I worked on the Burger King account many years ago. And I can still go into a full-body sweat as I recall meetings when a franchisee would complain that the arrow on the sales graph was pointing the wrong way. More often than not (and there were a lot of “oftens”) that complaint would be followed by a cry from the audience to bring back “Have It Your Way” along with the color commentary that went something along the lines of “it worked before $%$@. Why the #$@$ can’t it work again!!”
The agency and the marketing staff would then join forces to become the voice of excuses. “We hear you and appreciate where you’re coming from,” someone would say. "But ‘Have It Your Way’ is no longer something that differentiates Burger King.”
We finally got fired.
Looking back, I would suspect that the 6 or 7 agencies that followed us were confronted by the same request. They all floundered with too many campaigns to count, each one billed as the “silver bullet” that would finally move BK back to its rightful place as the #2 QSR in America.
But those franchisees finally found an agency that would listen to them. Because now, instead of summarily dismissing a re-run of “Have It Your Way,” the agency apparently gave it due consideration.
By all appearances, it looks like this agency dug deep into the heap of all those misfired silver bullets to closely examine the one that made BK famous, and the one that truly represents BK’s most authentic story. It hasn’t been released yet, but soon we will see how they helped pick up where they left off more than 30 years later. They brushed off “Have It Your Way” and gave it some 21st century relevance. In doing so, they transformed the popular benefit line into a line that enlists followers, not just buyers.
Good on you Burger King!
Out of the rubble of many, many ideas that have missed the mark, you somehow excavated the central value that your brand has always stood for. You have elevated the benefit of choice to the value of individualism. By replacing “Have It” with “Be", you will be re-associating yourself with your past while catapulting yourself far forward, especially with your core millennial audience with whom this message will resonate.
Now, you are no longer the fast food joint that seems to have been defeated. You have given your brand the potential of becoming an empowering symbol that means something more important than a here-today-gone-tomorrow functional benefit. You have re-energized yourself with a super-sized cause that many of your potential customers will follow, because it is a cause they already believe in.
And it gets better: With this line you have drawn a line in the sand between you and your biggest foe. Because, unlike them, you are not trying to convince people that you are a place that they are “Lovin'.” Instead you are potentially giving them something to love you for.
The emphasis is on “potentially”
Few QSR’s realize what you’ve learned the hard way. That unique benefits have short life spans but values and beliefs live on. That telling people how to think of you doesn’t work nearly as well as giving people something important to think about you. That trying to create new beliefs can never be as powerful as taking advantage of a existing beliefs that can be shared with your audience.
BK, you are miles ahead, but you are only half way home. This line, if not supported, has the potential of being added to the junk-pile heap of other tag lines that you have collected over the years. It comes with conditions:
You need to tell us what “Be Your Way” means through everything you do in and out of your restaurants. You need to inspire us with how important the value of individuality is. In effect, you need to take advantage of your new found storybrand status by showing how you live it.
As an alumnus of the BK school of silver bullets, I believe that you have finally found a way to turn the lights back on. But whether those lights go from bright to brilliant will depend on how well you turn this tag line into a theme that is worth emulating.
Now be, “Be Your Way!"