A Brand Built On Just One Word

In 1954, when Winston filter-tip cigarettes first arrived on the market, the company came up with the marketing slogan, “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.” The brand became an overnight success in a large part because of one—only one—word.

In “The Tipping Point,” Malcolm Gladwell writes: “At the time, the ungrammatical and somewhat provocative use of “like” instead of “as” created a minor sensation. It was the kind of phrase that people talked about.”

And the more they “talked,” the more they bought. “Within months of its introduction, on the strength of its catchy phrase, Winston tipped, racing past Parliament, Kent, and L&M into second place, behind Viceroy in the American cigarette market,” Gladwell observes.

I’ve always been a logophile—a lover of words—but it wasn’t until my stint as a copywriter at J. Walter Thompson that I realized the incredible power of memorable taglines to vault the most ordinary of products to iconic status.

As I see it, words, along with gawk-worthy imagery, are the linchpins of the multibillion dollar advertising industry. Rudyard Kipling once said, “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” Sure enough, the Winston phrase managed to create a Svengali effect. The message embedded itself so deeply in the popular culture that people can recall it even today.

“There are relatively simple changes in the presentation and structuring of information that can make a big difference in how much impact it makes,” notes Gladwell.

 

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