Tasting Good Like A Cigarette Should: The Story Behind Winston Cigarettes’ Most Famous Slogan

by | Aug 31, 2012 | Shopping

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Winston cigarettes were first introduced by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in 1954, and Winston quickly became the best-selling and best-loved brand of cigarettes in the US. From 1966-72, Winston cigarettes remained the top-selling brand in the nation due to their popular marketing slogan, “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.” The slogan appeared in numerous types of advertising media, including print, radio and television. Winston cigarettes were also promoted through a number of other outlets, including R.J. Reynolds’ sponsorship of the television cartoon The Flintstones. The two main characters, Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble, appeared in commercials smoking Winston cigarettes. R.J. Reynolds similarly sponsored The Beverly Hillbillies as an advertising vehicle for Winston cigarettes.

The slogan “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should” was, however, arguably the key element to the success of Winston cigarettes. The phrase was devised by the William Esty Ad Agency, whose executives Wendell Adams and Arline Lunny directed the ad campaign for Winston cigarettes. They had originally proposed the slogan “Winston tastes good like a cigarette ought to”, before replacing it with the final slogan. The first print ads with the slogan began appearing in 1954.

The fact that the phrase perhaps wasn’t entirely grammatically sound wasn’t lost on many. Television anchor Walter Cronkite refused to say the phrase on The Morning Show, and a replacement announcer had to be brought in to do the line. A small controversy even arose among grammarians over Merriam-Webster’s citation of the phrase as a popular colloquial usage of the word like. Some commentators have espoused the idea that the phrase’s grammatical imperfection helped it to stand out.

While Esty provided the famous phrase to promote Winston cigarettes, it was the jingle that caught the ear of America. The famous jingle, however, was actually written by singer Margaret Johnson, who recorded it with her and her husband’s band, the Song Spinners. Her husband, Travis Johnson, provided the rapid hand claps which provided the surprise “hook” for the song and apparently had much to do with the success of the ad. In later years, the clap would be replaced in some ads with a two-beat sound effect such as a lighter flick or an actor knocking on a truck of Winston cigarettes.

In 1999, the magazine Advertising Age lauded the famous “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should” jingle as the 8th best radio or television jingle of all time. While Winston cigarettes retired the famous phrase in 1972, its legacy remains as one of the great advertising devices of our century.

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