Great brand lines are hard to make and easy to break.
Great brand lines are hard to make and easy to break.

To prove it, we’ve gone ahead and messed with a few of the best slogans around. Then told the stories behind the originals.

Why? Because we’re franklyfluent, a creative translation agency, and we know all about the delicate power of a few magic words. Translate something a little to-the-left of perfect and you break the magic. It’s something we wanted to bring to life for everyone, whether or not they speak another language.

  • Concept
    • franklyfluent
      • Genevieve Edwards
  • Site design
    • Tomorrow Happens
      • Nate Zerk
      • Leandre Zerk
  • Artwork
    • Hsin-Jung Lu
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If you’ve ever been a child, you’ll recognise this slogan

It might seem simple

But behind this little line sits a whole history of modern marketing

And breakfast

Before Frosties, there was Granola.

Invented (well, ripped off) by John Harvey Kellogg as a health food for patients in his sanitorium

Early cereals like Granola were marketed on Christian themes 

Really Christian themes 

But then…


Kelloggs’ main competitor started coating their products in the stuff

And soon kids across America were guzzling sweet cereal by the bowlful

Cue a moral dilemma for Kellogg

But the other Kellogg won the day and Sugar Frosted Flakes (Frosties in the UK) were born

Thus began a branding blitz

It was the 1950s, and advertising was becoming big business

Especially in the cereal category


1. People eat the same breakfast day after day

‘Ads by the chicken lobby may convince people to eat a bit more chicken, but an avalanche of Tony the Tiger ads can get tens of thousands of children to eat Frosted Flakes every morning for years’ – Alex Mayyasi, The Atlantic

2. Cereal is cereal is cereal

It’s so basic, you can’t patent it

Making branding your only hope of standing out

3. Everyone already eats lunch and dinner

‘Breakfast is the grocer’s most promising target’ – Lionel B. Moses, 1944


Ad agency Leo Burnett were commissioned to brand and advertise the new cereal

They created Tony the Tiger, designed to signal energy and strength

And copywriter John E. Matthews penned the line:

‘They’re grr-r-reat’

What might seem like a simple trick – spiking the line with a tiger’s growl – turned out to be a masterstroke, transforming a straightforward quality statement into an ownable slogan

And voice artist Thurl Ravenscroft brought the kind of swaggering gusto you’d expect of, well, a talking tiger

Put it all together, and you’ve got a catchy slogan

One that worked for the audience (children)

And worked for the product (a category look-a-like that couldn’t make health claims)

The slogan appeared on everything from packaging to print ads to TV commercials 

Over half a century on, Tony the Tiger has had some work done…

And the moral debate over making and marketing sugary cereals continues…

But even as other lines fall foul of advertising rules

‘They’re gr-r-reat!’ remains vague enough to jump regulatory hurdles…

And memorable enough to stick in your head the way sugary cereal sticks in your teeth

tvcommercials bigtony printads packaging tonythetiger leoburnett sugarcoating otherkellog reallychristianthemes christianthemes2 christianthemes granolla2 johnkellog granola

‘I don’t believe in advertising’

Said Phil Knight, Nike’s ‘Shoe Dog’, when he met Dan Wieden and David Kennedy 

Wieden+Kennedy would go on to be one of the world’s most successful advertising agencies

Nike would go on to be one the world’s biggest brands 

And ‘Just Do It.’ remains one of the most iconic slogans ever written

Phil changed his mind

He changed it when 1987 hit and Nike’s sales dropped by $200 million

When it wasn’t enough to sell great shoes to great athletes anymore

‘Just Do It.’

Inspired by the last words of murderer Gary Gilmore 

(although that’s not what Dan told Nike at the time)

‘If you can’t write something startling, don’t write anything at all’

Sometimes startling is three blunt words and one full stop.

Shockingly simple, impossible to side-step

‘To succeed with the consumer, you have to wake him up’ – Phil Knight

‘Just Do It.’ was the product of an agency and a brand thinking in sync

Which is why this ‘accidental’ line, originally designed to tie a few disparate ads together

Became so much more

Nike had already realised that people – women especially – don’t just do sport to be fit, or be fast

Sport is emotional, and personal.

