Does exactly what it says on the tin

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"It does exactly what it says on the tin" (often quoted as "does what it says on the tin") was originally an advertising slogan in the United Kingdom, which then became a common idiomatic phrase.[1][2] It colloquially means that the name of something is an accurate description of its qualities. It is akin to the previously existing phrases "by name and by nature" and "it lives up to its name".

It originated in a series of television advertisements by the woodstain and wood-dye manufacturer Ronseal, initiated in 1994[3] and still being broadcast as of 2016.

The slogan was created by Liz Whiston and Dave Shelton at the London advertising agency HHCL.[4] The idea of the phrase was to emphasise that the company's products would act and last for the amount of time exactly as described on the tin can. The word tin is generally used even when the product is sold in a different type of container, although box is also sometimes used. The expression soon entered common usage in the UK.[2]

Such is the phrase's ubiquity in the UK that in a 2011 news report concerning the copyrighting of phrases and expressions, a copyright expert expressed surprise that Ronseal used such a common, everyday phrase in their advertising.[5]

The phrase is also commonly known and used in Ireland. The Ronseal advertising campaign has also been shown there, and UK television is widely available in Ireland. In 2004, toothpaste manufacturer Colgate began a similar copycat advertising campaign in Ireland stating that its product "does exactly what it says on the tube".

The phrase is a registered trademark of the Sherwin-Williams Company, the owner of Ronseal, across the European Community for products including paints, varnishes, and wood preservatives (E3085826).[6]

In 2007, a song titled "What It Says on the Tin" was released by a British singer Katie Melua. Although the song is about relationships, the phrase has a similar meaning.


  1. ^ Eric Partridge, Tom Dalzell, Terry Victor. The concise new Partridge dictionary of slang and unconventional, 2007. Page 653.
  2. ^ a b Jim Blythe. Consumer behaviour, pg.116
  3. ^ Stamp, Gavin (2006-06-18). "Probably the best corporate slogan...". BBC News Online. Retrieved 2007-09-18. 
  4. ^ "The Ronseal phrase: It does exactly what it says on the tin". BBC News Online. Retrieved 2015-05-25. 
  5. ^ "Battle over trademark of 'keep calm' phrase". BBC News Online. 22 September 2011. Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  6. ^ "Community Trade Mark E3085826". Retrieved 2011-08-29. 

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