The Blue Light Brigade – Nando’s Latest TV Ad

Corporate identity is a tricky subject, especially in this digital/social media age. Once you add the aspect of humour to it, all the hard work that has been put in to a company’s persona could backfire completely and cause its social (and in some cases financial) worth to drop dramatically. With the immediacy that the Internet has brought about, so has the backlash that may come with wrongly timed or crass or insensitive styles of humour. The strength of your C.I. can be built up or chipped lower in less than 140 characters these days.

Humour is an effective tool in marketing, and when used correctly it can elevate your brand identity for customers, allowing them to see it not just as a moneymaking monolith but also as something more human, as a distant family member that they wouldn’t mind finding unexpectedly on their doorstep, almost tricking you into letting them inside for a while.

One such company that has managed to keep their eye on the chicken-shaped ball while still making their social commentary a part of their core ideals is Nando’s. Their proudly South African aesthetic – with a hint of Portuguese influence – shines through not only in their logo, but also through their print, TV and radio advertisements. The décor in each Nando’s branch all over South Africa (and the world) might be customised slightly depending on each location, but you could still spot a Nando’s without having to see the sign.

Whenever they have their humorous ads released to the public that poked fun at mainly political subjects and themes, they take the concept of a corporate identity to the next level. Without having to adjust much in terms of their typography and logo design, they have maintained their relevancy in the South African food and marketing industry.

Nando’s have managed to keep up their satirical stance of South African politics, making their commentaries as relevant as any other local satirists, such as Loyiso Gola on is show Late Night News, Zapiro with his ever popular weekly comics, and the team at ZANews with their cheeky use of puppets to convey their messages. The miraculous part of all this when it comes to the chicken house, is that they are still ever focused on their product: delicious, healthy food for everyone. How they’ve managed to keep these two seemingly unrelated topics on the same footing is no great surprise: brilliant marketing.

Starting off with Black River FC in the early 2000s until December 2013, they created many ads that got everyone throughout South Africa taking. That’s not to say that they’ve never (allegedly) crossed the line: their “Diversity” ad that aired on screens in the aftermath of the xenophobic attacks on Nigerian and Zimbabwean (among other nationalities) immigrants in Johannesburg, causing it to be banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) along with their Julius Malema ad, pointing a finger at Malema’s his flip-flopping attitudes and puppet-like behaviour within the ANC ruling party.

But through all this they have managed to keep within the good spirit of South Africans’ capabilities to laugh at themselves and their nation as a whole. This has endeared them not only in terms of being most South Africans’ first choice for healthy, spicy chicken but as a great source of quick and often random entertainment.

Nando’s has managed to translate all the frivolity in their print and TV ads to their Twitter and Facebook pages, increasing the level of engagement between them and their customers. To use a theatrical term, social media allow companies to “break down the fourth wall”. This can be credited in part to Nando’s new ad agency, MetropolitanRepublic, which stakes its claim in using both very traditional methods of advertising mixed with the newer form of immediate engagement with their clients’ audience (as is implied on their site).
The main element that makes Nando’s the unicorn in this situation is that they have managed to keep the chicken at the centre of their message, and then their South African-ness floats just around the chicken for so many years, not using humour as a rebranding tool, but having incorporated it perfectly into their corporate identity. And that’s something so many companies have failed to maintain – the effectiveness of their funny-bones.

See also: Branding and Rebranding: What’s The Big Deal?

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