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Jingles That Made and Saved Brands

As it relates to my mission of simplifying marketing for small businesses, this episode shows examples of catching lightning in a bottle, what it really takes to stand out in more traditional mediums, and one story of how a jingle saved one of the world’s largest brands and the trickery used to push it onto the buying public. At the end of this episode, I will break down what it takes to get a jingle to cut through to help your company stand out.

The idea of putting lists together on the internet is, well… not new. In fact, one could argue that the Internet, from Google or Bing’s perspective, is a list of lists. It’s easy content. However, when you love ads as I do or love the psychology that goes into what makes a good ad or a memorable ad, this list of memorable jingles has a bit more drama. There have been volumes written about how the Coke ad, called “Hilltop” but known more as the “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” ad, came to be. I have the youtube version of the commercial and the mini-documentary link about how it came together. There will be a little learning, but it’s also ok to sit back and enjoy the fun and nostalgia.

Some of the audio is less than perfect, but you’ll have a tough time not singing along or basking in the feelings and memories of some of the older jingles. If you want the links to the ads on YouTube, make sure you check this episode out on

First up is a classic most of us know, but the brilliance lies in the entirety of the jingle being the call to action. The phone number. Of course, the melody is catchy as hell but for something like this to work, you have to be prepared for the time and expense in getting an ad like this to work, at this kind of level. It’s the 800-588-2300 Empire ad. If your melody is even half as catchy as this you can win big if you understand the level of frequency and the amount of time it takes for this kind of magic to occur. I’m starting with this ad, not because it is my favorite or because I think it is the best or worst. I am starting with this one because there is a lot to learn from it. Aired often, over some period of time, in front of the right audience – how could this not work?

One of the most iconic ads ever comes from one of the most iconic brands. Coke’s 1971 “Hilltop” ad, captures the essence of the audience they were targeting. Regardless of your taste in music, the song is great and no matter what year, it feels like a very appropriate message. This post is a few weeks after the riots on Capitol Hill on January 6th, 2021. The word appropriate doesn’t seem big enough to encompass this jingle’s obviousness, today. I have also included a link to the mini-documentary on this ad, at

After having a few too many Coke’s and the inevitable munchies that typically accompany, you might be feeling a little “iffy.” If you are this next ad will serve you well. This is a great ad that makes light of self-inflicted illness. Its rhyme and melody are memorable on a level few can rival and the brand elements on display really connect the dots when appealing to the overindulgent. Not every brand can pull this off, having a cartoon or animated character and a funny song about not feeling well. It’s vital that these things align. Sometimes companies need to appeal to different people at different times for different reasons. Alka-Seltzer may have simultaneously run other ads of a more serious nature. Brands today do this all the time. McDonald’s might be the best at it with ads for family, new products, mealtime specific menu options, pricing, diversity, and social fit, but other brands like State Farm, Progressive, Spectrum/Charter/Time Warner are also in the habit of producing a mix of messages with varying yet consistent brand elements. I digress. This is a damn good ad, and I dare you not to sing it or hum it at some point later today or tomorrow.

I admit this next ad is somewhat self-indulgent. It comes from a former client of mine, Car-X Tire and Auto. While the jingle was largely abandoned, there is no denying it is pure perfection. No one likes having to repair or even maintain their vehicle. Being the provider of a necessary but dreaded service makes it imperative to strike the right tone in the ads you use to promote that service. Here is a great story on the Jingle’s writer, Alan Barcus’ “Rattle, rattle, thunder clatter, boom boom boom. Don’t worry, call the Car-X man” ditty. If you lived in a Car-X market, this jingle was everywhere and so memorable, no one with car trouble could have resisted its allure. Despite its brevity, it has some layers. The beginning sounds a bit throaty and frustrated and describes a poorly operating vehicle. But then, “Don’t worry, call the Car-X Man.” He’ll handle this for you. Everything is going to be ok. The sun is shining once again. Listen to it – it’s all in there.

