The theme for Advertising Week DC (#ADWKDC) was INOV8. We learned that when innovation goes hand-in-hand with authenticity, it resonates with the audience. The Brand Values Into Brand Actions session offered a perfect example: Nando’s PERi-PERi, whose cheeky approach to advertising deeply inspired us, sparked laughter, and led to its viral Everyone Is Welcome campaign.
How Nando’s Began
Brand and communication strategist Gia Bagherpour told us about the journey of Nando’s chicken restaurant from its humble start in South Africa in 1987 during apartheid through its expansion to 1300 restaurants as far away as Australia and Washington, DC.
The two men who founded it wanted to “have fun and make money” but they also gave the company a moral compass with five values:
Also, it was obvious to the founders that they had to challenge the status quo and take risks since they were competing with giant operations such as KFC. Nando’s became known as a troublemaker that spouted social commentary and ruffled feathers to get attention for its flame-broiled chicken:
- Non-white people could not be shown on “white” TV channels, so they hired a white comedian to talk in different accents.
- They showed chickens mating in a spot and got away with it because the censors somehow didn’t understand what was happening.
- They used cheeky cultural references to promote kosher meals.
After Nelson Mandela was released and the country became democratic, Nando’s went further in ways that Gia said were “unifying because they brought common values to the table.”
- A spot showed a white husband and wife meeting their neighbors, a gay couple whose existence was invisible under the previous regime.
- When xenophobic attacks were rampant, Nando’s aired a spot called “Diversity.”
- Since only political parties were allowed to advertise on outdoor signs, Nando’s formed a “political party” and inserted itself into political conversations.
- In a spot created by Muslims for Muslims, they showed “Kareem” anticipating Nando’s during Ramadan.
- Most infamously, Nando’s promoted a holiday meal in 2011 by making fun of dictators such as Robert Mugabe. After one airing, the spot had wide repercussions: Nando’s had to shut down its restaurants in Zimbabwe; the spot was pulled off the air in Zimbabwe and South Africa; and thanks to the resulting publicity, Nando’s sold more promotional meals than ever.
Nando’s also developed a manifesto: “Change people’s lives, one chicken at a time.” The restaurant chain helps to eradicate malaria in Mozambique and gives back to farmers to help them develop sustainable practices.
The U.S. Perspective
DT French from the Nobody.co agency told us how the Everyone Is Welcome campaign came together for a company that expects its ads to have “equal parts horror and excitement.”
It started by recognizing these truths:
- Social is not a channel. Social is a quality.
- People share what they care about.
- You beat people by being better than they are.
Then DT had to answer some questions:
- What are we going to do for the inauguration?
- DC is trapped in a malaise. How can we address it?
- How can we make a simple, uniquely American statement?
- Is the idea social?
The resulting campaign celebrated the diversity that was embedded in Nando’s from the beginning. After creating a poster, Nobody placed it in 100,000 Washington Post Express newspapers, created stickers and made it available for download.
DT said that by embracing its authentic values, Nando’s acheived “huge rewards”:
- U.S. sales went up 122%, with an 8% increase in brand perception, and sales rose internationally
- Employee morale went sky high
- A South African newspaper wrote a front page story: “Nando’s Still Making Trouble in the New World”
- Posters were put up across the U.S. and promoted Nando values despite the lack of brand identification; an audience member from Alexandria, Virginia admitted that she thought it was a locally-created way to build pride and unite her neighborhood
The moral: You don’t fight hate with hate. You fight it with love. Especially if love was part of your company from the start.
Zohar Rom edits this blog and is a writer and project manager. He drives brand success for clients and adores new challenges. Zohar is also a filmmaker; he earned the first-ever Best In Show at the Cable Advertising Awards and is directing Entitlement, a short film set in a future where sexual choices have new limits.