Nike were ready to stop talking about products, and start talking about the people who used them

And Wieden + Kennedy?

‘They take the time to grind it out. They try to extract something that’s meaningful, an honest message that is true to who we are’ – Phil Knight

That’s how you get to ‘Just Do It.’

(and, for the record, they didn’t pre-test it)

Designed to ‘inspire people to participate in sports’ – Liz Dolan 

The line did that, and then some

‘I had women writing to me saying “I finally left the bum” – they were getting divorces based on the slogan’ – Liz Dolan

The line said something to people.

Which made Nike mean something to people

Between 1988 and 1998, Nike’s sales went from $200 million to $9.2 billion

(that’s a 46-fold increase)

Since then, it’s become a cultural meme 

A fashion statement 

And a call to protest 

A line so direct it always means something

And so simple it can mean a hundred different things

shoedog-old dandavidkennedy biggestbrands justdoit garygillmore participatesports womennike culturalmeme protest fashionstatement shoedog

Harland Sanders’ fried chicken wasn’t haute cuisine, but it tasted good, and you could eat it fast

How fast?

Try 70mph speeding down an interstate highway.

Served in a bucket and eaten with your hands this was food designed to move

It’s no coincidence that when Sanders got his start in the 1930s it was serving meals out of a petrol station

Soon, just like the highways it catered to, the franchise had spread from state to state 

Including Arizona where, in 1956, in a small TV station, KFC’s Phoenix branch was shooting a TV commercial live (standard practice at the time)

Ken Harbough, the branch manager, was in front of the camera doing the talking

While the branch owner, Dave Harman , was in the background doing the eating – chowing down on a big plate of fried chicken

An incensed viewer called in to complain:

‘Mr. Harman is licking his fingers!’

‘Well, it’s finger lickin’ good!’ came Ken’s reply

(or that’s how Pete Harman – the other guy behind KFC empire and brother of finger lickin’ Dave – tells it)

The line stuck around.

In fact, it couldn’t be killed

KFC tried a few times

In 2011, spurred by a popular fervour for healthy eating (see: ) they tried to replace it with the offensively bland ‘So Good’ 

And again during the coronavirus epidemic when, by the brand’s own admission:

‘The award for the most inappropriate slogan for 2020 goes to… KFC’ 

But, somehow, the line always seems to come back…

Back to packaging 

Back to billboards 

Back to commercials 

Because it’s authentic

Because it speaks squarely to the ‘so tasty I want to eat more but I know I shouldn’t’ appeal of fast food

Because no one goes to KFC for the salads or the napkins

Because deep down we all want our guilty pleasures to stay guilty

colonel harlandsanders roads dudes sogood billboardsogood packaging billboardfinger tvfinger kfcold supersizeme dave

Before there was ‘Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe there’s Maybelline.’

There was ‘Fine makeup, sensibly priced’… 

A little underwhelming from the brand that more-or-less invented the cosmetics category

Throughout the 1910s, 20s, 30s…

Maybelline pulled makeup off the silver screen and onto the faces of ordinary women 

A feat that took ‘selling women on the idea that it was perfectly moral’ according to the 19-year-old who founded it 

(a.k.a. commercialised his sister Mabel’s idea)

Maybelline told the public that faking it wasn’t a crime – just a smart move for smart women 

But then the brand coasted

By 1990, sales were dragging

The New York Times thought Maybelline was ‘staid and stodgy’

While investment banker Bruce Wasserstein thought it was ‘underdeveloped, but latently tremendously powerful’

So he bought it.

Bruce might have looked like an unlikely suitor for one of America’s largest cosmetics brands

But by this point makeup was big business, and Bruce was a bonafide businessman

He called in ad agency Lintas – recently dumped by Maybelline’s arch rival CoverGirl – to take on the creative

Christy Turlington became the face of the brand

Ads became edgier, choppier… 90s-er 

And ‘Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline.’ was penned

With $50 million in spend behind it, the line was hard to miss

And with a clever construction – the brand name vibrating through the line like a drum beat – it was hard to forget

But this line was more than an ear worm.

