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History of the Esso Tiger

The History of the iconic Esso Tiger
“Put A Tiger In Your Tank!” Pictured is an Original Esso Tiger Globe Head made from plastic, which would originally have a metal base that would fix to the top of a gas pump, mostly seen in the 1960’s  in the UK.
Pictured is a marketing ad for Esso Extra
Put A Tiger In Your Tank
Do you remember or still have one of those fake tiger tails from the early 60’s?  Motorists all over the world were tying them to the caps of their gas tanks and sporting bumper stickers that declared: “I’ve got a tiger in my tank.”Some 2.5 million tails were sold in the US alone – and that they’re still in demand – is testimony to the durability of the campaign that convinced drivers that Esso fuel was so powerful that it was the equivalent of having a huge beast in their gas tanks.
“Put a tiger in your tank” was a slogan created in 1959 by Emery Smith, a young Chicago copywriter who had been given the task to produce a newspaper ad to boost sales of Esso Extra.The tiger wasn’t Smith’s invention. He’d first appeared as a mascot for Esso in Norway around the turn of the 20th century. But it wasn’t until the end of the Second World War – and the resumption of petrol advertising – that the tiger made his US debut.”He was a very different character back then. Cute, amiable and in cartoon form, he closely resembled Tigger in Winnie-the-Pooh and was intended to represent a new post-war optimism after years of shortages. He also gave an identifiable face to Esso in a market where brand differentiation has never been easy”It was in 1964 that the character really hit his stride with a campaign developed by McCann Erickson. As Esso sales soared and the advertising became the talk of gasoline advertising, Time magazine declared 1964 to be “The Year of the Tiger along Madison Avenue”The oil crisis of the early 1970’s put a stop to any conspicuous petrol consumption and, with little advertising activity taking place, Esso switched its efforts to promoting its pioneering role in North Sea oil exploration.The task of reflecting this change of emphasis in advertising terms fell to the long-serving McCann senior creative Chester Posey. He chose to represent the new global reality for the newly named Exxon Mobil by swapping the cartoon tiger for a real one and the line: “We’re changing our name, but not our stripes.”                                               Interesting Facts– In 1996, Kellogg took legal action against Exxon Mobil, claiming its use of the Exxon tiger to sell food at TigerMart convenience stores infringed its Tony the Tiger trademark created by Leo Burnett. The case went to the US Supreme Court before an undisclosed settlement was reached.- I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail, the 1964 hit by the US country music band Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, was inspired when Owens saw the “Put a tiger in your tank” slogan at a petrol station.

– In the 1980s, a live-action tiger was used, filmed by expert cameramen.  Ever since, the Exxon Tiger has remained the same, racing up mountains and along beaches, portraying the energy and power of Exxon (now ExxonMobil) products.

– Exxon Mobil contributes $1 million a year to support the Save the Tiger Fund, which helps conserve Asia’s remaining wild tigers.

                                               Original Memorabilia
Original Esso Tiger Automobilia is hard to find. A good percentage is found in the UK. Prices range from $700 for an original 12″ pump plate sign to $7,000 + for an original Esso Tiger Mascot mold/statue that went on the roofs of Esso stations. 


Garage Art has several different reproduction Esso Tiger Signs to choose from; big and small. A great way to bring back the memories and as some fun to your garage! 










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