In the book Chicken: High Art, Low Calorie is a fresh (or at least still warm) project by Siâron Hughes, language techniques in advertising is showcased in the graphic vernacular of fried chicken vendors in the UK.
Hughes, a talented designer and illustrator, did not stop at cataloguing the star-spangled array of signage.
She also interviewed the people behind brands such as Perfect Fried Chicken and Hen Cottage, most notably Morris ‘Mr Chicken’ Cassanova – who claims to be responsible for “90% of the logos that’s been used out there now”.
The interview excerpts on Creative Review are juicy and occasionally mysterious:
1. On Origins
“A lot of people who were franchisees say from Kentucky Fried Chicken or something like that, maybe were feeling the squeeze.
They feel as though they were working for Kentucky Fried Chicken and y’know Kentucky is so strict, whatever they says goes.”
2. On America
“In the past Kentucky usually have a little logo, a little slogan, “American Recipe”… Because they try to pull the wool over people’s eyes, you get your Dallas, it’s American, you get your California, it’s American, you get your Mississippi it’s American …”
3. On Logos
“People see them and try to change them around a little bit, and you will see somewhere along the line somebody will have something looking similar to that. It’s not all about the bits and pieces that goes with it, they will automatically try to copy it.”
KFC is still ahead of McDonald’s as the USA’s largest purchaser of chicken (says this site). McD’s have a diverse menu but chicken was never the main attraction.
Much as I like D’Angelo’s parable in The Wire, it doesn’t seem quite true of the Golden Arched take on product innovation.
The Fillet-O-Fish and Egg McMuffin were both created by enterprising franchisees. Herb Patterson broke corporate rank to start serving the McMuffin in McDonald’s Santa Barbara before it was an official item on the franchise menu.
But getting back to chicken.
Chicken is chicken.
And the Kentucky Fried Chicken brand is chicken. Plus ‘American recipe’.
What strikes me from the interviews and anecdotes is that KFC weren’t hot on UK franchises trying to innovate – as Mr Cassanova said, “y’know Kentucky is so strict, whatever they says goes”.
If you worked for KFC and wanted to invent, you might have to leave and start your own business – and you might feel you needed to copy key elements of the brand to do it successfully.
So what do you call your new place – that fresh-minted copy of a copy, with new items on the menu?
“Perfect Fried Chicken. Because you can’t be Better Than Perfect Fried Chicken”.
Maybe each new chicken joint should just take their founder’s name, like one round my way – Al Ikhwan Fried Chicken.
Or maybe someone should speak to a copywriter.