After more than 40 years, Burger King (BKW) is ditching its famous “Have It Your Way” slogan in favor of the much more vague (not to mention grammatically questionable) “Be Your Way.” According to a statement released by the fast food company, the new motto reflects the fact that “Self-expression is most important and it’s our differences that make us individuals instead of robots.” That’s a strange way to sell a hamburger.
“The way we see it, it’s much more than just a slogan,” says Fernando Machado, Burger King’s senior vice president of global brand management. “We are at our best when we encourage people to be who they are. That strengthens people’s emotional connection between them and the [Burger King] brand.” According to Machado, Burger King studied other companies’ lifestyle-focused slogans and wanted to create something similar. “There are many brands that do a good job of positioning themselves with a functional message that then becomes iconic,” he said. So along with Nike’s (NKE) “Just Do It,” Gatorade’s (PEP) “Is It In You?” or Apple’s (AAPL) “Think Different,” we now have a hamburger chain that’s gone all Mr. Rogers on us.
Surprisingly, Burger King isn’t the first fast food chain to get in touch with its feelings. Taco Bell (YUM) is currently running its “Live Mas” campaign, which is a Spanish-English hybrid phrase that means “Live More” but has nothing to do with food. And McDonald’s (MCD) has been running “What We’re Made Of” on and off since 2008, addressing the greatness of McDonald’s customers while doubling as a campaign for quality ingredients.
So why the switch from informative, catchy slogans to things that are so hard to define? Criticized for selling fast food, companies reckon they can’t get in trouble for celebrating their customers’ inherent awesomeness. “Fast food companies have taken such a big hit, getting criticized for their contribution to the obesity problem. … ‘Be Your Way” is suggesting that it’s an individual choice to eat [at Burger King] and people can make their own choices,” says Jerome Williams, who holds the Prudential Chair in Business at Rutgers University and who has studied consumer behavior and marketing. Burger King and its competitors are in a difficult advertising spot: They’re viewed as selling an unhealthy product, but they know people love that unhealthy product. So instead of touting how great their food is, they’re empowering customers to feel good about themselves when they order it.
Burger King is launching “Be Your Way” in the U.S., then rolling it out worldwide. The slogan will eventually replace “Have It Your Way,” although that phrase has been on the way out for some time and hasn’t been used in the U.S. for several years. “We’re trying to elevate the message beyond the customization of your order to the customization of people—them being who they are,” says Machado. There’s another way to say that: You are what you eat.