agree more with your take on this.

    In contrast, look what McDonalds did with the “McTrax” in the Netherlands. That is some cleaver marketing…

    1. I saw that! Though, I’d be curious to see if the place mats increase the average stay at McDonalds, and thus possibly increase product purchases (you know, having such a good time you go back for more fries or something).

      But at the end of the day, I just wish agencies would guide their clients to showcase what is exciting about their product, not create useless things. I don’t know whose initial idea it was for the nail polish — whether it was Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong or KFC Hong Kong — but at the end of the day I think it’s a fail.

      1. I do not know if an increase in average stay time would equate to additional sales. My thought is the people would just eat slower as they are preoccupied with jamming.

        If you remember back to when McDonalds sold Coke glasses, people came in droves to snatch up those glasses. That had to increase sales at each store. I am sure the Monopoly game does the same, as they keep running it year after year. I think the place mats would have the same reaction of people coming in to snatch them up. Also if they can only get the place mat with eat-in service, maybe that would help clear the lines in the drive-thru.

        1. I guess my question to McDonald’s is … why? If it doesn’t increase sales (but does increase people hanging out), then what’s the benefit? (And this isn’t me being snarky…I’m truly curious). Does it increase the cool factor, upping the brand relevance to a larger audience, and thus boost sales? Attract a different audience? So many questions!

          I like marketing — especially good marketing — because it’s like a science experiment. And yes, I was that kid who went to Science Fair and even took home some ribbons 🙂 I am that nerd.

  4. Is there even the vaguest hint of a chance that you are not their target market, and therefore your opinion is not relevant here?

    1. Hi Lady M, thanks so much for reading!

      I’m not their target market, however, I’d like to see the market research backing up their decision to produce and fund this campaign. To me, that would be fascinating, and it would have nipped people’s negative opinions in the bud (except for those of us grossed out by finger licking … that sentiment would most likely still stand.)

      1. That would have been an interesting article. What you gave us, though, seems ethnocentric. Whose negative opinions are we talking about? Middle-aged Americans? The advertisers were tasked with appealing to young Chinese women. If the campaign works, then I am guessing David Olgivy, a businessman, would have been pleased.

        Part of my job in marketing is reaching out to people who are different from me. The notion of “I don’t like it, therefore no one will”–that is the kind of thing I hear from the non-marketers in my company. I patiently tolerate those comments from the Accounting department. But I need a different mindset from a marketing blog.

        PS: I am a middle-aged American and flavored nail polish is not appealing to me. But then again, neither was Starbucks…once upon a time.

        1. I appreciate your opinion Lady M! Isn’t it great when marketing creates a conversation — that’s what this blog Sass Marketing is all about 🙂

          My only disagreement, and hear me out, is your last comment. I don’t think flavored nail polish can be compared to the global enterprise that is Starbucks — maybe to Lip Smackers popularity in the 90s — but Starbucks might be a stretch. As always, thanks for reading!

  5. Wow, ewww, grossssss. Wondering if marketers even understand the meaning of toxic chemicals. The glitter probably makes it ok though, by containing the all important nutrient called lead that seems to be ncluded in products from that region. The video looks to be chock full of overtones that rhyme with Horatio, which is a fair bit awkward if we are dealing first and foremost with chickens.

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