Jingles: The little melodic encouragements that birthed a nation

Oct 6, 2011

Scientifically crafted earworms, designed to make us buy things we didn’t even know we wanted, were invented in the early 1920’s. Since then, jingles have become an integral part of American culture.

And to think it all began with Wheaties …

General Mills was about to stop making the cereal, but it was saved by a jingle. Sales were slumping until the new invention – the jingle – hit the airwaves in 1926. Suddenly they couldn’t make the crunchy flakes fast enough. People loved Wheaties, and all they needed was a little melodic encouragement.

Since then jingles have become a highly developed marketing tool, and we are powerless to resist their appeal. If we say “plop plop fizz fizz” you can’t help but finish the line in your head. Chances are you probably know more jingles than song lyrics.

That’s because of “earworms”, which is an actual term for short unforgettable melodies. Like this one:

Sometimes great jingles become pop songs, here’s a bank ad that became a major hit for The Carpenters:

The bank is out of business, but the Carpenters are still hauling in royalties.

Sometimes pop songs become jingles, sung by the stars who made them famous. Here’s Tom Jones selling fizz:

Inevitably licensing of pop tunes for advertising pretty much put an end to the era of jingles. Once the Beatles licensed “Revolution” to sell Nike shoes, it was just a matter of time before the jingle era was doomed. Now we’ve got Sting selling Jaguars and Bob Seger selling Chevys.

We gotta go, craving hot dogs and coke!