February 21, 2011If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I never cease to be amazed by the stupidity of very smart people: unfortunately, hard experience has taught me that business sense and marketing sense very rarely mix.

Of course really smart businessmen hire marketing professionals — because they realise they’re good at making money, not at selling things.

They don’t think hey, I can manage a million dollar business so I can write a strapline, they think — hey, I’m smart enough to manage a million dollar business, which means I can afford to pay a professional to write my strapline.

KFC, in the UK at least, is changing its strapline. You know, “Finger lickin’ good.” What are they changing it to? “So good”.

I say: so what?

Says Martin Shuker, chief executive of KFC UK: ‘”Finger lickin’ good” is very good but it’s very food centric.’

I say: surely selling food is what you do.

Says Martin: ‘”So Good” is still about the food but it also allows us to more effectively communicate the breadth of different things about the brand, such as our people and our community’.

I say: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Martin Shuker is probably the kind of suit who would rebrand KFC as “Fried Chicken Solution” if he could. Actually, he wouldn’t. That’s too specific. “KFC Solutions” would be better. Why go out of your way to tell people what you actually do in your company name when a 3 letter initial and the word “solution” will do?

Maybe I’m being harsh here, but I just can’t understand why you’d want to change an original, timeless slogan that reminds you constantly about how good the food is. You know, selling fast food being your main, entire, whole, revenue stream.

“So good” says nothing about your product and it says nothing about your company. It’s bland, generic, and invites the question — “so what?”

A good strapline explains the value of the product.

McDonalds’ “I’m lovin’ it” slogan is actually pretty clever, even if it does sound a bit like a single by DJ Pied Piper and the Masters of Ceremonies. It’s a bold statement that aims to put food in your mouth by putting the words in first. “You’re gonna love this,” it says, boldly switching to the use of the first person as if to proclaim “there’s no way you possibly couldn’t love our food.”

“So Good,” we’re ambitiously told, will remind people about their campaign to stop the destruction of the Indonesian and Malaysian rainforests. But really. What’s the better strapline to encourage an eight year old child (or a drunk at kicking-out time, the mental age is about the same) to come in and buy a bucket of KFC?

“Finger Lickin’ Good.”
“So good.”

Side by side, there’s no competition.

I was recently lucky enough to be invited to offer a large telecommunications company some branding advice. At the meeting, I expressed concern that their existing marketing didn’t explain what their product did. Once the company managed to explain to me what their product was, I thought it was brilliant. But, I told them, you’ll never sell any if you don’t explain to people what it is, and how it adds value to them.

That’s the secret to a good strapline. Tell people what you’re selling. Then tell them why they want to buy it. “Finger lickin’ good” does both. “So good” does not.

Smart companies, like the telecomms company who called me, call in marketing experts to help them say what they want to say quickly. They’re in the business of making products, not selling them. KFC should stick to what it does best. Making fast food that’s finger lickin’ good.

Why change something that’s timeless and popular with your customers? After all, we don’t have to look too far in our past for a senseless rebrand that went down with all hands on deck, do we, Gap?

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This entry was posted on Monday, February 21st, 2011 at 11:36 am and is filed under Advertising, Blog, Branding. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. Sure death, in my opinion, when a company kills a good strapline. I worked with Heinz about 10 years ago, and was horrified when they informed me that they were getting rid of their Beanz Meanz Heinz strapline. I certainly wasn’t backwards in coming forwards with my opinion on that!

  2. Sorry meant Heinz not Hienz!

  3. al says:

    Heinz should have just re-marketed themselves as

    “Heinz – The Magical Fruit”

    and basked in the hilarious PR ;-)

  4. kathy says:

    in architecture, it’s”

    if it ain’t baroque, don’t fix it

    very pretty site

  5. David says:

    While I agree that ‘So good’ doesn’t fix anything – it makes for awkward parlance without ‘so far’ in front of it, or “so good, ’cause I got-a you” after it – I never much liked ‘Finger lickin’ good’. After all, I spend my KFC meals looking forward to using one of their wet wipes.

    I wonder if they weighed up the pros and cons of retiring the Colonel Sanders logo rather than the slogan. Barring his passing yet pleasing resemblance to Rolf Harris, I’m not sure he ever had much relevance on this side of the Atlantic.

  6. al says:

    Interesting point. Personally, I love the way the ‘finger lickin good’ slogan gets across how delicious the food is. To me it says ‘dive right in’.

    Have you ever noticed how the Colonel wears hipster glasses?

  7. Late in the game as usual, but from an international point of view (this mainly to Amanda), the old strapline with beanz had no significance in countries where Heinz was known for something else than beans.

    I don’t know whether beanz or no-beanz markets are in the majority for Heinz, but for example in my native Finland absolutely NOBODY ate baked beans in tomato sauce some 25 years ago. In contrast, as far back as I can remember, Heinz has always been the household word for ketchup there.

    So maybe they weren’t being that stupid, after all. I suppose something similar may be behind KFC’s decision, although the new strapline does sound a bit lame.

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