Branding Beat - Cut Through the Noise

Today Just Got Better: The Sincerity of Panera’s New Campaign and Slogan

There’s no sense in playing coy: I friggin’ love Panera Bread! The brand, I mean—not just the bread. To me, there’s just something appealing about Panera as a restaurant; something I can’t quite put my finger on. Of course, now that they’ve launched a new campaign designed to explain exactly what makes them so damn appealing, maybe I won’t have to.

The brand responsible for making the Asiago Cheese Bagel a nutritional requirement for upscale fast-food enthusiasts just recently rolled out a fancy new ad campaign to show off their fancy new slogan, “Make Today Better.” And the slogan works beautifully.

Take a look at their newest video spot:

Pretty snazzy stuff, eh? Well, it ought to be—the new campaign is reportedly costing them $40 million. The ad (one of a few similarly-themed videos on their YouTube channel) is well-produced and visually striking, but what’s really on display here is Panera’s sincerity. While it’s unlikely that the new campaign will be an internet sensation, I have to admit that it’s nice to see a fast-food advertisement where the brand’s intention is to showcase the rewarding and authentic experience they provide.

Mmmm... bagels.

The expressed theme of Panera’s new campaign (“that you should leave feeling better than when you came in”) is a bit of a departure from the usual tone of fast-food advertisements. Burger King has relied heavily on the comedic value of its “King” mascot for several years now, and Dairy Queen recently co-opted Old Spice’s pseudo-arrogant marketing style with their new campaign. Panera, by contrast, isn’t trying to tickle our funny bone—they’re cordially inviting us to enjoy their brand experience, which they suggest far exceeds the competition.

Word of Mouth: Panera's advertising weapon of choice!

To be fair, Panera was never really branded as a traditional fast-food eatery to begin with. They’ve been decidedly upscale from day one, and they’ve been perfectly content to rely on word-of-mouth and positive buzz in acquiring their devoted customer base. It’s worked out well for them—so far. Whether their new marketing push will resonate with the general public and gain them a new base of loyal customers is anyone’s guess. Then again, in an interview with Forbes, Panera’s Chief Marketing Officer insists that the campaign is higher-minded than that. He sees it as “a message of collective optimism” and says that “the hope with the campaign is to elevate Panera from a brand customers prefer, to one customers love.” Those are some high hopes, right there—admirable though.

They’re preaching to the choir as far as this blogger is concerned. I’ve been a frequent flyer at Panera Airlines for some time now, and I intend to stay one. I’d imagine that a single dining experience or two would be enough to establish Panera as a favorite destination among new visitors—it’s just a matter of getting new visitors through the doors. Once they’re in, they’re practically guaranteed to be hooked (but again, that’s just an opinion).

In any case, Panera isn’t looking to generate more foot-traffic just yet; they’re looking to foster brand loyalty among current customers, which is an interesting way to move forward as a brand, and it certainly makes great food for thought!

What do you think of Panera’s new campaign? Should they have made an attempt at humor instead? Did you like what I did with the “food for thought” comment at the end of the article? Are you even reading this italicized section of the post?


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  1. Scooby

    Panera is EXPENSIVE but on a different playing field with quality. I figure that this new marketing is their attempt to justify their high prices in a VERY price conscious times.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Interesting thought. You’re probably right about that. Panera’s quality is undeniable, but they’re a bit on the expensive side. The new campaign should definitely help them prove that they’re worth the extra cash.

  2. Jenna

    Panera’s new campaign is definitely admirable and refreshing compared with all of the advertisements that rely on shallow humor, but I guess that makes sense considering their target audience. Panera is more “up-scale” than something like Burger King, so it is logical that their new campaign is more tasteful than a creepy “king” playing pranks. So I think that this campaign will do better at creating brand loyalty among existing customers, rather than grabbing new ones.

    I <3 Panera, I see what you did with the "food for thought," and I read the italicized section of your post! 😀

    • Joseph Giorgi

      I <3 Panera as well, even if they are on the pricey side. And thank you for reading the italics. 🙂

  3. JPorretto

    I LOVE the new slogan. Even though I’m not as big of fan as my wife is, I still think it’s pretty good. But it always seems when she goes there it does make her day better!

    Yes, I read the italicized section… And yes, I see what you did there =)

    • Joseph Giorgi

      My day is always better after a breadbowl full of Broccoli & Cheddar soup. Mmmmm…

      And thank you. 🙂

  4. Mandy Kilinskis

    Bravo, Panera. I already feel like a welcomed guest whenever I go in, and I think this new campaign reflects what Panera fans already feel. I’m glad that they didn’t go for the humor approach, because that really doesn’t reflect the Panera brand. You stay classy, Panera Bread.

    P.S. I did see what you did there and yes, I read it.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      “Classy” is a good way to put it. Panera is just a more relaxing and inviting environment, and it’s good that their new campaign speaks to that.

