Creative Coronaviral Food Marketing Continues

Last quarter, we were just beginning to see the effects of COVID-19 on food marketers struggling to deal with creative production issues and appropriate tonality in our brave new world. Brands were entering the coronavirus conversation conservatively, taking great care not to offend consumers. But now that a new normal has been established for the foreseeable future, creative marketing looks to be finding its stride. QSR brands like KFC, Arby’s and Burger King have even been able to find some relatable humor in our current plight and inject it into their ads.

Meanwhile, the trend toward plant-based meat replacements shows no signs of slowing down due to the current pandemic, as sales have soared by triple digits. Much like last year’s chicken sandwich wars, we’re now seeing a brouhaha between faux-meat brands.

Let’s take a look at some of the food marketing and advertising that have found creative ways to stand out during recent months. As always, feel free to watch this video version instead.

KFC – Not Currently Finger Lickin’ Good

What to do when your brand’s renowned tagline is totally inappropriate for the times? Own it. KFC has dropped a cheeky, self-aware campaign in which their “Finger Lickin’ Good” motto is put on hold. They’ve acknowledged that the famed slogan is totally tone-deaf during a period when folks are being strongly advised not to put their hands anywhere near their mouth. So they’re disavowing the messaging in advertising. “That thing we always say? Ignore it. For now,” reads the new version.

Sounds good to us. Their secret recipe may be tasty, but it’s not worth dying for.

Arby’s – Recycled Commercial

Another QSR brand having a bit of fun with apologizing for its ads during COVID-19 is Arby’s. Due to limitations imposed on the production of new commercials, they’ve been forced to rerun a previous ad for their Pecan Chicken Salad Sandwich.

Unfortunately, the old version also includes a sandwich they no longer offer. So, much like KFC, they’ve taken to pixelating the bygone product and joking about it in a humorously self-deprecating way. “Don’t worry about the blurry one,” the spot says. “Focus on the one in focus.”

Vita Coco – Coconotes

Vita Coco coconut water hit upon a novel way to establish a human connection during the age of social distancing. In another example of the trend of brands celebrating foodie holidays, Vita Coco’s website invited people to order a free coconut to be sent by mail to loved ones on National Coconut Day. Their “Coconotes” each featured a customized greeting, and one even included a golden ticket for a year’s supply of free coconut water. The campaign was devised to increase brand awareness with a surprise-and-delight activation for quarantined consumers. Additionally, as a means of forming a human connection through positive brand values, Vita Coco used the promo to support disadvantaged coconut farming communities abroad.

Impossible Foods – The Great Patty Pickup Party

Impossible, like other plant-based meat alternatives, had embraced in-store sampling as a means to introduce folks to its product. But with that method now off the table due to the pandemic, the CPG manufacturer has been looking for other ways to get its product into the mouths of the public.

Recently, they devised an experiential event to stimulate tasting trials by handing out boxes of their new premade patties at a Los Angeles car wash. Branded “The Great Patty Pickup Party,” the socially distanced stunt required no one to leave the safety of their cars. It was the latest strike in the intensely competitive battle of plant-based proteins including Beyond Meat, Boca Burger, Incogmeato and others.

Beyond Meat – Going Beyond

Meanwhile, Beyond Meat’s contribution to the Meatless Meat Wars is a new TV campaign entitled “Go Beyond.” The 60-second image spot promotes sustainability with messaging that the production of Beyond Meat uses less land and energy while releasing fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than raising livestock. Voiced by Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer, the commercial invites folks to join Beyond in creating the future of food while protecting the planet.

Incogmeato – Celebrity Animal Influencers

Kellogg’s has also entered the fake-meat fray on social with its Incogmeato line of plant-based burgers, sausages and nuggets. But instead of hiring human influencers, they’ve enlisted Instagram stars of the barnyard variety. Spokes-animals including Prissy the Pig (701,000 followers) and Buckley the Highland Cow (74,000 followers) have been outfitted in the trademark green bowler hat and mustache featured in illustrations on Incogmeato’s packaging.

Because who better to convince people not to eat cows and pigs … than cows and pigs?


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A post shared by Prissy and Pop (@prissy_pig) on


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A post shared by Buckley (@buckleythehighlandcow) on

Burger King – Christmas Comes Early

Finally, Burger King decided to celebrate Christmas early this year. Not because they enjoy the holiday so much, but because they want 2020 to be over already. As part of the promo to “wrap the year up early,” they added carols, elves and more to their social media channels. Burger King even decorated a store for the season with falling snow, trees and lights. In a lighthearted winter wonderland video, customers express their displeasure with the current year. Jump-cutting ahead to a hopefully better time is a nice idea. If only it were that simple.


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Kirk Evans VP/Associate Creative Director EvansHardy+Young
Kirk Evans, VP/Assoc Creative Director

Kirk held senior creative positions at McCann-Erickson and Ogilvy in Los Angeles before joining EvansHardy+Young over 20 years ago. He has produced award winning work for multiple EHY Clients including Idaho Potatoes, California Walnuts and several restaurant chains. Previous clients included American Express, Coca-Cola, Columbia Pictures and Post Cereals. Despite being born and bred in New Jersey, Kirk is an enthusiastic surfer.