How does a brand get your attention? A flashy billboard? A well-designed logo? Or is it a great slogan? If you recognize such phrases as “Snap, crackle, pop!” or “I’m lovin’ it!,” an advertising executive is smiling. Some catchphrases transcend their original purpose (selling a product) and end up changing language and culture. Here are just a few famous ads and slogans. Betcha can’t read just one.
“Just Do It”
Coined by an advertising agency in the late 1980s, “Just Do It” became an iconic part of Nike's shoe brand almost instantly, but it almost didn’t happen. The agency Wieden + Kennedy was coming up with a TV commercial campaign for women’s fitness, and a tagline wasn’t a part of it. But executives decided they needed something to tie all the ideas together, and “Just Do It” was selected. Although it was an afterthought, it immediately struck a chord with the public, who wrote to Nike praising the messaging. More than 30 years later, the slogan continues to represent Nike.
“A Diamond Is Forever”
How to sell more diamonds? De Beers found the solution in 1947 with their slogan, “A Diamond Is Forever.” Before this ad campaign, a diamond solitaire wasn’t the standard for engagement rings. This phrase declared that a diamond was the symbol of love and commitment — an investment in your relationship. By the early 1950s, 80% of brides-to-be received a diamond. The message was clear. Do you want eternal love? Buy a diamond.
“Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm Is There”
Before “Jake from State Farm,” the original State Farm jingle was written in 1971 by famed singer-songwriter Barry Manilow. The slogan implies the insurance company is a loyal neighbor who stands by your side in good times and especially bad. The catchy song has been updated over the years, and was even covered by Weezer in 2011. Admit it. You’re humming it right now.
“Where’s the Beef?”
This 1984 Wendy’s television ad was meant to poke fun at fast-food competitors for having puny meat patties and ended up becoming one of the most enduring pop-culture catchphrases of all time. The elderly actress, Clara Peller, was supposed to say, “Where is all the beef?” but the line was too difficult for her, so instead, she spat out an outraged, “Where’s the beef?”
The phrase has been used beyond the commercial to imply that something has no substance. During a 1984 Presidential primary debate, former Vice President Walter Mondale accused Senator Gary Hart of having superficial ideas by saying, "When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad, 'Where's the beef?'"
Before Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr were Broadway’s hottest stars, their story was used to sell milk. In a 1993 television commercial (directed by future Hollywood hotshot Michael Bay), a historian loses out on $10,000 because he has a mouth full of PB&J, and can’t answer the radio show question. The “Got Milk?” slogan and the enduring image of a milk mustache were parodied everywhere, from an episode of Friends to a music video by Fergie.
After World War II, car buyers in the United States were obsessed with purchasing huge vehicles for their growing families. Enter the Volkswagen Beetle. Marketing this small German car in America was a monumental challenge. In 1959, Volkswagen developed a simple ad campaign — “Think Small” emphasized the minimalism of the Beetle in contrast to other cars being sold in the U.S. The simple layout, which featured the tiny Beetle among lots of white space, changed print advertising forever.
Tony the Tiger has been the cartoon mascot for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes since 1955 when he appeared in an ad in Life Magazine using his catchphrase, “They’re Gr-r-reat!” Thurl Ravenscroft voiced him for nearly five decades and gave the slogan its drawn-out tiger-like growl. Ravenscroft was an accomplished voice artist featured in many Disney films and as the singer in “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”
“Have It Your Way”
Burger King introduced this slogan in response to an ad from rival McDonald’s in 1973. In an era where self-expression and individuality were valued, “Have It Your Way” meant that Burger King would customize your burger just the way you want it.
Featured image photo: Retro AdArchives/ Alamy Stock Photo.