Why everyone’s in a flap about the Tories’ JFC stunt

Creative Bloq's readers will be well aware of the power of advertising. A good campaign can propel your business to new heights; a misfire can ruin you. While politics obviously comes with its own brand identities, rarely has a party embraced the language of modern-day brand campaigns in quite the same way as the Conservatives with their recent JFC stunt, in which they called Labour Party leader a chicken via mock KFC branding. Here's everything you need to know about why everyone's in such a flap about the campaign.

It all kicked off on Friday night, with the Conservative Party tweeting a picture of Jeremy Corbyn wearing a chicken outfit, along with a comment that read: "Hey @KFC_UKI, we’ve found an even bigger chicken than you." It may have been just a tweet, but at this level they might as well have put up a billboard ad.

KFC, known for its forthright brand voice, swiftly responded: "This is KFC not LBC don’t @ me." Ouch. (If you don't know, LBC is a London-based radio station that deals with political and social discussions).

Conservators chicken campaign

(Image credit: Twitter)

While the initial tweet caused quite a stir, it was KFC's response that was the clear winner when it came to likes and retweets (at time of writing, the Tories' tweet had 13.7k Likes compared to KFC's 151k). Mother London, the ad agency behind KFC's widely celebrated FCK chicken shortage apology, also got involved, quote-tweeting the Conservative message with a more to-the-point: "Delete your account".

To complete the campaign, the Tories sent 'JFC' branded deliveries to major press outlets. The below image comes from the deputy political editor for the MailOnline, who tweeted the message: "Conservatives committing to the whole “Corbyn is a chicken”. HARD. A “JFC” delivery has just been made to the press gallery." 

Press outlets were sent KFC-lookalike chicken meals

Press outlets were sent KFC-lookalike chicken meals (Image credit: Jack Maidment)

The response to the stunt, as you might expect, has been mixed. Some pointed out that KFC was a chicken shop, not an actual large chicken. Others reminded us that Jeremy Corbyn's middle name is Bernard, so it should if anything be JBC. More still mused on the legality of mimicking KFC's branding in this way. Those familiar with KFC's take-no-prisoners brand voice questioned the logic of choosing this particular brand to mess with. 

A large majority also suggested that the Conservatives might have bigger and more important things to focus on right now. But we're a design site so we're not going to get into that.

When the story first kicked off, there was also a big (and it turns out unfounded) kerfuffle about image rights. Photographer Timothy Archibald posted a tweet (now deleted), suggesting the photo was being used without permission. However, following a fairly sizable back backlash, it transpired the Conservatives did in fact have permission to use the photo. 

A screenshot of a message from stock image provider Getty stated: "Getty Images can confirm that the Conservative Party recently legitimately licensed a creative stock image of a man in a chicken costume, which has been used in line with their license agreement via social media... I would appreciate it if you could direct any media enquiries to me so that I can correct any implications that the image was unlicensed." Read the full message below.

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In this case the anger was misplaced, but it's a timely reminder to brush up on your image rights knowledge. 

Corbyn supporters have now, in a classic move, taken the campaign and repurposed it for their own message, rebranding it #JezzaForChange.

corbyn branding

Corbynites have reappropriated the campaign for their own message (Image credit: Unknown)

While the campaign can't exactly be called a success, it is interesting to see political parties starting to embrace the language of modern branding to try and strengthen their message and broaden their appeal. The idea of carefully crafted brand rivalries is certainly having a moment right now, most notably with Burger King versus McDonalds. Done well it can work to the benefit of both brands – whether we want to see these tactics in politics is another matter, though.

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Ruth Hamilton

Ruth spent a couple of years as Deputy Editor of Creative Bloq, and has also either worked on or written for almost all of the site's former and current print titles, from Computer Arts to ImagineFX. She now spends her days reviewing mattresses and hiking boots as the Outdoors and Wellness editor at T3.com, but continues to write about design on a freelance basis in her spare time.