      P.S. Thank you. 🙂

  5. Jill Tooley

    Panera Bread was smart to avoid a comedic campaign like Dairy Queen or Old Spice. Since they’re an upscale restaurant with an established reputation for cleanliness and that “right at home” feeling, it would have diluted their image to go off the deep end with zaniness. People might not take them as seriously if they had a goofy mascot like the Burger King! Panera is definitely on track with this, and it’s good to see them reinforcing their reputation through commercials and ads. They’re doing something right – just look at McDonald’s. McD’s is redesigning in an effort to be more like Panera (whether they’ll admit it or not). That says something, right?

    Now I’m hungry for soup in a bread bowl…mmmm…

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Yeah, I can’t imagine Panera with a mascot. I wonder what that mascot would even be. Perhaps a giant Asiago Cheese Bagel—that would be fun to see walking around and getting into crazy shenanigans.

      “Mmmm”… indeed. I want some Broccoli & Cheddar, stat. They don’t call me “soupy Joe” for nothin’.

  6. Cybernetic SAM

    I LOVE PANERA AS WELL! Just wish they had a few more vegetarian dishes, but I can not complain too much as they already have quite a variety (which is more than I can say about most fast food places). I will have to look at the video ad campaign later, but from what you are saying, I don’t think that humor would jive right with them. I mean, they are a delicious fast food soup and bakery stand that plays progressive jazz music all the time. (There is no room in soup for humor, you of all people should know that Soupy Joe!) Now that you have written a blog on soup, I think it is time for an intervention. Good post though!

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Hey now, this blog is clearly not about soup. I don’t even think I mentioned soup. And I don’t need an intervention. I CAN QUIT ANYTIME I WANT! AHHHH!

  7. Jana Quinn

    I think your blog really boils down to this: “I have to admit that it’s nice to see a fast-food advertisement where the brand’s intention is to showcase the rewarding and authentic experience they provide.”


    Not the features or even the benefits, but the EXPERIENCE. How do customers want to feel about choosing Panera? That’s where the marketing focus is.

    I’d argue that by strengthening its brand loyalty among existing customers, Panera is doing an excellent job of bringing new customers through the door. Word of mouth marketing is more powerful than any advertisement, and people who have a good *experience* with a dining choice are likely to bring friends and family and recommend it far and wide.

    P.S. The Burger King is not comedic. He is horrifying.

    • Jill Tooley

      Have you seen the BK commercial where the guy wakes up in bed next to the King? I swear, that commercial is a breeding ground for nightmares…shudder…

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Yeah, I’m actually glad to hear that BK is doing away with their “King” mascot.

      And you’re right about Panera’s campaign: by fostering brand loyalty, they’ll simultaneously be encouraging the word-of-mouth marketing that’s benefited them since day one. I’m sure it’ll work too.

  8. Wim @ Sales Sells

    Hi Joseph, thanks for sharing. I don’t think we have Panera over here in Europe (at least I never saw one), but it’s nice to see some quiet and tasteful advertising for a change. Loud, louder, loudest isn’t the only strategy.


    • Joseph Giorgi

      Hey Wim, thanks for stopping by!

      Sorry to hear that there’s no Panera across the pond. You’re unfortunately missing out. Perhaps one day they’ll expand that direction.

      I’ve always been of the belief that “less is more.” While it’s not necessarily the best rule of thumb from a marketing standpoint, it’s always something worth keeping in mind—and Panera seems to know that. I like that they’re not going out of their way to one-up the competition in their new campaign. Instead, they’ve opted for a uniquely understated approach, which is admirable.

  9. Tony Promo

    Panera is great, and as much as I can’t see the video here in 724, what I can say is this… If you’re looking for a dining “experience”, I highly recommend going to the Wieners Circle ( ) in Lincoln Park. Just don’t bring your kids….

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Abusive language? I’m down for it—as long as the dogs and cheese fries are worth it.

  10. Lauren

    I love Panera!!! I’d gladly pay the extra money for their food over other places!!! 🙂 Panera always makes my days!

  11. LK

    I love Panera too! This commercial is a great way to reinforce the image most people already get from Panera and to show new/prospective customers what they can expect when visiting.

    The BK King is scary and I’m glad they didn’t get some scary Panda named “Panera” to dance around with soup and bagels…

    1 Point Panera… -500 Points BK King.

    • Jill Tooley

      HA! That would be ridiculous, but it would be kind of funny to see a dancing panda named “Panera” (for my entertainment ONLY – I’d cringe if they actually did something like that)!

    • Joseph Giorgi

      I want to see a guy in a giant panda suit dancing at an intersection near a local Panera and motioning for nearby drivers to visit. That would be so fantastic!

      Thank you for that image, Lauren! 🙂

  12. Amanda

    Nice post Joe! =) I like Panera–but we don’t go there very often at all.

    I think this new commercial is pretty sweet–it makes me want to go in there and eat. I like that their image is more upscale and modern. It makes for a more enjoyable experience for sure! Keep it up Panera!

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