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Ivie Asia

Large Agency | Shanghai

Celebrating Traditional Chinese Culture—KFC’s New Year’s Campaign

In keeping with Chinese zodiac cultural traditions, each year during the Spring Festival international brands launch limited-edition products based on the Chinese zodiac for the lunar new year. Luxury brands like LV, Gucci and Dior celebrated the “Year of the Rooster” with images of roosters on their products, packaging and advertising.

Looking at all these limited-edition goods and their packaging makes you feel like you’re sitting in a global brand competition where competitors attempt to show off their understanding of Chinese traditional culture with some confusing artwork that puts a strange animal on their international brand. However, KFC, a quintessentially American company, successfully played a role in this year’s special celebration of the Spring Festival. To support China’s unique cultural heritage and to pay tribute to Chinese traditions, KFC integrated traditional arts with a modern aesthetic to create more than 20 kinds of traditional art throughout 100 key restaurants, thus displaying a new form of artistic expression through a variety of rooster images, which are called “百鸡百吉”, a phrase which roughly translates to “Hundreds of roosters bring hundreds of fortune/luck.”

In Beijing, KFC employed a theme derived from the Peking Opera by integrating the signature Peking Opera makeup combined with rooster imagery rendered in bold, modern, contrasting colors. Six Peking Opera-themed restaurants spread the charm of this quintessentially Chinese art form.

In other parts of China, various folk art inspiration was used in equally creative measures. In Shanghai, Jinshan peasant paintings were the inspiration; in Guangzhou, Cantonese Opera (distinct from Peking Opera) reigned; in Hubei, signature drums enlivened restaurants; in Changsha, Huagu Drama was drawn upon; in Huishan, clay figurines delighted; in Yangliuqing it was New Year paintings that resonated with locals; in Nanjing, delicate silk brocade inspired; and in Shaanxi, highly intricate paper cuttings abounded.

Different themes drawn from China’s centuries-old culture were reinterpreted in KFC restaurants to display a new modern, visual language of traditional arts and handicrafts. KFC’s sincerity paid tribute to these Chinese traditions and reinforced its rich cultural heritage; it also showed the ability that traditional art and crafts possess to keep pace with the times.

Not only did the changes enliven KFC’s interiors for the major holiday, but KFC went further by encouraging interaction with the public, encouraging people to experience the charms of traditional Chinese culture and arts. For example, The Institute of the Wuxi Chong’an Temple and KFC jointly held a “clay doll classroom” experience where participants learned how delicate clay dolls are made. In Changsha, Hunan, KFC held a "Hunan Opera Spring Festival Evening" for the public, showing a respect for the unique cultural heritage of Hunan.

Each country has its own unique culture and traditions. In particular, with China’s vast territory and long history, traditional arts and folk culture are vast and varied. The story of the Chinese zodiac and the festivities surrounding the lunar new year have benefitted from contemporary media and are now known all around the world. But to make good use of these cultural opportunities, brands need to deeply impact the behavior and attitudes of the Chinese audience, which is not an easy undertaking. For KFC’s brand marketing “百鸡百吉”, KFC successfully transcended the boundary of "traditional art" by establishing a deep understanding of traditional culture and traditional festivals and bringing it to a contemporary audience. The result was a major marketing campaign that utilized regional arts to stimulate a healthy connection with the KFC brand.

The KFC "百鸡百吉" brand marketing activities in Beijing Peking Opera store, Guangzhou Cantonese Opera store, Hubei Drum store, Hunan Changsha Flower Drum Opera store and Huishan Clay Figurine shop designs were all created by Ivie Asia (China).