Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Marlboro Man

(continued from And Now a Word from Our Sponsor, see 8/10 below)

Of all the thousands upon thousands of ad campaigns produced during the Creative Era, a period in time from 1904 leading up to the present, perhaps the most remarkable was the campaign created by Leo Burnett for Philip Morris: The Marlboro Man.

The Marlboro Man demonstrated the awesome power of advertising like no other ad campaign before it or since. Leo Burnett’s campaign took a brand of cigarette that had languished for years, repositioned it, changed the image of the brand through its advertising, and drove it to become the most valuable brand in the world.

Philip Morris introduced Marlboro – which was named after the street where its London factory was located – to the U.S. in 1924 as a women’s cigarette, based on the slogan “Mild as May.” During World War II, the brand faltered and was taken off the market.

In 1942, Reader's Digest published an article which claimed that all cigarettes, regardless of brand, were essentially the same, and equally deadly. Also, in 1957, Reader's Digest published another article that linked smoking with lung cancer. Philip Morris had seen its chance to reintroduce Marlboro and market it as the “safer” filtered brand. Unfortunately for Marlboro, formerly regarded as “Mild as May,” the new filters were considered an extension of its previous feminine image. Phillip Morris had to completely revise its advertising strategy in order to attract a new target market with a new concern: addicted male smokers who were afraid of acquiring lung cancer.

In 1954, Chicago ad agency Leo Burnett created the first Marlboro Man, and Marlboro was reintroduced to the nation in 1955 with the Tattooed Man campaign. At the time, Marlboro had one quarter of 1% share of the American market.

After its introduction in 1955, Marlboro became the top selling filtered cigarette in New York. Eight months after the campaign opened -- it was a newspaper campaign -- sales had increased 5,000 percent.

The early campaign showed a variety of Marlboro men. The Marlboro Man could be a Navy Officer, a Flyer, or a Cowboy, and he had a tattooed wrist which, Esquire reported in 1960, “suggested a romantic past, a man who had once worked with his hands, who knew the score, who merited respect.” In the first years of the ad campaign, public responses to the different Marlboro Man personalities were monitored. The cowboy emerged as the most popular character. By 1963, the tattooed sailors and other characters were retired, and the cowboy became the sole representative of the Marlboro Man. In 1964, the Marlboro Country campaign was launched: “Come to where the flavor is. Come to Marlboro Country.” Marlboro sales began growing at 10% per year. In 1971, cigarette ads were banned from tv, yet even that didn’t unsaddle the Marlboro Man, and in 1972 Marlboro became the best-selling cigarette in the world. (Winston was the best-selling cigarette in the U.S., but Marlboro overtook Winston in 1975 in the U.S., too.)

By 1992, Financial World ranked Marlboro the world's No. 1 most valuable brand, with a market worth of over $31 billion. In 1995, Marlboro peaked at a 29% share of the U.S. market.

Success on a level achieved by the Marlboro Man remains the Holy Grail in advertising. Yet the Marlboro Man belongs to an Era whose time has past. He now rides off slowly into the sunset.

(to be continued….)

Sources and additional reading:

Shumon Sharif, Advertising Marlboro, Cultural and Historical Perspectives on Cigarette Consumption,

Adage.com, “The Advertising Century”, http://www.adage.com/century/icon01.html


Blogger Paul said...

While not yet up in a puff of smoke, cigarette brands continued to proliferate after the last commercial (for Virginia Slims) aired 1/1/71 at 11:59 PM on Johnny Carson's Show.

It would be interesting to gauge the growth (or lack of) the brand outside the U.S.

10:21 AM  

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