1902 a British cigarette manufacturer, Philip Morris, established a corporation
in New York to sell its tobacco brands, including Cambridge, Derby, and
Marlboro - which was named after the street its London factory was situated
on, Marlborough. In 1924, Philip Morris introduced Marlboro as a women's
cigarette based on the slogan: "Mild as May". A female audience
was targeted through a series of ads in 1926 depicting a feminine hand
reaching for a cigarette. These advertisements featured stylish women
posed in plush settings, and by the 1950s, babies were telling mom and
dad what a great smoke a Marlboro was.
World War II, however, the brand faltered and had to be taken off the
market. Immediately following WWII, three new competing brands: Camel,
Lucky Strike and Chesterfields surfaced with a firm hold on the consumer
market. This further diminished the value of Marlboro cigarettes.
1942, the July issue of Reader's Digest published an article titled "Cigarette
Advertising Fact and Fiction," that claimed that all cigarettes,
regardless of brand, were essentially the same, and equally deadly. In
1957, Reader's Digest published an article that linked smoking with lung
cancer. This is when Philip Morris saw its chance to reintroduce Marlboro
and market it as the "safer" filtered brand. Consumers began
feeling mislead by the established brands and dropped their old allegiances.
Unable to break completely away from smoking, due to what was later recognized
as nicotine addiction, many smokers were willing to try new cigarette
brands. Unfortunately for Marlboro, formerly regarded as "Mild as
May," the new filters were considered an extension of previous feminine
image. Consequently, Phillip Morris had to completely revise and switch
its advertising strategies in order to target an old group of customers
with a new concern: addicted male smokers who were afraid of acquiring
Marlboro was reintroduced to the nation in 1955 with the "Tattooed
Man" campaign. The image of the "new Marlboro smoker as a lean,
relaxed outdoorsman - a cattle rancher, a Navy officer, a flyer - whose
tattooed wrist suggested a romantic past, a man who had once worked with
his hands, who knew the score, who merited respect," (Esquire 6/60)
proved that nothing was feminine about the filtered cigarettes. The first
advertisements spoke in a manner suggesting that the same old-fashioned
flavors were being presented in a safer consumable form.
taste of honest tobacco comes full through. Smooth-drawing filter feels
right in your mouth. Works fine but doesn't get in the way. Modern Flip-top
box keeps every cigarette firm and fresh until you smoke it."
- Phillip Morris Marlboro Advertisement
In a friendly,
unpretentious and honest voice, the Marlboro men gained the trust of millions.
The "Tattooed Man" campaign was described by Cullman, as "virility
without vulgarity, quality without snobbery" (Esquire 6/60). After
their introduction in 1955, Marlboro became the top selling filtered cigarette
in New York. Eight months after the campaign opened, sales had increased
5,000 per cent.
In the first years of these advertisements the public responses to the
different "Marlboro Man" personalities were monitored. The cowboy
emerged to be the most popular character. A narrowing process followed
over the next forty years where the cowboy was recognized in a slew of
campaigns. The cowboy taught consumers about filters, promoted the flip-top
box, enticed women to try "the cigarette made for men that women
like," and explained that long white ashes are a sign of good tobacco.
The geometric design of the red, white and black-lettered flip-top Marlboro
package boosted the appeal of a strong independent individual. The public
embraced the red box as a symbol of membership to the club that recognized
the Marlboro Man as their spokes-person. The box was a membership card
available to everyone, an investment for themselves and their reputation,
in the positive image of the Marlboro Man. Eventually he became silent,
advertisements stopped having long tag lines, and his reputation and familiarity
beckoned consumers without words to come with him to the place they knew
well, Marlboro Country.
By 1992, Financial World ranked Marlboro the world's No. 1 most valuable
brand, with a market worth of $32 billion. That same year, dying of lung
cancer, "Marlboro Man" Wayne McLaren appeared at PM's annual
shareholders meeting in Richmond, VA, and asked the company to voluntarily
limit its advertising. Chairman Michael Miles responded, "We're certainly
sorry to hear about your medical problem. Without knowing your medical
history, I don't think I can comment any further."
Currently, Philip Morris' tobacco brands are in 180 markets, have a 38%
market share in the US, are the top-selling cigarettes in the world, and
the tenth-most valuable product brands overall.
A Capsule History of Tobacco
Kluger, Richard. Ashes to Ashes: America's Hundred-Year Cigarette War,
the Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris. New
York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.
by Shumon Sharif