Great Advertising Jingles: The Memes of Advertising’s Golden Era

Great Advertising Jingles

Internet memes are one way brands try to grab attention on social media, but they too often become quickly corrupted or altered to really have a strong impact for the brand. There is, however, a different sort of meme that has been in use for centuries. That is the advertising jingle.

Jingles are a form of sonic branding—associating with a brand or product a sound, series of notes, or a more elaborate tune with lyrics. Long before media advertising became an industry, street vendors would sing songs about their products to attract customers in their noisy marketplaces. As radio and TV media evolved, jingles became a key facet in brand development and marketing. 

Most baby boomers—children of the age of television—can sing popular ad jingles in their entirety, thanks to the heavy exposure they experienced when jingles were included in major marketing campaigns. I can spiel the lengthy Buster Brown Shoes jingle as easily as most of today’s young people can hum the Kit-Kat tune. I also recall when every beer brand had a unique jingle, when every soda brand competed to out-jingle the other, and when we had dueling hot dog jingles (Oscar Mayer Weiners vs. Armour). 

Making the Message Stick

Jingles have only one primary function—to stick in your brain. To that end, jingles often add rhymes and distinct rhythms, which further help embed the “meme” in our brains. Maxwell House coffee, in the days when everyone used an appliance called a percolater to brew their morning cup of joe, applied a tune and rhythm to the sound of the percolater. A series of Coca-Cola commercials used only video of its carbonated beverage being poured into a glass accompanied by the fizzy sound. Others combined characters (the Jolly Green Giant, Nestle’s Farfel the dog) with brief tunes conveying a simple brand message. Repetition over time further connected brands with their jingles. Jingles were the original earworms.

The science behind why a jingle can be such a powerful branding tool has to do with how our brains associate sensory stimulants. When your hear a familiar piece of music, it takes about 0.146 seconds for your brain to react (we react to sound faster than to any other sense), and memories and emotions associated with that sound explode in your brain like tiny fireworks in a process called involuntary music imagery or INMI. In other words, associating a sound with your brand’s message or slogan helps people remember your brand visuals, message or slogan every time they hear that sound…. And recreates a feeling or emotion to go along with that memory.

Jingles activate multiple brain lobes simultaneously, Brandy Miller of communications firm Creative Technology Services explained in an article at Search Engine Journal.

“The motor center is activated in order to process the rhythm, the auditory center is activated in order to process the sound, the language center processes the lyrics and the limbic system processes the overall emotional core of the song. It’s a powerful recipe.”

Another interesting jingle benefit is that the type of music used—jazzy, modern, classical—can help establish a perception about your brand’s personality, quality of service or an emotion you would like people to associate with your brand. And strong emotions attached to a tune also tend to enhance brand loyalty.

Modern Sonic Branding

The use of jingles has declined in recent years, but that does not mean you can’t use jingles for your local and regional clients. Radio is still a great way to “multiply” the impact of an advertising or marketing effort, and a jingle added at the end of a video can boost recall. But it is more difficult to achieve the reach of traditional mass media needed to make a jingle truly effective; media consumption habits have changed so much, and there are now so many channels and media sources that building a brand by using a jingle is a lot less likely.

The advertisers who currently employ jingles in their marketing are well-established brands that are using “heritage” jingles that play on nostalgic associations, or that have always been a part of the brand’s messaging. That hasn’t stopped newer brands from using sonic branding to make their brands stand out from the competition. Remember Apple’s start-up chord? And Mastercard recently introduced sonic branding for use with its now-wordless logo… a sort of digital “doodle” that plays when you swipe your card for a transaction.

For me, these sounds lack the charm and immediate feelings of warmth generated when I’m reminded of a jingle from my childhood. Jingles I haven’t heard for decades remain very clear in my memory, along with images associated with the brands. And I can easily imagine the best jingles and their ingrained brand promises will stay in my brain forever.

How many of these classic and current jingles can you sing or hum?

N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestle’s makes the very best… choc’late.


From the valley of the jolly (ho ho ho) Green Giant

Maxwell House Percolator tune

I wish I were an Oscar Meyer Weiner…

Does your shoe have a boy inside… (Buster Brown shoes)

Sometimes I feel like a nut, sometimes I don’t. (Peter Paul Almond Joy and Mounds Bars)

Hot dogs, Armour Hot Dogs, what kinds of kids eat Armour hot dogs?

Double your pleasure, double your fun… (Doublemint Gum)

Three from Barry Manilow:

You deserve a break today, so get up and get away… (McDonald’s)

I am stuck on Band-Aids and Band-Aids’ stuck on me. 

Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

Nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee.

Plop plop, fizz fizz, Oh what a relief it is (Alka Seltzer)

Meow meow meow meow, meow meow meow meow (Meow Mix)

Chock-Full-O-Nuts is that heavenly coffee

Hey Mabel, Black Label (Black Label beer)

If you’ve got the time, we’ve got the beer (Miller Beer)

It’s the Real Thing, that’s the way it should be, what the world wants to see, it’s the real thing (Coca-Cola)

Let Your Fingers Do the Walking Through the Yellow Pages

Nationwide is on your side.

Mmm, mmm, good, mmm, mmm, good… (Campbell’s Soups)

See the USA, in your Chevrolet

Look for the Union Label (International Ladies Garment Workers)

I love New York… (New York City/ State Tourism)

Choo-Choo Charlie was an engineer (Good & Plenty)

Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat

BrylCream, a little dab’ll do ya’

The Slinky, the Slinky, a wonderful, wonderful toy

We are Farmers! Bum-ba-dum bum, bum, bum bum! {Farmers Insurance)

Call J. G. Wentworth, 877-Cash-Now


More about Sonic Branding:

A Sound Design: Aural Branding Best Practices

Let’s Hear It for the Brand: Audio Branding

Brands Go Better with Music: Licensing Great Songs for Client Brands

Branded Pop Songs “Stick” to Listeners



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