Thursday, September 27th, 2018 | 6 min read
Imagine L’Oreal suddenly launching a whole campaign geared towards “manly” men. Or Tiffany & Co. swapping its sparkling, elegant ads for pictures of sun-tanned cowboys on horseback.
That’s the kind of revolutionary switch Marlboro made in the 1950s – a move that some call the first brand repositioning success story.
It’s true. The Marlboro Man is now one of the most famous icons in the history of branding, forever tying Marlboro to an image of rugged masculinity. But many might not know that Marlboro actually started as – gasp! – a women’s cigarette brand.
At the time, the pivot was an almost unfathomable risk, yet it ended up being a lifeline for a company in trouble. The introduction of the Marlboro Man sparked a 3,000% increase in sales in just a year, and drove Marlboro to become the most-purchased cigarette brand in the U.S. – a title it’s held since 1972.
How did the now-iconic brand pull it off? Let’s take a look.
When Marlboro launched in 1924, its debut tagline was “Mild as May.” The brand sold filtered cigarettes, after all, and those were seen as universally feminine. That’s why Marlboro’s early ads featured sultry, elegant women donning dark lipstick.
In fact, Marlboro advertised an ivory tip to prevent that lipstick from rubbing off on the cigarette, inspiring new slogans like “Ivory Tips Protect the Lips.”
Even the name “Marlboro” was selected to portray a high-brow image. Around the time the cigarettes made it to market, Winston Churchill’s relation to the wealthy Duke of Marlborough gained publicity. It’s believed Marlboro was named as such to capitalize on this international attention.
Ok, you get it. Everything about the Marlboro brand was specifically crafted to be geared towards women. But then the market changed and, like any smart brand, Marlboro swiftly adjusted its approach to advertising.
For decades, Marlboro enjoyed its status as the cigarette brand for women. But by the 1950s, reports started to link smoking to lung cancer, and women cut down on the habit as a result.
Philip Morris, the company behind Marlboro, knew it needed a new strategy. That’s when it made a key discovery: Men were still smoking in large numbers, but since the cries of “lung cancer” had emerged, they were turning to filtered cigarettes as a healthier option.
Marlboro was already selling filtered cigarettes, so it had the right product. The company just needed to reach the right buyers. And to make that happen, it needed to change its entire marketing strategy.
Saloon doors swing open. Dusty heels hit the floor. A cowboy squints from beneath the brim of his hat.
Enter: The Marlboro Man.
He was rugged and independent. He toiled all day under the blistering sun and lived life according to his own rules. He was a cowboy with grit. And, oh yeah, he smoked filtered cigarettes.
The new ads were a massive success, but the Marlboro Man didn’t step off his horse fully formed. Philip Morris started by running a campaign featuring several macho archetypes: construction workers, Navy officers, mechanics, and cowboys. Guess who won?
Once customers were on board, Marlboro latched onto the cowboy and rode off with him into the sun – skyrocketing from a niche brand with 1% market share to the top four position in the U.S. market in just a year.
It’s been over 60 years since Marlboro’s big rebrand, but the move still holds some important lessons for today’s marketers.
For one, Marlboro didn’t just tell customers that it was repositioning its brand. It showed them by creating an entirely new brand persona – someone that encapsulated who their target customer was (or, in most cases, wanted to be). Marlboro also thoroughly researched its market before taking this risk and even A/B tested ads with different male archetypes.
These strategies are crucial for modern brands looking to grow their audiences. The only difference is that now, with social media, we have more data, touchpoints, and content formats to play with than ever before.
In fact, Marlboro’s parent company Philip Morris International (PMI) uses these platforms to build customer-first marketing and care operations. For example, after PMI launched its new e-cigarette, customers had questions. And the brand was ready to respond.
“We noticed a pattern of care-related issues through social media and we wanted to proactively address that,” says Kleigh Heather, a director in PMI’s Digital Lab. “We decided to leverage social as a mechanism for detecting, triaging, and resolving customer care issues faced by users.”
The team designed a whole new process for customer care, allowing them to proactively listen for social mentions of the new product (even if those mentions weren’t directed at the brand), create multi-team workflows, and integrate social with traditional care channels like phone and email. On average, it now takes the team just 11 minutes to resolve cases.
This is just another way that Marlboro proves it won’t get stuck in the past. Whether they’re adding ivory tips to protect women’s lips, creating an entirely new brand persona, or sparking conversations on social media, Marlboro is ready to innovate according to customers’ needs and market changes.
Ce site web utilise des cookies pour vous vous assurer une expérience de navigation optimale.OK En Savoir Plus
Diese Internetseite verwendet Cookies, damit Sie die Funktionen der Website optimal nutzen können.OK Weitere Informationen finden Sie hier
Este sitio web usa cookies para asegurarnos que usted reciba la mejor experiencia en nuestro sitio web.OK Aprenda más