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Esso. Put a Tiger in your tank !

October 3, 2016


For those of you who saw and liked my post about oil company Shell …

Here’s a little about one of their competitors … Esso. The company began in 1880 in London, Ontario, when 16 refiners created the Imperial Oil Company. In 1898 Standard Oil of New Jersey (now Exxon Mobil Corporation) acquired a majority interest in Imperial. In the 1900’s, Standard Oil of New Jersey started marketing its products under the brand name ‘Esso’, which is the phonetic pronunciation of the initials ‘S’ and ‘O’ in Standard Oil. Application for the Esso trademark was filed in 1923 and the Esso oval was introduced in the 1930’s as a sign of quality and a symbol of service. Since then, the Esso name and oval have been used continuously in Canada and over 50 other countries.


In 1936, Esso sponsored the first national radio broadcast of an National Hockey League (NHL) game. In 1940, Esso sponsored overseas transmissions of hockey games for Canadians serving in WWII. By 1950, three million Canadians were listening to Esso hockey broadcasts each week. In 1952, Esso expanded its sponsorship to include television broadcasts.

As usual with these successful brands, alongside the campaigns… comes wonderful illustration, visuals and ideas.


As early as the 1930’s, ‘motoring’ was becoming ever more popular. In 1935, Imperial produced free road maps for customers and also gave out free colouring books to keep kids entertained on road trips. Today, thousands of Esso customers use the online Fuel Finder to help them on their journeys.


The tiger first appeared as a mascot for the Esso brand in Norway around the turn of the 20th century. He surfaced again in the 1950’s, when Esso started using it to represent quality and power. Thanks to the now famous advertising phrase, “Put a tiger in your tank”, the Esso tiger became extremely popular in Canada in the 1960’s and was featured in numerous ads, jingles, and TV commercials. After a 27-year hiatus, the Esso tiger once again earned his stripes in the 1990’s.



Whilst some of us Brits link the tiger with Kellogs and their Frosties advertising.


I’m not certain (time-wise) where the friendly oil drop came from but it’s another winner in my eyes.


As a company with such a close association with the tiger, Imperial, together with our parent company, Exxon Mobil Corporation, was instrumental in establishing the Save The Tiger Fund in 1995. Today, Exxon Mobil Corporation contributes $1 million a year to help conserve Asia’s remaining wild tigers.

Another trip down memory lane for some, and a totally new experience for others, let me know which it was for you.


9 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2016 11:41 pm

    Reblogged this on baublology.

  2. alibrookes permalink
    October 4, 2016 1:27 pm

    Great post! I’ve got fond memories of the slogan ‘Put a tiger in your tank’, because, as a child, my siblings and I had to share a football, which came from an Esso garage. My dad told us the slogan, and we would shout it out when we played with it. That ball lasted years; it was the best football we ever owned!

    • October 4, 2016 3:50 pm

      Lovely story Ali thanks or sharing your memories : ) I used to collect coloured felt tip pens from the local garage, free with so much petrol. There was a set you could collect (hmm no kidding) I’m sure i made my dad drive all over the place just to get them all! Child persuasion power eh !!

  3. Wallace permalink
    October 5, 2016 8:58 pm

    Interesting story and well done for finding that image of an old road map of Malaya and Brunei.

    • October 6, 2016 9:01 am

      Cheers Wallace, I was going to send you a personal copy of the image, I thought you might like it. It could be your folks : )

  4. October 6, 2016 1:39 am

    I had forgotten that ad slogan, thanks for the reminder. Seeing the ad with the gas station attendant fueling the car–now days those cans of motor oil displayed next to the pump would be stolen so fast your eyes would bleed…anything not nailed down, you know. Overall, nice bright colors and design.

    • October 6, 2016 9:02 am

      Thanks Joy. You’re right in all respects. Glad to have sparked some memories for you too.

  5. Steve Rogers permalink
    October 7, 2016 11:06 am

    In the US you could get a short piece of simulated tiger tail that would stick out from under the gas cap access cover to show you had a “tiger in your tank.”

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