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My Bologna has a First Name

An Effective Advertising Jingle is “Priceless…”

By Eric Swartz

Advertising slogans have a glorious history and have exercised a profound influence on what we think and how we speak. For better or worse, taglines and jingles have become some of the most well-known and oft-quoted sounds bites of our culture.

The Top 10 Taglines

  1. Got milk?
    1993 – California Milk Processor Board
  2. Don’t leave home without it.
    1975 – American Express
  3. Just do it.
    1988 – Nike
  4. Where’s the beef?
    1984 – Wendy’s
  5. You’re in good hands with Allstate.
    1956 – Allstate Insurance
  6. Think different.
    1998 – Apple Computer
  7. We try harder.
    1962 – Avis
  8. Tastes great, less filling.
    1974 – Miller Lite
  9. Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.
    1954 – M&M Candies
  10. Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.
    1956 – Timex

The Top 10 Jingles

  1. My bologna has a first name, it’s O-S-C-A-R.
    1960s – Oscar Mayer
  2. Plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is.
    1970s – Alka-Seltzer
  3. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
    1971 – State Farm Insurance
  4. Double your pleasure, double your fun.
    1959 – Wrigley’s Doublemint Gum
  5. Be all that you can be.
    1981 – U.S. Army
  6. For all you do, this Bud’s for you.
    1970s – Budweiser
  7. A little dab’ll do ya.
    1950s – Brylcreem
  8. It’s the real thing.
    1970 – Coca-Cola
  9. Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man.
    1970s – Ace Hardware
  10. You deserve a break today.
    1971 – McDonald’s

In a survey of the 100 most influential taglines and 30 most influential jingles introduced since the advent of broadcast television in 1948, the tagline Got Milk? was ranked number one out of more than 300 submitted nominations. Goodby, Silverstein & Partners created the slogan for the California Milk Processor Board in 1993. Oscar Mayer’s My bologna has a first name, it’s O-S-C-A-R, created by J. Walter Thompson back in the mid-1960s, ranked number one out of nearly 100 nominated jingles.

The goal of the survey was to discover which slogans have endured the test of time and have had a significant impact on our language, our media and the advertising industry itself. Unlike many brand recognition surveys that ask consumers to match well-known brands with their slogans, we asked industry professionals to rank slogans based on their cultural and linguistic versatility, portability and memorability.

If a slogan is repeated, imitated, or parodied often enough, it eventually becomes part of our collective consciousness and takes on a life of its own. Slogans that achieve this level of notoriety typically have broken new ground in some unusual way. Consider the following:

  • Grammar
    Nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee
  • Rhythm
    The quicker picker-upper
  • Rhyme
    Don’t get mad, get GLAD
  • Inflection
    They’re gr-r-r-EAT!
  • Metaphor
    This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs.
    Any questions?
  • Attitude
    The few, the proud, the Marines
  • Ulterior meaning
    Nothing comes between me and my Calvins
  • Positioning
    The uncola

Where’s the beef? was used by Walter Mondale for great effect in the 1984 presidential primary when he disparaged the lack of substance in Gary Hart’s ideas. Avis made being second banana something to be proud of with an inspired tagline that valued service above all else. Nike, on the other hand, created a slogan that became a life mantra for millions both on and off the court.

Although there haven’t been many jingles created within the last 15 years that made the Top 30 list, the jingle, by all accounts, is not dead. The old ones are still in use today and haven’t lost their ear-worm status. Seventies retro is hot right now, so don’t be surprised if some familiar jingles find themselves updated and made more relevant for today’s sophisticated consumers.

Other survey results

The survey revealed that half of the taglines in the Top 100, many of which are still in use today, were created in the 1960s and 1970s. Only 20 percent of the taglines cited as influential were created after 1990. The only tagline created in the 21st century that made the list was What happens here, stays here (Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority).

It will be interesting to see if the Vegas slogan lives through the years. It’s really the flip side of Don’t leave home without it. Instead of flaunting one’s identity when traveling, the Sin City tagline places a premium on secrecy, anonymity, and concealment – perhaps it’s a reflection of the age in which we live.

A positive trend in taglines since the mid-1990s is the desire for community. If the Internet economy has taught us anything, it’s that we live in a globally interdependent world that shares a common humanity. Solutions for a small planet (IBM) and The world’s online marketplace (eBay) attest to that. So does the tagline Yo quiero Taco Bell (“I love Taco Bell”), which reaches out to millions who appreciate the nuance it expresses. By the same token, MasterCard’s There are some things that money can’t buy and Kodak’s Share moments, share life affirm the notion that you can’t put a price on the really important things in life.

Overall, the most influential taglines and jingles of the last 58 years reveal the richness and diversity of American advertising and highlight a unique form of expression that drives and defines the language and culture of branding. In the parlance of MasterCard, only one word can measure the true value of staking out a brand perception and position in your customer’s mind that will last for years and years: priceless. n

About the Author: Eric Swartz is the president of TaglineGuru. He has created taglines, names, and other branding concepts for more than 80 organizations, including Adaptec, Apple Computer, CMP Media, FedEx, Sun Microsystems and Wells Fargo. Founded in 2005, TaglineGuru demystifies the tagline development process by focusing on the message strategies that shape effective branding and positioning choices. For more information, visit www.TaglineGuru.com or contact Eric Swartz at 650.573.9009 or at eric@taglineguru.com.

Posted: Wednesday, April 05, 2006 12:00:00 AM. Modified: Wednesday, April 05, 2006 3:37:34 PM.

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