If you’re over 40 and grew up anywhere near a television, you probably recall a certain chewing gum commercial from the mid-1980s showing a bunch of very happy, very white college-age kids hitting the slopes for what looks to be a totally excellent weekend. These kids are athletic and carefree but, sensibly, they had the presence of mind to bring along enough gum. The ensuing 30 seconds features one of the last of the great jingles—one so bright, so catchy and (for many) so enduringly ridiculous that it stuck in the heads of an entire generation of Americans.
We speak, of course, of Juicy Fruit’s inimitable “The taste is gonna move you” spot. First aired in 1986, the guitar-strumming ditty remains, as the Chicago Tribune put it, “branded in the neurons of anyone who watched TV during the 1980s.”
Now, the chewy anthem appears poised to take over the neurons of a new generation. Until the end of May, Wrigley, with some creative help from DDB, is giving consumers the chance not only to hear five all-new versions of this classic earworm, they can also vote on the one that the company will ultimately use. (You can hear all five and vote here.)
The catch here is that the vote is open only to our neighbors to the north. By visiting a dedicated website, Canadians can listen to remixes of the tune, including country, R&B and hip-hop versions. (The Juicy OG Remix is closest to the original.) So far, the hip-hop take has the lead, according to the real-time tally chart on the site.
But why rework the tune now? A spokesperson for Mars Wrigley Confectionery Canada explained that “consumers have a special connection to the jingle and we’re going to tap into a new generation of fans with the Canadian relaunch.” (As to why the voting isn’t open to Americans and whether the new jingle will be used in the U.S., Adweek was told only that “we do not have additional information to share.”)
There’s nothing wrong with continuing a legacy, of course, but for Juicy Fruit, the stakes appear to be higher. Juicy Fruit parent Mars is privately held, so sales for the gum are not publicly disclosed. But it’s no secret the chewing gum category has seen better days. Chewing gum sales in Canada fell by 9.9% from 2013 to 2018, per Euromonitor.
According to Toronto-based retail expert Bruce Winder, legacy packaged goods like Juicy Fruit are clearly “looking to remarket themselves to the newer generation of millennials and Generation Z to fuel growth.”
“They have lost relevance with these groups based on their lack of innovation in product and message,” he said.
What’s more, Winder added, “One of the best ways to relaunch is to engage customers and let them have a say on the new campaign. These newly targeted customer groups value customization and want to be heard. Thus, the choice of jingle. It instantly makes the brand look modern and collaborative as the range of songs spans from the original version to pop to hip hop, etc. It shows that the brand is aware of today’s trends and wants to become more relevant.”
The new jingle will be used via programmatic radio and on Spotify in Canada. Juicy Fruit will announce the winner on May 27.
A curious wrinkle to these modern remixes is that regardless of the version, all contain a line from the original spot that’s led to more than a little head scratching on the part of consumers—those, at least, who heard it in the old days as a bit sexually suggestive.
The line: “Take a sniff/ Pull it out/ The taste is gonna move you when you pop it in your mouth.”
Decades after that blared from the TV set and into the heads of American youth, some are still wondering if it meant … well, what they thought it meant.
The site In The 80s, for example, has suggested the line was simply “sexual innuendo.” Agreed a visitor to Retro Junk, “Seems a bit sexually suggestive.” A commenter on this gamer bulletin board concluded, “Who says sex doesn’t sell most everything?”
And on it goes. The line “sounded weird even to a kid,” offered another commenter via Stereogum. And one blogger in Alaska wrote, “I was on the cusp of puberty in 1989 when this commercial for Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum came out, and all I can say is that this 30-second ad for chewing gum has LEGIT the most suggestive jingle … EVER WRITTEN!”
For whatever reason, later versions of the jingle appear to have sanitized the line, changing “Take a sniff/ Pull it out” to “Move you up Move you out.”
Questioned whether this line prompted any consideration regarding how it might be perceived by the public in 2019, a company spokesperson said that the jingle is already “part of the pop culture”—a presumptive reason not to change it. “The jingle is best known for its catchy and playful tune and lyrics,” the spokesperson continued. “We maintain that playfulness through any iteration of the song we create.”
Call it playful or call it suggestive, loaded language is certainly nothing new in advertising. In 1998, for example, the Carl’s Jr. burger chain rattled a few cages when, talking about its moist and drippy burgers, it introduced the tagline: “If it doesn’t get all over the place, it doesn’t belong in your face.”
In any case, Winder believes that while keeping a line about pulling things out and putting them in your mouth has some risk to it, there’s a good reason for taking that risk.
“In today’s society, millennials and Generation Z are much more comfortable with and have been exposed to more sexually explicit lyrics,” he said. “These lyrics have become the norm. Sexuality has become more mainstream, and marketers need not hide it as much as with previous generations. It also creates a huge conversation piece with these groups as they perhaps discover the double meaning of the lyrics themselves for the first time and laugh up the moment.”