10: It’s Finger Lickin’ Good

KFC (1950s)
Ken Harbough

Not all of our top 20 slogans were penned by professional writers. KFC’s ‘It’s Finger Lickin’ Good’ was created off the cuff by a restaurant manager in the 1950s. Harland Sanders, the founder of KFC, ran a service station in Corbin, Kentucky in the 1930s, making food for hungry travellers. In 1935, his cooking was becoming famous and he was made a Kentucky Colonel (the highest honour the state can bestow) by governor Ruby Laffoon to recognise his contribution to cuisine.

As more people started coming in just to eat, Sanders moved his operation to the other side of the road to increase capacity. By the early 1950s, he had long since perfected the secret blend of herbs and spices still used by KFC to this day. He also had the idea of franchising his dining concept, and it was a franchisee from Phoenix, Dave Harman, who inspired the company’s famous phrase.

In the afternoon, between movies, Harman voiced TV commercials advertising his restaurant, but, following a stroke, he was unable to speak clearly so his restaurant manager, Ken Harbough, stepped in to do the ads instead. Because Harman still wanted to appear in the ads, he would accompany Harbough to the TV station and take a plate of chicken, which he would eat in the background during filming. However, following the transmission of one of the ads a woman called the TV station complaining angrily that “Mr Harman is licking his fingers!” The story goes that Harbough spontaneously replied, “Well, it’s finger lickin’ good”.

Along with an illustrated head and shoulders portrait of the Colonel, the slogan appeared as part of the franchise’s branding almost immediately,
and both the phrase and Sanders’ image have been synony­mous with the brand ever since. Almost.

In February 2011, KFC announced plans to replace ‘It’s Finger Lickin’ Good’  with ‘So Good’. “Rather than just being a new tagline, we have used ‘So Good’ to shape our plans to become a better business, focusing on not just our food, but also how we engage with our workforce, and the activity we do in the community,” a KFC spokesperson says. It’s an understandable move, but also a shame to lose something so distinctive for something so bland.

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