In the do it yourself automotive parts world, there is no better jingle than O’Reilly Auto Parts. This jam is so good there is a 10-hour long version of it on YouTube. This is a great example of a jingle that sounds exactly like it should. There really is not a lot to say here except this jingle has everything it takes to make O’Reilly a top of mind choice for auto parts.

Is anybody hungry?? Let’s get to some of the most memorable food jingles. In a few minutes, I will get into the story about a food giant facing plummeting sales and the jingle credited with saving them from disaster. Right now, though, I want to play this jingle and just bask in the joy of it. It serves so many purposes. It is brand recognition perfection. The incredibly memorable jingle spells out the brand and product – I mean, literally spells it out! I was once involved in something like this where a radio station I was working at (WIFC) brought on a new morning host, and we ran a contest to see if people could spell his name. People would call in and try to spell his name Dave Kallaway all morning long. But that bit was nothing to compared to Oscar Mayer’s Bologna jingle. When the most memorable part of your ad is the spelling of your name AND your product… and your ad’s crushing it – I get a lump in my throat.

The “Give me a break!” ad for Kit Kat is one of the most memorable. The ads were visual ads chock full of lifestyle moments aimed at their targeted demographic, but the jingle was so powerful, it didn’t matter if you fit that group; you wanted a KitKat bar.

I said KitKat was one of the most memorable. But for my money, the Almond Joy jingle is better, and I don’t even like almond Joy or Mounds candy bars. Embarrassingly, as a kid, it was always fun to say, “Almond Joy’s got nuts.”

On to the story of one of the world’s largest brands, on the verge of disaster. Stock prices had plummeted, and there were no signs of improvement. In 2003 McDonald’s was in real trouble. They needed to revitalize the brand in 2003. It took a village, some trickery, and a great jingle to save the day. There is a video that details the McDonald’s I’m Lovin It mystery in an entertaining and informative way. In short, McDonald’s holds a contest with 14 ad agencies to help revitalize the brand. A company in Germany wins the battle. The agency crafted a tagline “I’m Lovin’ It” and the Ba Da Ba Ba Ba sound signature, but there was no jingle. Wait. what?! SO McDonald’s brings in a guy to flesh out the Ba Da Ba Ba Ba for varying demographics THEN – They hire hitmaker Pharrell Williams to write a song around the Ba Da Ba Ba Ba hook and the I’m Lovin’ It tagline and hide the McDonald’s connection until after the song was a hit. McDonald’s pays Justin Timberlake $6m to record the song, which becomes a top 100 hit in the US and even bigger globally. THEN – McDonald’s announces it will use Justin Timberlake’s song “I’m Lovin’ It” for their global campaign. Pharrell William’s song with Justin Timberlake and rapper Pusha T becomes McDonald’s first-ever global campaign.

It took a German ad agency, a jingle guru (Butch Stewart), Pharell Williams, Justin Timberlake, and McDonald’s to manufacture a hit and a jingle that they have used from 2003 until today. In 2003 McDonald’s stock price was $12/share. On this day, McDonald’s stock price is $213/share.

If you’re in the mood for something less manipulative and more nutritious, Subway has whet the appetites of people catching their ads with a polished production of their jingle for the $5 Footlong promotion. Using Charlie Puth’s version of the jingle, you cannot help but drool over the catchiness of the tune or the value of the discount.

You’d have to be wired incorrectly to not see how appealing pets are in ads. People love their pets, and Meow Mix did a great job in tapping into that emotion with their mid-seventies ads featuring the jingle that starts out funny, then gets annoying, then gets funny again. There is also a great ad where a guy’s cat, named Baxter, calls him while stuck in a traffic jam with colleagues.

A well-written song has a catchy melody, a hook, and good lyrics. The next jingle has all of that going for it. The Big Red Gum “Kiss a Little longer” ads that started in 1979 made Bg Red the #1 gum among teens and young adults by the mid-80s.

Every kid skinned their knees and elbows. When you’re a kid, the only cure was a little love from mom or dad and, of course, band-aids.


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