How Marlboro changed advertising forever

Philip Morris started Marlboro in 1847 with women as its target market. Marlboro didn't experience initial success but everything changed after the 1950s.

New scientific studies in the 1950s started linking smoking cigarettes with lung cancer. Cigarette companies quickly understood such evidence could be detrimental to them, as they could potentially losing millions of loyal customers.

To tackle and hold onto their customer base, cigarette companies like Camel launched a series of advertisements that focused on conveying how its cigarettes are much safer, milder, and taste better than its competitors.

Here's one of Camel's advertisement -

Yes, it is extremely boring and unconvincing.

It's at this crucial time when Marlboro changed their strategy. Marlboro shifted its target market from women to men and changed its brand perception as being a lifestyle rather than a commodity.

Marlboro was the first company to implement the concept of lifestyle advertising.

Lifestyle advertising is when a brand tries to sell an image, identity rather than a product.

Today, we are surrounded by countless lifestyle advertisements. Think about Cola-Cola. All their advertisements revolve around one primary concept - happiness. No Coca-Cola advertisement is complete without that fizzy bubbly drink leaving smiles. Another example is Nike where the company sells a feeling and a can-do attitude.

Marlboro started this trend of lifestyle advertisements by launching the iconic "Marlboro Man". The Marlboro man was created with an intention to showcase a hard-working, free-living, rugged cowboy.

This was Marlboro's ad -

A stark difference is evident between Marlboro's and Camel's advertisement. Marlboro's advertisement was not about selling a cigarette, it was about selling a lifestyle.

Camel's advertisement was informational, it revolved around projecting facts as to how Camel cigarettes are the better. Marlboro, on the other hand, knew if they could make smoking "cool" and "manly" it would successfully convince people to continue buying their cigarettes. "Marlboro Man" was a masterstroke. View the advertisement again and notice how little screen time is actually given to the cigarette. This is lifestyle advertisement, where the product you are selling takes the back seat.

Just 1-year post the "Marlboro Man" campaign, the company went from holding less than 1% of the market to the 4th largest cigarette company in the world. Four years later, Marlboro became the biggest cigarette selling company in the world.


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