Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that advertising jingles have been part of American culture for a very long time — nearly 100 years. By most reports, the first jingle broadcast on the radio debuted on Christmas Day 1926 to praise the virtues of Wheaties cereal. Intervening decades brought a rise and fall in the production and popularity of jingles. At their peak, these artfully produced ditties shaped the minds and spending habits of generations of Americans.
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Of course, not all jingles are created equal. Some, once burned into our consciousness, will never leave us. Others don’t make such a strong impression. And changing media habits have made ads easier to avoid. The Atlantic went so far as to declare jingles dead in 2016 — but that pronouncement just might have been premature.
To explore the staying power of jingles today, Quality Logo Products got 735 U.S. residents to share their impressions of 67 advertising melodies … then had to go on a weeklong silence retreat. Once researchers returned with their hearing and sanity intact, this is what they found:
• “Nationwide is on your side” was the best-known jingle, recognized by 92.6% of survey respondents. It was followed closely by McDonald’s “Ba-da-ba-ba-baaa… I’m lovin’ it” and the canyon-crossing cry of “Ricola!”
• The top 10 most recognizable jingles are all attached to brands between 50 and 100 years old. Five of those jingles themselves reach back to the 1960s.
• Insurance firm jingles were immediately known to roughly half the survey’s respondents. All four insurance jingles — Nationwide, State Farm, Farmers, and Liberty Mutual — placed in the top third of the pack for recognizability.
• The Folgers coffee jingle placed second in the most likeable and catchiest categories, and near the top for recognizability, as well.
• Chili’s “baby back ribs” ditty won the title for catchiest jingle. Following in second and third place were Folgers’ timeless rhyme and the über-simple Ricola yodel.
• The repetitive jingle for Liberty Mutual tops both the most hated and the most annoying lists — but it also lands in the top 10 for catchiest.
• The jingle for Sara Lee is by far the most commonly misheard, with 74.6% of people thinking the lyrics are, “Nobody does it like Sara Lee.”