100% Biker 201

100% Biker 201
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In the second part of our 200 Facts feature on page 29, we mention the phenomenally successful ‘You meet the nicest people on a Honda’ campaign which had such a huge and long lasting effect on the American motorcycle market. It’s difficult to under-estimate just how much influence was wielded by that simple slogan.

By depicting families, young couples, housewives, tradesmen and others, all riding Honda 50s, it completely changed the public concept of the motorcycle. No longer was it a dirty word, a machine used by people you wouldn’t want in your town, let alone invite into your home; now a motorcycle was a means of socially-acceptable casual and convenient transportation. It was a truly inspired move and one that would save Honda in America, as well as pave the way for it to import cars into the USA (which would become its biggest automotive market).

But did you know that there is an advertising campaign by a US company which has not only been equally popular in Japan but that has actually changed Japanese culture?

That company is Kentucky Fried Chicken and the adverts it began running in 1974 have been so influential that today the traditional Japanese Christmas dinner is fried chicken.

Kentucky Fried Chicken. Christmas isn’t really celebrated in Japan, less than 1% of the population being Christian and, in the early 1970s, the day would pass almost unnoticed, much to the distress of some foreign workers and ex-pats who missed a proper Christmas dinner (turkey is virtually unobtainable in Japan). The closest thing they could find was fried chicken, as someone pointed out to the manager of a KFC branch. The enterprising manager passed the comment up – pun intended – the food chain and the marketing department saw a perfect opportunity.

In 1974, KFC launched its ‘Kurisymasu ni wa Kentakkii!’ (Kentucky for Christmas!) advert, along with a special festive meal of chicken and wine. It proved more successful than anyone could ever have imagined and, 41 years later, the campaign runs each year, still with the same message inextricably linking Christmas and KFC. It’s a message that the Japanese have taken to their hearts and many order their Christmas ‘party barrel’ – a family pack containing fried chicken, salad and cake – weeks ahead. Even so, there are frequently queues of several hours at each of the country’s 1200 branches to collect party barrels on Christmas Eve, while KFC’s sales rise by 50% in December over any other month.

Now, normally we wouldn’t mention Christmas until at least the end of November when even we can’t ignore the fact that the world has suddenly become a tinsel-bedecked, gaudy playground peopled by frankly creepy men in red suits and beards that are more hair-raising than hipster. But we liked the seasonal comparison of these two hugely persuasive and lucrative commercial campaigns. With ‘You meet the nicest people on a Honda’, the East gave the Western world an economical, environmentally sound, convenient method of transportation, and what did America give Japan? Fast food fried chicken.