There is no place where advertising is more relevant than in the cigarette industry. Brand loyalty is extremely high. In consequence, it is important to cigarette companies that they become the first cigarette company that new smokers try; it is also important to distract the customer from the obvious value bargain that their product will eventually kill them. Necessity has made these companies masters at advertising. Until 1970, when cigarette advertisements were banned, nobody was better at advertising than Marlboro; no cigarette or packaging is more recognizable, more American and more iconic than this one. Not only did Marlboro win the advertising war against its rivals, they also changed advertising forever. So, the question begs itself - how did they do it? In this essay, we will be comparing and contrasting between two advertisements of two major tobacco brands of their era, Marlboro and Camel.
To start with, when Philip Morris started the company in 1847, it was aimed at women, but it didn't work very well at first. Nevertheless, in the 1950s, when new studies came out showing that smoking caused cancer, many tobacco companies started to panic and change tactics. Just like in the Camel commercial called “Prove it yourself' that shows supposedly facts and proofs that Camel cigarettes were very smooth and harmless. It was at this point that Marlboro made a key move; they switched their advertising tactics and men and became the first-ever lifestyle advertisers.
Before we go further, it is very important to make clear what exactly is lifestyle advertising and how it looks like. The good news is we are already familiar with lifestyle advertising even if we don't know it. Lifestyle advertising is when a company produces a commercial and tries to tie the product advertised in the commercial to something else in the customer's life, a feeling, an attribute of satisfaction, to name but a few. For example, when an energy drink ties itself to extreme athleticism or a camera to adventure or a soda to happiness, a car to love or a phone to more than just a phone. It is noticeable and proven that lifestyle advertisement is the most popular and effective form of advertising that we know of.
However, on the contrary, it wasn't always this way. Roll the clock back 60 years, and people had a much different idea of how to advertise their products. For example, in the camel advertisement, ‘How mild can a cigarette be? Well I'm a smoking camels for 20 years I know they're mild and they really taste great.' Why is this ad so unconvincing while everything is fact and product-oriented? It is like saying, buy my product and not theirs because all our researchers say so! In addition to that, they even did an experiment to show how to know if cue stick is straight and explained that it should roll in a perfect arc; the ad even starred a pool champion to be even more persuasive and gain people's trust. This ad looked and sounded like a school lecture, which is very boring to the audience, on the other hand, Marlboro Man portrayed some cinematic scenes, which is very interesting and attention grabbing, especially when it was a new ad format back in the days. Conversely, the sad truth is that most of us don't even care about what researchers say, especially in commercials. I'm buying a pack of cigarettes to be cool not because doctors say it's smoother than a competitor's and also everyone would say that a movie is cooler than a boring scientific experiment filled with numbers, facts and statistics.
Moreover, later in the 50s, when Marlboro changed their targeted audience's sex, they also changed their advertising strategy by selling their product as a symbol rather than just on the merits of its design. They did this by creating a smoking cowboy known as the Marlboro Man. This man was designed to be the archetype of manliness; he was hardworking, strong, rugged, and living free. Hence, we can notice how much less screen time the Marlboro cigarette gets and how the focus of the ad has shifted away from isolating the product, to encompass a feeling of a rough, robust, free life. In other words, they weren't just selling cigarettes but rather a feeling of freedom, an adventurous journey and a wild lifestyle. There might even be a slight satire and ironic taste to the ad because most Cowboys did not smoke at the time, but most people didn't care or pay attention to that detail. Within one year of this campaign, Marlboro went from owning less than 1% of the market share to being the fourth largest cigarette company in the world and within four more years it became the number one selling cigarette in the world! Whereas, Camel has a way smaller market share and influence on the public.
All in all, we can say that Marlboro Man is a legend in advertising, and he contributed to shape the future of advertising forever and no matter what someone's stance on cigarettes are we can all learn from Marlboro's lesson and genius marketing strategy. This helps us understand that people don't want to be sold a product, people want to be sold a feeling, a connection, something that's worth more than a logo and a name with a nicely designed package even though sometime the product is very toxic and harmful for its user's health!
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