Making Brilliant Marketing Simple

Call Us: 01432 607 660


A Cheeky Nando’s Explained: Branding So Good It Does All The Work


Lads, fancy a Cheeky Nando’s at the weekend?

So it turns out American’s don’t know what a cheeky Nando’s is. To be honest, wouldn’t you expect some confusion? If you went to America and everyone started talking about an ‘irreverent Taco Bell’ you’d probably be a little puzzled.


There are 2 reasons people have gone crazy over this.

First of all, English people love thinking American people are silly; especially when it comes to language. Second of all, Nando’s has a really strong brand identity.

So, for those of us who don’t know what the hell everyone’s talking about, I will explain what a ‘Cheeky Nando’s’ is.


Nando’s is a chain restaurant serving Piri-Piri chicken. Piri-Piri is a spice, and combination of the two core ingredients Piri-Piri spice and chicken results in some spicy chicken. Simple, right?

Okay, we’ve sorted Nando’s. Let’s get on to the cheeky.


In England and America you could describe something as ‘spicy’ if it was hot to taste but in England the word ‘spicy’ is also linked to the words ‘sexy’ or ‘naughty’. For example, ‘the night spiced up once the strippers arrived’, with me so far?

Why isn’t it a ‘spicy Nando’s’? Well, Nando’s branding isn’t spicy, it’s cheeky, and it doesn’t really have the same ring to it. But there is much more to it than that.

‘Spicy’ and ‘naughty’ are synonymous with the word ‘cheeky’.

Therefore, in the UK, cheeky has more sexual connotations than you’d expect, but it also has a lifestyle connotation. People often identity as cheeky; it’s a personality trait, and normally a desirable one. Once your brand has been given the same sort of description that someone would give a friend or themselves you’re really on to something.

Where we really get to the bottom of how it relates in UK culture is when we say stuff like… “Yeah, I don’t want to be naughty but I’ll have a piece of cake”, or “oh I’ve been good today so I’ll treat myself to a Nando’s”. Can you see where this is headed? In British culture, there is often this link between behaviour with food. I’m good because I ate a carrot, or I’m bad because I ate some chocolate. Again, there is a very personal element to the word; an emotional element to our eating habits learnt from childhood.

A ‘cheeky Nando’s’ is product of this and other.

‘I’ve been a good boy so I’ll treat myself to a cheeky Nando’s’. You could replace the word Nando’s and say ‘a cheeky burger king’; or anything really.

A ‘cheeky ‘something’’ is fast becoming a British colloquialism. When we’re honest we can see why it seems confusing to people haven’t grown up in the UK. You know what I mean when I say “I’ll just have a cheeky fag”’ but to an American, could mean something very different. If I say, “I’ll have biscuits with my cuppa” there could be equal confusion.

This is the case because slang is culturally specific. It’s even regionally specific. Colloquialisms can be confused between North and South of England let alone across the Atlantic!

The phrase’s popularity has been exacerbated by the American confusion.

British people love to correct Americans on language, by telling them ‘colour’ has a ‘u’ and ‘realisation’ doesn’t have a ‘z’.

The phenomena has also been exaggerated by the strong brand identity that Nando’s have. They have created a young identity for their brand that comes across a bit ‘cheeky’; they’ve personified themselves. They often make the ‘hot’ and ‘spicy’ joke; alluding to the sexual connotations of both words. They’ve even got themselves into trouble by sending people inappropriate tweets.

With the ‘Cheeky Nando’s’ saying sparking some sort of internet craze, the company have decided to reward the source of the craze with some of their Piri-Piri chicken. The question was posted by an anonymous Tumblr user and Nando’s are on a search to find the user and get them to try some of their food. This is where Nando’s is actually at its cheekiest… reacting to what’s going on around them and having a unique approach. From a branding perspective this is pure gold and I’m certain we haven’t heard the last of the saying or the last of Nando’s being Cheeky.

nan doze