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How KFC Became A Christmas Tradition in Japan?

How KFC Became A Christmas Tradition in Japan?

How do you celebrate the holidays?

Perhaps you enjoy roast turkey or ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and side dishes like stuffing and green beans.

In the Western world, Kentucky Fried Chicken, commonly known as KFC, is not typically associated with Christmas. However, in Japan, KFC is almost synonymous with the holiday.

Read on to find out how they’ve won the hearts of the Japanese and became a Christmas tradition.

A Rough Beginning in Japan

KFC opened its first Japanese store in Nagoya in 1970, but the initial reception was less enthusiastic than expected. The fried chicken was a relatively unfamiliar food in Japan at the time, which presented challenges in attracting customers during the early days.

How Did KFC Dominate Christmas in Japan?

Takeshi Okawara, the manager of the first KFC in Japan, was asked to dress up as Santa while delivering fried chicken to a kindergarten party. This experience led Okawara to realize that Christmas could be KFC’s marketing opportunity in Japan.

At that time, Japan had limited exposure to Christmas and its traditions. However, Okawara saw the potential and introduced the KFC ‘Party Barrel’ in the early ’70s, marketing it as an American Christmas favorite. By 1974, KFC’s ‘Kentucky Christmas’ campaign had swept Japan, establishing the brand as a Christmas essential.

Today, KFC’s ‘Christmas Packs’ contribute significantly to their revenue, comprising one-third of their annual sales in Japan. Okawara’s idea solidified KFC as a must-have for Japanese Christmas celebrations.

Unique Flavors and Seasonal Menus

What sets Japanese KFC apart is their seasonal menus and special chicken flavors. During the summer, Japanese KFC offers soy sauce-flavored fried chicken, hot and spicy chicken, and fried cutlet sandwiches.

They’ve tailored their menu to cater to Japanese customers and their traditional flavor preferences. Additionally, introducing seasonal items creates a sense of urgency and adds value to their existing offerings.

Sustaining Marketing Efforts

KFC is considered a high-end fast-food option in Japan, with prices relatively higher than other fast-food chains.

So, how have they remained competitive in the Japanese fast-food market?

In today’s digital age, TV viewership is declining, particularly among the younger generation who prefer social media. Recognizing this shift, KFC reallocated its marketing budget to social media platforms.

They now offer coupons and loyalty points through their mobile app and newsletters on the messaging app LINE

KFC Mobile App

The KFC mobile app enhances the customer experience with real-time order tracking, customization options, and saved favorites. It also collects data on customer preferences, enabling personalized marketing campaigns and promotions based on order history. This targeted approach makes their marketing efforts even more powerful and effective.

The app also encourages customer engagement through feedback, surveys, and social media interactions, fostering a stronger brand-customer relationship. The loyalty rewards program incentivizes repeat purchases, generating valuable customer behavior data and building long-term customer loyalty.

These combined efforts have secured KFC’s vast popularity in Japan.

Click here to read more about popular apps that can boost your business in Japan.


KFC’s journey in Japan from a shaky start to becoming a Christmas tradition is proof that innovative, yet familiar marketing and adaptation to local tastes work. This success story showcases the importance of understanding and resonating with local culture and preferences, proving that even international brands can thrive by catering to local sensibilities.

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