"Gimme a break, gimme a break. Break me off a piece of that …"
You probably don't need a lot of help to finish that sentence. In fact, the rest of the jingle has probably already played in your mind.
How about "Nationwide is on your …" or "The best part of waking up is …"?
Sound familiar? They should. There's a reason certain songs (or commercial jingles) get stuck in your head, and a certain formula they have to follow to become universally recognized by nearly everyone who hears them.
So what does it take to make an iconic jingle to which the world won't be able to stop singing along? To find out, we quizzed over 500 people to see which commercial tunes have been the most memorable over time and what has helped make them so great. Before seeing how they did, find out how you did by taking our interactive quiz.
So how did everyone else do? Read on (or hum if you'd like) to learn more.
You probably don't even need to hear all of the words of certain jingles to pinpoint where they're from. Experts suggest one of the reasons certain songs get stuck in our heads is because they're short, have repetitive notes, and are often overplayed.
After hearing just a short segment from each of these jingles, we asked people if they could identify to which brands the songs belonged. The most universally recognized melodies across all three generations were for Kit Kat, Folgers, and Nationwide. Less than 1 in 5 baby boomers were able to place the Mentos jingle despite being popular among at least half of Gen Xers and millennials, and the Hormel ("Pep It Up") track was the least commonly recognized song across all generations.
While some tunes are older than others, Gen Xers averaged the highest successful identification rate. Some much older tracks, including the "Oscar Mayer Weiner Song" and Coca-Cola's "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (in Perfect Harmony)," registered better with older audiences. In contrast, millennials were the most successful at recognizing tunes from Klondike, McDonald's, and Farmers Insurance.
Fill in the Blanks
You might feel like you've been listening to retired Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (and various guests) sing the Nationwide jingle forever, but our tenure with that catchy tune may just be beginning. Some jingles have been around for decades, and how old a commercial song is might have something to do with how well people remember it.
For older people, the Nationwide jingle tied as the most memorable alongside a much older melody: the "Oscar Mayer Weiner Song." The "Oscar Mayer Weiner Song" debuted in 1963, a tune in which more than 74 percent of baby boomers (along with nearly 55 percent of Gen Xers and 42 percent of millennials) knew the words by heart. Many advertisers consider it to be the greatest song ever written, helping to establish it is as not only a catchy jingle but also a piece of iconic American culture.
Despite age, some songs still stand the test of time. Roughly 73 percent of baby boomers, 91 percent of Gen Xers, and 79 percent of millennials knew the words to the decades-old Folgers song by heart – which premiered in the '80s. Only one other tune was as universally recognized: the Nationwide commercial, in which roughly 3 in 4 people of every age correctly guessed the words.
"What Would You Do for a Klondike Bar?" – a fellow '80s ad –has also become memorable for a generation of people who may not have been old enough at the time to know what they were watching. More than 76 percent of millennials successfully remembered the words to the Klondike jingle (made popular again in 2008 by "Saturday Night Live"), compared to over 71 percent of Gen Xers and just 37 percent of baby boomers.
You know that feeling when the words to a song are on the tip of your tongue but you just can't get them right? When it comes to certain company jingles, it might be easier to hum along than actually to remember the lyrics.
Most people agreed the Kit Kat jingle was the catchiest tune among the many ads shown, but it wasn't always the most memorable. Despite ranking as less catchy on average, over 80 percent of people had an easier time recalling the words to the Folgers ad than any other commercial jingle.
In fact, since Coca-Cola, Farmers Insurance, and Mentos ads generally ranked as being less catchy than jingles for products like Klondike and Nationwide, they also had among the lowest overall retention rates. Roughly 25 percent of respondents correctly recalled the words to the Coca-Cola song "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (in Perfect Harmony)," followed by roughly 1 in 10 people who recalled the words to the Mentos jingle.
Short and Sweet
If you can craft a memorable tune or a witty tagline, jingles can be one of the smartest ways to market your product. That is, as long as potential customers can remember what it is you're selling.
Running a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl in 2018 cost companies roughly $5 million, not to mention the expenses associated with shooting them or paying famous actors for cameos. For brands like Kit Kat, Nationwide, and Folgers running an ad might be worth it. Despite varying in length, they were rated as being among the catchiest jingles on TV. It may have helped that these companies all kept their jingles short and sweet compared to brands like Oscar Mayer and Coca-Cola, which were longer and less memorable.
And while the Nationwide song has quickly become one of the most memorable jingles of all time, Farmers Insurance might have a little catching up to do. A vast majority of people considered the "We Are Farmers" ad to be less memorable in comparison.
Most Memorable Tune Parts
So what is it that makes certain jingles so memorable: the lyrics or the melody? More people were able to correctly identify the jingles after they heard the melodies. In some cases, like McDonald's, Mentos, and Farmers Insurance, the percentage of people correctly identifying a tune significantly increased when they heard the jingle versus reading the lyrics. In other cases, like with Kit Kat and Klondike, the margin of success was much slimmer.
Still, some jingles might be more iconic because of their lyrics than melodies. More people recognized the Coca-Cola, Folgers, and Hormel tunes when they read the lyrics as opposed to hearing the song.
Some jingles are catchy enough that people only have to hear a small portion of the song to correctly identify it. Even just reading about some of these songs probably has them playing in your mind. As a marketing technique, we know producing commercial jingles usually isn't cheap. So the ultimate question is: Do jingles actually work to sell more products?
In most cases, yes. A few popular jingles that registered as memorable even resonated with viewers who weren't necessarily customers at the time, most notably among insurance companies. Jingles like Nationwide or Farmers Insurance are catchy, but a vast majority of people who correctly identified the tunes weren't customers.
On the most easily identifiable jingles, the Kit-Kat jingle, was correctly guessed by roughly 92 percent of respondents. And because the tune was so recognizable, nearly 1 in 3 people who knew the track weren't actually fans of the wafer-chocolate snack. A similar trend applied to Folgers Coffee. Even though nearly 90 percent of people could hum along with their jingle, it was more commonly correctly identified by non-customers than people who knew what their coffee tasted like.
Building a Brand
Considering some of the most memorable jingles have been around for 20 (or more) years, it's easy to see why jingles are still a popular marketing method for brands today.
While tunes like Nationwide are almost as recognizable as Kit Kat, not all modern jingles have had the same lasting impact. Even Farmers Insurance –perhaps trying to replicate the popularity of the Nationwide jingle –hasn't found the same level of recognition as its competitor. Not all of the melodies were exclusively recognized by people who'd been converted into customers, either. Even though 78 percent of people knew the Nationwide jingle when they heard it, but only 13 percent of those were customers of the brand.
Methodology and Limitations
We collected 504 people's responses on a variety of questions about advertisement jingles they either read or heard. Of these, 308 were millennials, 119 were Gen Xers, 70 were baby boomers, and 3 that fall outside these generations.
Each question was A/B tested, so participants might have listened to some jingles but read others. Each jingle used has a variety of versions that have appeared through the years that may have been more recognizable, but only a single version was chosen for this study.
Founded in 2011, Signs.com is now an Inc 500 company and is the easiest way to create custom signs online. We're also fascinated with human psychology and marketing as we strive to create signage that helps people grow their businesses. If you found this study interesting make sure to check out how well people recall famous logos.
Fair Use Statement
Got these songs stuck in your head now? Feel free to share the stats behind these songs with your readers for any noncommercial use. Just make sure to include a link back to this page so that they can see our complete findings and our contributors get credit for their work.