You know that stupid urban legend college kids always try to blow your mind with about how KFC is called that because the FDA said they can’t call their food sources ‘chickens’ anymore? And then some loser like me goes, “think about it, it’s obviously marketing. They don’t call it chemlawn anymore either.” Actually they do still call it chemlawn. Can you believe that? Anyway, according to snopes, the real reason is 10 times crazier than the Robochicken Hypothesis:
It sounded good, but the real reason behind the shift to KFC had nothing to do with healthy food or finicky consumers: it was about money — money that Kentucky Fried Chicken would have had to pay to continue using their original name. In 1990, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, mired in debt, took the unusual step of trademarking their name. Henceforth, anyone using the word “Kentucky” for business reasons — inside or outside of the state — would have to obtain permission and pay licensing fees to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It was an unusual and brilliant scheme to alleviate government debt, but it was also one that alienated one of the most famous companies ever associated with Kentucky. The venerable Kentucky Fried Chicken chain, a mainstay of American culture since its first franchise opened in Salt Lake City in 1952, refused as a matter of principle to pay royalties on a name they had been using for four decades. After a year of fruitless negotiations with the Kentucky state government, Kentucky Fried Chicken — unwilling to submit to “such a terrible injustice” — threw in the towel and changed their name instead, timing the announcement to coincide with the introduction of new packaging and products to obscure the real reasons behind the altering of their corporate name.
Kentucky Fried Chicken were not the only ones who bravely refused to knuckle under. The name of the most famous horse race in North America, held every year at Churchill Downs, was changed from the “Kentucky Derby” to “The Run for the Roses” for similar reasons; many seed and nursery outfits that had previously offered Kentucky Bluegrass switched to a product known as “Shenendoah Bluegrass” instead; and Neil Diamond’s song “Kentucky Woman” was dropped from radio playlists at his request, as the licensing fees he was obligated to pay the Commonwealth of Kentucky exceeded the peformance royalties he was receiving for the airplay.