Iconic Ads: Esso – Put a Tiger In Your Tank

Esso’s – Put a Tiger in your Tank gave a brand differentiation that was never simple and also gave a distinct personality

Around the turn of the 20th century, the Esso Tiger initially debuted in Norway as a mascot. Before the outbreak of World War II, Esso’s European subsidiaries continued to use the Tiger as a marketing tool for their gasoline products. During World War II, gasoline was rationed over the world, and advertising for gasoline was restricted.

The Esso Tiger debuted in the United States following World War II rationing. To differentiate Esso from its competitors, the Tiger was employed. An advertising campaign known as “Put a tiger in your tank” was launched in 1959 thanks to the tagline created by a young copywriter named Emery Smith. After years of food shortages, it was meant to symbolise a new sense of hope following the end of World War II. When it came to a market where brand differentiation has never been simple, it gave Esso a distinct personality.”

The cartoon Tiger was initially charming and friendly, resembling Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. Humble Oil, a branch of Esso, modified his appearance in 1964 to make him appear more fierce and energetic to portray the power of its gasoline products. With a campaign created by McCann Erickson, the figure finally got into stride.

As a result of the Tiger’s popularity, one of the most successful advertising campaigns in history was birthed. There was tiger merchandise, one of the most popular being a tail for the trunk of a car. A bumper sticker with the words “Put a tiger in your tank” was included with the item. As sales of Esso skyrocketed and the promotion became the talk of gasoline advertising, Time magazine proclaimed 1964 “The Year of the Tiger along Madison Avenue.”

South American, European, and Far Eastern divisions of the corporation, as well as Australia’s, adopted the Tiger and his tagline as a result of the American campaign’s popularity.

Esso shifted its focus to highlighting its pioneering position in North Sea oil exploration during the 1970s oil crisis when there was little advertising activity.

Chester Posey, a longtime McCann senior creative, was given the task of translating this shift in emphasis into advertising concepts. He chose to depict the new global reality of the newly christened Exxon Mobil by replacing out the cartoon tiger with a real one and the line: “We’re changing our name, but not our stripes.”

In the 1980s, professional cameramen shot a live-action tiger. There’s been no change since then in the Exxon Tiger’s mission: to show the power and strength of Exxon products by racing up mountains and along beaches.

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