Marlboro Man & The American Worker: The Cigarette As A Gateway To Freedom
By Eric Rosenthal
Throughout the 20th Century, the United States underwent tremendous urbanization and industrialization. The Jeffersonian notion of an agrarian country died and in its place a populace came up that lived primarily in cities and worked for organizations and corporations. Concomitant with the new working conditions, however, was the loss of freedom and independence. The Marlboro campaign that began in the 1950s sought to tap into the American feeling of helplessness. A cigarette could now become an expression of a lost era when Americans were free to roam the country and were not slaves to the “man.”
In order to sell the Marlboro cigarette, Phillip Morris used the Leo Burnett Company to develop a marketing strategy that would make the cigarette popular to male smokers. Originally, the Marlboro campaign featured a diverse group of men to help reflect the fact that the cigarette could be enjoyed by men from all walks of life. But after sales failed to grow after 1957, Phillip Morris scrapped the marketing campaign that featured men with tattoos for the cowboy. Although the cowboy was initially featured in cities, Phillip Morris and Leo burnett quickly shifted to backcountry scenes that sought to place the cowboy in his true setting. Since then, the Marlboro Country campaign has changed negligibly and today Marlboro is the world's most popular cigarette brand.
In this paper, I looked at two things. The first was the working habits of the Americans during the early and middle 20th Century. Included were the white and blue-collar workers and the conditions under which they worked. Secondly, I examined the Marlboro advertisements primarily from 1955-1967. I have chosen these years to demonstrate how the campaign matured. To further assist in the understanding of the campaign, I have provided direct accounts of the campaign by its founders.
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