It landed smack-bang on the magic overlap between something that is true of the brand and something that feels true to the audience

‘Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline’ gave a knowing wink to the fakery Maybelline had practically patented

And told women that even Christy Turlington didn’t wake up like this 

Suddenly, looking like a supermodel didn’t sound impossible

And trying didn’t sound outrageous

Just a smart move for smart women

Sales soared

L’Oréal swooped in

Maybelline remains one of the biggest beauty brands in the US and beyond

And the line? It ran for 24 years

(Making it three years older than Christy Turlington was when she launched the campaign)

But times changed.

Beauty brands tweaked their tactics 

And the strapline was quietly retired in 2014

But even today, ‘Maybe she’s born with it’ ranks as one of the most recognisable brand lines in the world

Not bad for a slogan that hasn’t been a slogan for nearly a decade

maybellineordinary maybellinefounder mabel smartwomen bruce christy edgier wakeup dove maybeshesbornwithit sensiblemakeup

When B&Q hit Britain in 1969 

A house wasn’t just a house

This was the era of baby boomers 


Children of the swinging sixties 

A house was a way to express yourself.

And B&Q were on-hand to help

The optimistic, supportive, simple slogan

Tapped into a burgeoning post-war trend: DIY 

Where once building and decorating had been the preserve of professionals

Now, anyone could do it with the right tools

And at B&Q, those tools weren’t kept behind counters

They lined the walls

And knowledgeable ex-tradespeople dotted the aisles

Those same store staff starred in the ads 

Part of a push to talk to consumers, instead of just shouting at them

Ad agency Dorland (one of the UK’s biggest at the time) knew B&Q needed to make itself more than a place to buy cheap hammers

It had to talk to hearts as well as heads.

‘You can do it when you B&Q it’ does both

It says ‘you can paint a skirting board’

It says ‘you can make your home your own’

So even as the commercial landscape shifted

As the costs of hiring tradespeople fell

As flat pack projects cut out tools

As online shopping reinvented retail

As B&Q’s offering adjusted, and its advertising became emotive and ultimately award-winning 

The line held

Because ‘you can do it when you B&Q it’ has always been about more than value

It recognises that homes, lives, selves are what people want to build

bqbritain babyboomers homeowners swingingsixties interior staff flatpack emotive awardwinning bqad

The charm of ‘Have a break, have a KitKat’ lies in its humility

In a world where beers ask us to ‘Be legacy’ and cars promise to ‘Create amazing’ KitKat keeps its expectations low

And in doing so, conquers a small chunk of the day

Before ‘Have a break, have a KitKat’, Chocolate Crisp (as it was known back then) was ‘the biggest little meal in Britain’ 

Vaguely peddled as a lunch replacement and/or energy boost

It was ad agency JWT who, in the 1950s, had the bright idea to shift the thinking

So that instead of being what helped you keep working, KitKat was why you stopped

Placing the bar smack bang in the middle of a much-loved ritual: the mid-morning break (aka ‘elevenses’)

The line – penned by Donald Gilles – solidified its new position, with a neat nod to the ‘break’ of a finger of chocolate 

Not bad for seven syllables

It may have been born to tap into a British obsession with work

But the line stuck around and spread thanks to its flexibility

It’s as relevant to a British postman as it is to a Malaysian farmer

It applies to wizards

Wagon rides 

And war rooms 

By building on something as simple as a pause

The line lets creativity run in all directions

Ending up in places that are often silly occasionally beautiful and sometimes even a little profound 

Today, Kit Kat is one of the world’s favourite chocolate bars.

JWT continues as its ad agency

And ‘Have a break’ is still going strong

beer amazing crisp biggestlittle break break2 wagonrides warrooms silly beautiful profound wizards