Even if you are not a smoker you would know the Marlboro man. He is practically a cult. The image of the strong, free, independent cowboy is familiar to most people. And why not, he is the face of the world’s leading cigarette brand, Marlboro. The strange thing is hen Phillip Morris first introduced Marlboro it was not a cigarette brand for men but women. At the time it was a failure, so much so that it had to be taken off the market.
So when and how did it come to be a man’s brand? In the nineteen fifties when Marlboro was reintroduced, the company did two things. The cigarettes were filtered mainly to address the growing concerns regarding health risks of smoking. Men were targeted because at the time filtered cigarettes were mainly considered to be a woman’s item and while men wanted to switch they didn’t want to go for something womanly either. So the men’s segment was potentially strong as well as near untapped.
But Marlboro was originally a women’s brand. How to reposition it as man’s brand, that too a healthy man’s brand (so as to address the health concerns)? Marlboro took the best possible choice to represent their brand; an outdoors man, the cowboy. The cowboy was the very image of healthy man. Not just that, cowboy was also the symbol of freedom and masculinity. To show a cowboy in an outdoor setting, smoking Marlboro cigarettes, can one think of a healthier, manlier, image than that?
Phillip Morris aggressively promoted this image using print ads, bill boards, and television ads. Very healthy, handsome men were selected for the job. Sometimes real cowboys were used. At others someone with similar muscular looks.
The setting was also important. The Marlboro man was always seen in a setting of freedom; in the outdoors, near a waterfall, on a horse back etc; mostly alone, sometimes with a lady. The outdoors played on a man’s need to get out of the daily life and be free. The lone status exuded confidence and independence. Add to that the rugged and handsome image, and is it any wonder that men were hooked? The TV ads were accompanied by a Magnificent Seven (the famous western) theme music. This added to the ad’s cowboy image. Smoking a Marlboro cigarette, a man felt confident, attractive, and ready for any thing.
Through their ads and their Marlboro man image Marlboro wanted to play on the men’s need for independence, freedom, health, and strength. And it was a great success at that.