Are Brand Taglines a Thing of the Past?

Are Brand Taglines a Thing of the Past?

After 40 years, Burger King is abandoning the “Have it Your Way” slogan in favor of the new “Be Your Way.”

Huh? That’s right. “Be Your Way.”

In an interview with Huffington Post, Fernando Machado, Burger King’s senior vice president of global brand management, explained “that “Have It Your Way” focuses only on the purchase — the ability to customize a burger. By contrast, he said “Be Your Way” is about making a connection with a person’s greater lifestyle. We want to evolve from just being the functional side of things to having a much stronger emotional appeal.”

Burger King actually issued a statement saying the new tagline communicates that people “can and should live how they want anytime. It’s ok to not be perfect … Self-expression is most important and it’s our differences that make us individuals instead of robots.”

In case you needed self-validation from a fast food restaurant.

As one Huff Post commenter noted, “Be Your Way’ is not even grammatical, much less emotion-evoking. Generally, my rule of thumb is any slogan or tagline you have to explain to your customers is a bad tagline.

The thousands of hours and millions of dollars spent by ad agencies notwithstanding, here is the truth about taglines:

You don’t have to have a tagline. (Really – there is no law that says you have to have one.)
A bad tagline is worse than no tagline at all. That’s because you have to spend scarce resources educating people about it, and making it connect to your business. Bad taglines can even become distractions from your brand promise, in the worst case.
A good tagline quickly and succinctly encapsulates your brand promise. (Or your differentiation, your distinction, your value proposition, your USP, which are really different names for the same thing, anyway!)
Once you have a good tagline, use it forever. Nike’s “Just Do It”, in use for 26 years, is one of the younger taglines that I would just as “really good”. (Along with the 66-year old “A Diamond Is Forever”.

Good taglines can be powerful, and Burger King has had a few. When my son was little, he decided that he would only eat Burger King hamburgers. Why? “Because they’re not fried, Mommy.” He had seen the television commercials touting Burger King’s “Grilled not Fried” tagline and he was sold. And I would have to say, forty years of “Have it Your Way” is not too shabby. And who needs an explanation for “Home of the Whopper”?

Unfortunately, I would have to say that “Be Your Way” is not of the same caliber. The new slogan may be symptomatic of the corporation’s struggle to reverse years of declining sales with changing management (having been bought by investment firm in 2010 and then taken public again in 2012). I predict it will go the way of the Creepy King character they re-introduced in 2003.

But let’s be honest. BK certainly has plenty of company in introducing a bad tagline. A couple of my personal favorites are Delta’s “Keep Climbing” and Volvo’s “For Life.” Apparently, miss-steps on taglines can happen to the best of brands.

What about you? What brands have you noticed with atrociously bad taglines?

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Topics: brand research, branding, marketing

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