Creative Classic: Is ‘Have a break, have a Kit Kat' the best strapline ever written?

Creative Classic: Is ‘Have a break, have a Kit Kat' the best strapline ever written?

The Background

The brand slogan rubs shoulders with 30-second TV spots and double-page glossy print placement as a holy grail of creative copywriting.

Get it right, and your work can play a part in defining a brand, an industry, even an era.

But the list of straplines that stand the test of time is a short and exclusive one.

Nike's 'Just Do It', Apple's 'Think Different', and BMW's 'The Ultimate Driving Machine' all made the grade. But when was the last time you saw a line that got its talons into you and refused to let go?

Only by studying the very best of these lines can we learn the lessons to be carried forward into creating new ones. The fine art of short, sharp phrases that cut through the noise, evoke emotion, and open wallets is a craft that all copywriters should hold close to their hearts.

Kit Kat's classic 'Have a break, have a Kit Kat' is, in my opinion, the best slogan ever written. Here's why. 

The Big Idea

It was in a post-war Britain still reeling from rationing that the four-fingered Kit Kat became a key product for its manufacturer, York-based confectioner, Rowntree's. 

Originally called the Chocolate Crisp, the Kit Kat first came about following an employee's recommendation box suggestion that the company make a chocolate bar a man (this was a long time ago…) could take to work in his packed lunch.

JWT London was responsible for overseeing the name change in 1949, and the agency was charged with the task of coming up with a slogan for Kit Kat in the mid-1950s. 

The job fell at the desk of executive Donald Gilles in May 1957. 

What They Did

JWT had worked for some time to create the perception that a Kit Kat was the perfect companion for the morning break time at work. 

In post-war Britain, this mid-morning respite (often called 'elevenses') had become a treasured time for manual workers across the land.

The Kit Kat's distinctive 'snappable' shape was also likely a consideration: 'Have a break, have a Kit-Kat' was born.

First seen in a print ad in 1958, the slogan was soon making its way into TV campaigns and the nation's psyche. Over the next 47 years, the Kit Kat slogan became as treasured as the bar itself, becoming synonymous with that precious few minutes of freedom during the workday.

Rowntree's was taken over by Nestlé in 1988, and the slogan took its own break in 2004 when it was replaced by "Make the most of your break." 

It didn't take long for the marketing team to realise their mistake, though, and the 'Have a break...' line was quietly reinstated a short time later.

Today, Nestlé produces over a billion Kit Kats every year, with 47 of the chocolate bars eaten every minute.

The Review

There are many things to love about Gilles's beautiful slogan, but the way it sells a brand truth while placing it in such a specific time and place is sublime. 

Rather than go for a blanket-sell ('the Kit Kat is your snack for every occasion'), the line picks its target and stays laser-focused on that audience. 

The brevity of the work is astounding, too. 

How many other straplines can you think of that mention the product, give an explicit instruction, and offer a sense of escapism all in one line? And how many of those do it in seven single-syllable words? 

The longevity of 'Have a break...' is also testament to the line's flexibility. 

While the 'work break' scenario has remained a central tenet of many Kit Kat campaigns, the line has served as a punchline in comedic, far-fetched treatments too. 

In all cases, though, it's a slogan that paints the product in a positive light and always alludes to a finger of the chocolate-covered wafer being an answer to all of life's problems.

In Hindsight

While many lines work because of their clever wordplay (Beanz meanz Heinz) or lofty ambition (The Independent's 'It is. Are you?'), Kit Kat's slogan works so well because it refuses to place form over function. In that respect, it's closest sibling in the advertising world is perhaps Ronseal's 'It does exactly what it says on the tin'.

And the line still feels relevant today.

In fact, with our always-on, 24-hour newsfeed lives, you could argue that Mr Gilles's slogan for a wafer-covered chocolate bar resonates more today than ever before.

Not bad for a line that's older than the microchip. 

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