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Facts about the legend: Marlboro

Today I offer you a collection of facts about the legend of the world tobacco market. But, let me not repeat myself here and replicate everything that is known about the brand. I will limit myself to little known facts.

But I can’t do without mentioning some of the key ones. So, Marlboro first appeared on the U.S. market in 1924 and was positioned as a women’s cigarette. At the beginning of 20th century women as a consumer category of cigarettes was very tasty piece of the market, but at the same time releasing cigarettes just for ladies was a very risky venture. Why?

In 1920, a New Yorker was sentenced to 30 days in jail for smoking on the street. It seems wild now, but even in the 1920s smoking by women was considered highly undesirable and offensive. Women already had the right to vote, but going out in public without a male escort was something outrageous. To say nothing of smoking. At least that was the case for women of decent society.

No, they were allowed to smoke, but only so that no one could see them. So when Phillip Morris announced the novelty in its success few people believed, including the company’s leadership. But somewhat reverse the situation with women smoking managed and not without the help of advertising companies. So on the eve of 1920s smoking cigarettes was considered to be the destiny of women of low social responsibility, but Marlboro advertisements had feminine, glamorous images, not connected with the widespread prejudice in any way.

New York Freedom March of 1929

But times were changing, Phillip Morris was also lucky with the feminist movement that began to gain momentum. Smoking cigarettes by women became a symbol if not of freedom, at least a rebellion against the foundations of society. By the way, the most famous “freedom march” of 1929, when several women of New York marched through the streets demonstratively smoking cigarettes, was actually orchestrated by American Tobacco. And it was a very successful advertising campaign, the photos of these ladies were published by almost all print media of the country.

Up until the early 1940s Marlboro was advertised as a typical ladies’ accessory, but not without a future reference to the male audience. Although such premises were not justified by the cigarettes themselves, Phillip Morris limited advertising to hinting that Marlboro would appeal to the stronger half of mankind.

In addition to advertising, Phillip Morris invested in the design of the cigarettes themselves, or rather only in the paper. On Wikipedia you can read a slightly delusional explanation that Marlboro used red paper tape to hide the lipstick marks on the cigarette. Allegedly it was not aesthetically pleasing. Do you personally care how aesthetically pleasing the trash looks? The trademark Marlboro headband, by the way “borrowed” from another brand and not invented by Phillip Morris, really was.

But its purpose was different. It was made of greaseproof paper so as not to smear the lipstick. Whether or not there was lipstick on the cigarette butt was of no interest to anyone at the time. And it was red because of some instability of the paper itself. A piece of white paper on a smoker’s lips is really not the most aesthetically pleasing sight.

But all the efforts of Phillip Morris to “pump up” the female half of smokers went as poorly as expected. By 1954 Marlboro still had no more than 1% of the national market. It was in this year that Phillip Morris decided to pivot to a male audience. It is funny that it was an action of reorientation of the long existing brand, but not the release of a new one, unrelated to the previous companies..

But in the new hypostasis Phillip Morris succeeded what it failed with the female version of Marlboro – to make cigarettes part of everyday life. The first advertising campaigns of the renewed cigarettes were strongly associated with masculine images of strong and independent people. There were many images, but the cowboy resonated best with Americans. Paradoxically, the image of the cowboy inspired confidence, strength and physical health. According to analytical reports, it turned out that Marlboro ads with cowboys were best received by young smokers and… And women! So, Marlboro did get the ladies as the target audience)

By the way, the new brand image, the “Marlboro Man”, also became a symbol of rebellion among the smokers of those days. It was announced publicly about the connection between smoking and possible cancer, but the free and strong cowboy “offered” the smokers to decide by themselves whether to smoke or not, and not to listen to the various bureaucrats. Wild? Yes, but it worked. Sales of the new Marlboro quickly took off.

By the early ’90s, Marlboro was already the #1 brand in the world, but by this time things were not as smooth as, say, the ’60s. The government was actively tightening the screws on the tobacco companies, raising taxes and as a result a lot of smokers switched to cheaper cigarettes. By the way, at the same time, the Marlboro Man was no longer used in advertising campaigns.

Evil tongues claimed that this image compromised itself in a multitude of lawsuits from “grateful” smokers for getting cancer. There is another version: Marlboro Man was simply obsolete and was no longer present in the new “Marlboro Adventure Team” campaign. True, the new campaign was built on handing out free “cookies” to those who smoke Marlboro – from leather cowboy boots, to rafting and horseback riding in Colorado and Utah.

There were no significant sales gains, though, and on April 2, 1993, Phillip Morris announced a price reduction of as much as 40 cents on all Marlboro cigarettes. The tobacco company’s decision had a completely unpredictable reaction on the stock market. Players panicked, the shares of Phillip Morris in one day fell by 26%. Moreover, investors began to get rid of shares of other brands, not connected with tobacco in any way. The Dow Jones index of the American industry fell by 69.17 points in just one day.

The day would later be called “Marlboro Friday,” and it was the largest domestic stock market turmoil in U.S. history. As analysts said – April 2, ’93 was the end of the ’80s in the U.S. Americans no longer trusted big brands and investing in them did not seem safe.

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