The slogan strikes back

Brands including KFC and Nike are firmly embracing bygone advertising slogans within very modern advertising. We explore why these long-used straplines can be so satisfying, and why more brands aren’t doing the same thing

The best slogans are linguistic earworms. They get into your brain and stay there – usually for years. Some are probably springing into your head right now. Beanz Meanz Heinz maybe. Have a Break, Have a KitKat. Or, perhaps for older readers, Ariston. And On. And On. What makes them stand the test of time? For Will Wright – one half of Will and James, the team behind HSBC’s We Are Not An Island ads – it’s all about the big truths.

“Something like You Either Love It or Hate It probably tested really badly because you’re telling half the world they don’t like your product, which in marketing terms is a big no,” he says. “But it’s the most true thing about that product, and it’s an idea that can be removed and placed anywhere. The idea has to be distinct, but also big.”

When brands get their slogan right, they can reap the benefits for years to come. The best ones seep into our cultural consciousness, and continue to resonate even after companies stop using them. It’s perhaps why KFC has recently dusted off its Finger Lickin’ Good slogan, which fell out of use almost a decade ago. Nike’s Just Do It slogan is now into its third decade, but still feels as fresh and powerful as ever.

“Marketing departments have this built-in desire to keep changing things, but brands benefit from sticking with a winning formula,” says Nick Asbury, of the tagline’s revival. “Politicians know this – the point at which you feel like you’ve mindlessly repeated a slogan a million times in every stump speech and campaign ad is the point at which it’s just starting to make a dent in the outside world. You have to risk boring yourself in order to connect with everyone else.

“The great fear of ad agencies must be that clients realise they’re sitting on a goldmine of old ads that would work just as well today,” he adds. “People happily watch reruns of Friends, so why do brands feel they need a new ad every year?”


Milton Keynes