Unlikely Origins of Famous Ad Slogans

Some of the most well-known ad slogans in American pop culture have unlikely and fantastic origins. Inspiration for these timeless slogans have come from both an inmate on death row and a former President who became forever linked to a child’s favorite toy.

“Just Do It.”

Gary Mark Gilmore received the death penalty for murdering two people in Utah in July, 1976. He was given the death sentence with justice to be carried out by a firing squad. Gilmore was asked if he had any last words. Indeed he did.

“Let’s do it,” he simply said.

Dan Wieden of Wieden+Kennedy was chosen by Nike to create a tagline. Wieden recalled Gilmore’s famous last words. “Let’s” was changed to “Just” and the rest is marketing history.

just do it
“Good to the Last Drop.”

Teddy Roosevelt enjoyed some delicious coffee while visiting Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage in 1907. As the story goes, after thoroughly enjoying his delicious coffee, Roosevelt said that it was “good to the last drop.” Some years later, the coffee giant decided the slogan was a double win – it was a catchy phrase, but it also provided celebrity endorsement. Roosevelt’s contribution to the marketing world doesn’t end there. He was also the inspiration for the teddy bear when he refused to shoot a bear that was tied to a tree. He was an avid honorable hunter and saw no glory in shooting a defenseless animal.

What a guy.

“A Diamond is Forever.”

In the late 19th century, tons of diamond mines with an abundance in diamonds sprang up throughout South Africa, with the supply far exceededing the demand. A new company called DeBeers was formed to manage the diamond operations and was tasked with creating a sense of urgency to sell off the excess diamonds. The fear was that the entire venture would be a loss due to the large quantity of diamonds being mined. Copywriter Frances Gerety came up with the famous De Beers slogan “ A Diamond is Forever” which came to her in a dream in 1947. The goal of the tag line was to inspire diamond purchasers to hold onto the precious gems for as long as possible so the market was not saturated. This tagline inspired hopeless romantics to purchase diamonds with the intent of their loved ones holding onto them and passing them down the generations as a symbol of that “forever” lasting love. The tagline has been a De Beers mainstay ever since. Advertising Age even named it the best slogan of the 20th century.

“I Love New York”

i love ny

New York City in the 1970’s was like living in the Mad Max Universe. Crime was out of control and by 1977 the tourism industry was feeling the impact of tourists staying away from the “Big Apple.” New York State Department of Commerce Deputy Commissioner William Doyle decided to do something about it. He requested a catchy ad campaign to boost tourism. Respected designer Milton Glaser is responsible for the memorable “I Love New York” campaign. When Milton created the iconic image, he thought it would just be part of a quick, three-month campaign. He had no idea it would still be in use four decades later, even becoming a rallying cry after 9/11.

Best part to this origin story: Milton did the work pro bono.

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