The Story Behind The Marlboro Man Brilliance

Posted on March 07, 2019 at 2:07 PM






In the 1950’s, Leo Burnett Worldwide led consumers into Marlboro Country — and completely changed the advertising landscape forever. Remember the Marlboro Man? Take a look:



Marlboros were originally marketed to women. From the tagline — “Mild as May” — to the elegant models, it was the women’s cigarette.

But in the 1950s, we were beginning to see just how harmful smoking is, and women cut back. Marlboro needed a new strategy, and a new audience. Men. Enter the now iconic Marlboro Man.

When television ads started airing in the 1940s and 1950s, they were product-based. Here’s our product. Here’s someone using our product. Here’s where you can buy our product. Marlboro and Leo Burnett broke new ground by showing consumers what they could be if they smoked Marlboros. Tough. Rugged. Manly. You light up, you become a cowboy.

They created what would now be called a lifestyle advertising campaign. Sure, they showed the product, but they focused on how that product could make consumers feel, how it could help them become the image they had of themselves. And it worked: in 1955, sales were at $5 billion. Two years later, after Marlboro Man rode up on his horse, they were at $20 billion.

Leo Burnett Worldwide and Marlboro were ahead of their time. They figured out the key to effective marketing is to answer these questions: how does your product make the consumer’s life better? What problem are you solving? How are they better afterwards?

(Yes, we know: smoking causes more problems than it solves!)

But the point is this: with a lifestyle branding approach, you can reach your audience on an emotional level. Take Yeti, for example. You can buy a one-gallon jug for $130 or a 28-can cooler for $400. Why would you? You could buy a similar product for half that or less. But Yeti is rugged. Yeti is unique. Yeti is legendary. If you buy a Yeti cooler, you will be cooler.

In the 1950s, Marlboro figured out what some brands still haven’t caught on to: features and benefits don’t sell products. The promise they hold to improve, enhance, better customers lives does.


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About the Author:
Adam Grubb

Adam Grubb

AGP is a video media company specializing in b2b corporate video production, strategy, and management. Corporate video touches all parts of your business and Adam Grubb Productions is built to drive production, engagement, and video strategy at the highest level.

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