Marketing Ad Spend Brand Strategy

After treading carefully, Nando’s is going all in on TikTok


By Hannah Bowler | Senior Reporter

May 19, 2023 | 8 min read

Nando’s ‘This Must Be the Place’ campaign exceeded TikTok’s ad recall benchmark. Here's why the brand is prioritizing the platform.

Nando's This Must Be The Place brand platform

Nando’s ‘This Must Be the Place’ brand platform / Nando's

In March, the Peri Peri restaurant chain released its first-ever brand platform ‘This Must Be the Place’. Two months on, Nando’s head of brand reveals how she reshaped her social strategy toward TikTok.

“We initially had quite an equal spread across social channels, and then we up weighted [to TikTok] once we were quite confident in what we were seeing,” Hannah Smith told The Drum. “We’ve never really invested huge amounts into TikTok, but we’ve seen an excellent return on investment from playing in that channel.”

Smith was initially “treading gently” with TikTok as Nando’s social strategy has historically been organic. She was wary of “looking to ‘addy’ in a channel that people are going to for entertainment.”

But this ad, which was directed by The End of the F***ing World creator Jonathan Entwistle, was entertaining enough to suit TikTok’s typical content. Smith’s team decided against creating exclusive cuts and retweaks tailored to the UGC-led platform.

It wasn’t just on TikTok that Nando’s campaign saw success. Ad awareness for the entire campaign jumped 9% in the 18-24 demo, according to YouGov data growing from 11% to 20% in the two weeks post-launch. “The ad awareness scores are kind of bonkers,” Smith adds.

‘This Must Be the Place’ is the restaurant’s first customer-facing brand platform. “We haven’t tried to articulate the feeling of a Nando’s and the brand before,” Smith says. Nando’s wanted to launch a brand campaign to kick off the year with momentum with two big menu launches planned and a financially strong Q1.

“We wanted to start the financial year really strong and confidently, with a piece that speaks to our customers about who we are and the good times they have when they come to us,” she adds.

Smith has been with Nando’s for over three years, she says working for such a loved brand comes with an “innate fear” of getting it wrong. It’s like “walking a tightrope”, Smith says, “between celebrating people’s stories and times at Nando’s and then trying not to over-orchestrate the brand.”

“Nando’s is quite a hard brand to put your fingers around,” she says. “It’s quite hard to articulate. Some of the magic is in not over-articulating why Nando’s is amazing because everyone had their own experience and their own interpretation.”

Another first for the brand was buying its first TV and cinema media, which Smith admits, “is kind of mad for a brand like ours.” The creative drove the decision to trial new media like TV and cinema. “The format and the creative are so uplifting and it's like a moment of fun in someone’s ad break that we thought would hopefully work for TV and cinema,” Smith says. “We’ve never been a brand that chases that, but the time felt right to go broader with our media buy.”

The TV buy also helped the Gen Z-leaning campaign reach and resonate with a broader audience. Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway and Love Island were two key placements, Smith revealed. “If your advertising is too young in spirit and only shows up where the younger cohorts are hanging out, then you’re missing a huge part of the demographic.”

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Building on Nando’s 2023 momentum

Nando’s was hit hard by the pandemic racking up losses of over £240m in 2021 but come 2022 the restaurant has since managed to return to its pre-pandemic sales levels of over £1bn.

“We’ve had a really good start to the year and the growth projection is really strong,” Smith says. Nando’s is planning to open 10-15 new stores in 2023, which is a yearly average for Nando’s average and will be opening up in key locations like Waterloo and Battersea Power Station,” Smith says.

For the year ahead, Nando’s key priorities are to improve the customer experience, launch two new menus and double down on its grocery offering.

Nando’s just launched the ‘Not available at Nando’s’ campaign, voiced by comedian Mo Gilligan and developed by New Commercial Arts. The second ad under the ‘This Must Be the Place’ brand platform has been given a similar creative treatment with production values to match.

Grocery is an important part of Nando’s business model, Smith tells The Drum, hence the investment. The strategy here isn’t to replicate the Nando’s restaurant experience. That’s why its recent campaign focused on everyday meals like spaghetti, toasties and skewers. “It’s about leveraging the brand in a fuller way for grocery. We can’t reach all occasions, and you can’t get Nando’s all the time. But you can mix up dinners at home with a really strong grocery range,” she adds.

For the customer experience side, Smith says a lot of time and investment is going into improving the vibe and energy across its outlets. “This is not with bells and whistles and intrusive technology, it’s about comfort and kicking back,” Smith explains. “I haven’t got any whizzy tech platforms or gadgets to introduce you to. It’s literally how you make people feel good from the second they walk into the second they leave.”

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