The Esso Tiger is back

In a move that is in keeping with what appears to be a growing trend among marketers towards linking their promotional messages with images from the past, Imperial Oil is reviving the Esso Tiger.In fact, the tiger is the centrepiece of...

In a move that is in keeping with what appears to be a growing trend among marketers towards linking their promotional messages with images from the past, Imperial Oil is reviving the Esso Tiger.

In fact, the tiger is the centrepiece of a massive national advertising and promotional campaign that includes television advertising, radio promotions and special events at participating Esso stations.

The program will include the sale of ‘Tiger Tails,’ reminiscent of the long-running and successful ‘Put a Tiger in your tank’ campaign that was an Imperial Oil trademark during the 1960s.

‘The Esso Tiger is back to remind Canadians that our long-standing commitment to outstanding service still holds true today,’ says Bill Innes, Imperial’s senior vice-president, products division.

Innes says the timing is right for a return to a corporate statement that can evoke all the positive feelings that Imperial’s research shows Canadians still associate with the Esso Tiger.

He says Imperial has gone through significant change and rebuilding since it amalgamated with the former Texaco Canada.

‘That process is pretty well over,’ Innes says. ‘We are pulling through it. So now it’s time to make a statement with our employees and customers that the Esso brand is as powerful as it ever was.

‘We have found a very powerful combination, with this special symbol and its animated manifestation. The story we’re telling is that the Esso brand is stronger than ever.’

Innes says the tiger allows Imperial to capitalize on a ‘Back to the Future’ element.

He says in recent research Imperial made an ‘important discovery’ that Canadians still strongly identify the tiger and Esso.

‘It’s still very much there, even among people who were children at the time,’ Innes says. ‘Maybe they remember it from sitting inside their cars.’

Given that, Imperial decided to bring back the tiger, suggesting to Esso customers by association, ‘that we’re going back to the fundamentals of our heritage, of what made this company great, which was a commitment to sserving our customers.’

The tiger, who does not speak in the commercials, also provides Imperial with the option of using the character as a spokesperson at some point in the future.

Innes also believes that the relatively light-hearted tone of the tiger campaign is appropriate for the times.

‘There is so much gloom everywhere,’ he says. ‘This is the right time for us to make an upbeat statement. It is the right time to have some fun.’

Developed by Saffer Advertising, Toronto, for English Canada, the campaign includes a wide range of promotional tie-ins.

Included are a ‘Tiger Trivia’ radio contest with daily prizes and 14 grand prize trips to Florida’s Walt Disney World.

The French portion of the campaign is handled by BCP Strategy-Creativity, Montreal.

Imperial employees are also involved in their own contest to name the tiger.

In a resurrection of one of the most popular promotional elements of the 1960s program (Canadians bought 800,000 Esso Tiger tails in the early days of the ’60s campaign), tails will be sold for 99 cents at participating Esso stations.

A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Imperial Oil Canada’s Kids program, which funds youth charities and activities across the country.

The Esso Tiger Campaign is part of the overall ‘You’re on your way with Esso’ positioning that was developed for Imperial under the direction of Hilda Mackow, manager of customer services and brand advertising.

The television portion of the campaign includes two 30-second spots which use an animated tiger interacting with the live-action actors.

Actor Christopher Plummer is used for the voiceover on the English commercials and Pascal Rollins for the French campaign.