Inside Papa Johns sometimes controversial ‘Better Get You Some’ tagline

When brands make a bold pivot, the initial reactions from the public — whether good, bad or indifferent— rarely tell the full story.

Better Get You Some is the new tagline for Papa Johns. Photo provided by Papa Johns.

Kennyatta Collins is a freelance brand strategist. Follow him on LinkedIn.

Recent quotes from Papa John’s leadership in a story focusing on the grammar of their new tagline, “Better Get You Some,” put the brand in the hot seat as the court of public opinion convened on its use of African American Vernacular English and the rich culture that supports the dialect.

 “The work is going to come to life across social and digital platforms — it’s by nature an accessible dialogue,” said Mark Shambura, CMO of Papa Johns, told Adweek. “There are times when you want to be grammatically correct, but the things that we find resonate with consumers are those very pithy, memorable phrases,” said Jaclyn Ruelle, VP and head of brand.

Marketers buzzed about the tagline after the piece was released, leaving some to wonder about Papa Johns’ authenticity and commitment to the Black community as they were accused of “stretching down” when using slang. 

Papa Johns’ head of external communication, Janelle Panebianco, wasn’t caught off guard by response. While some may call the brand’s intentions into question, she and her team trust the truth will break through the noise as they stay committed to the long-term vision.

“The market and consumers need time to process things when you’re making big changes as a brand,” said Panebianco. “Our job is to understand who our consumers are and how they’re looking to be connected with — feedback will come. whether negative or positive and that comes with the game.”

In the new high-energy campaign from The Martin Agency, Papa John’s personified pizza cravings with pop culture references, trippy animations and an updated tagline: “Better ingredients, better pizza, better get you some,” narrated by hip-hop legend Big Boi. The platform gives audiences a feast for the senses as it trades in the conventional view of pizza marketing for a celebration of our universal devotion to the food. “We were trying to romance how you see the craving moment. We’ve all felt that our entire lives.”

Seizing the opportunity to speak to our emotional connection to pizza was a strategic decision by Papa Johns after noticing a need for more attention placed on the irrational cravings that often lead to purchases. With the help of consumer research, they keyed in on specific themes their customers craved to guide them on where to establish authentic connections — themes like the NBA, fashion, and hip-hop stood out. “The culture is the expert to us. What we want to do is connect with our consumers in those moments and slide in on pizza occasions there,” said Panebianco.

It doesn’t get more culturally defining than hip-hop. As the most impactful and pervasive genres in music, hip-hop is often used as a vehicle for brands to access consumers at large. With one of their headquarters in Atlanta and Big Boi’s long history with Papa Johns fueling his late-night recording sessions, the pairing proves its authenticity and proper fit.

“Anytime I participate, it got to be organic, and it can never be forced,” said Big Boi in an interview with Hot New Hip Hop. “I first got the clip with the visuals to it, and then, the commercial was just crazy, you know what I mean, I loved it. I was like, Okay, this is dope. It’s hypnotizing in a way where it just captures your attention. And when you look at it, you go and call Papa John’s.”

While the “Better Get You Some” addition to the longstanding tagline became the subject of controversy within the marketing industry, audiences received it with praise in a track preview released on Instagram. You’ll find “Sounding absolutely fire tonight” and “Nah this go hard” from Papa Johns and Big Boi fans throughout the comment section on the Reel

Isn’t that what matters most?

“I’m seeing a lot of the backlash come from people in the brand space who weren’t involved themselves so I question the authenticity of their concern…anybody with kids who are Gen Z knows that a lot of what is AAVE is what Gen Z kids are saying,” says Carl Murray III, principal strategist at Endurance. 

If a brand makes a bold change, it should provoke conversations and polarizing opinions; even the harshest critiques are better than indifference. “My hope is that people will see the journey the brand is on,” said Panebianco. “We aren’t trying to be the captain of culture.” Papa John’s is just willing to wade through the initial critiques to satisfy their audience’s cravings with that “ooey gooey, crispy crunchy, mouth-watering Papa Johns.”


3 Responses to “Inside Papa Johns sometimes controversial ‘Better Get You Some’ tagline”

    pleasepleasebaby says:

    I’m not black, but the phrase sounds a lot like the language we used when I was a kid. The Cat Stevens Song “I’m Gonna Get Me a Gun” from the late 1960’s or early 1970’s is not a hip-hop song. I remember things like, “throw me down a box from the top shelf” and in my older age in the midwest US, I figured those were just western Pennsylvania things, like yins and red up your room.

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