Legendeary marketing strategy of Malboro cigarette
People, on the historic date of 11th of January 1964,
it was officially declared by the United States government
that cigarette causes cancer.
And within a day an $8 Billion dollar tobacco industry and
the incomes of 7,50,000 families was at stake.
While most companies saw their sales dropping down
there was one company that miraculously went from having
just 1% market share
to becoming the 4th largest cigarette brand in the world
in less than one year.
And after 1970 when cigarette advertisements were
permanently banned from televisions
this brand became even more popular
to go on to become the largest manufacturer of cigarettes in
This brand that I’m talking about goes by the name Marlboro.
And Marlboro today is so huge that
it has got more consumers than it’s next 10 competitors
The question is – What the hell did they do ?
because of which the very same cancer report and the ban
which is essentially supposed to kill it’s business
ended up becoming a stepping stone for Marlboro to become a
$58 Billion brand.
The answer to this question lies in one of the most iconic
ever witnessed by mankind.
which is called lifestyle marketing.
Now let’s try to understand this using a very simple example
that is closer to home.
If you are a 90s kid and you watched Sachin Tendulkar play
I bet you that at some point in your life or someone in
you’re friend circle
must have bought an MRF bat.
And chances are that when you visited the store
you knew nothing about English Willow, Kashmir Willow.
You did not care which wood the bat was made of.
You did not care whether it was original or duplicate, you
just wanted a bat.
And then you had two choices
bats with no stickers or bats with MRF stickers.
And you chose the MRF bat by default
And then after that god knows after how many years later you
that the fullform of MRF is Madras Rubber Factory.
And the fact that MRF is primarily a rubber tyre
which just happened to sponsor Sachin Tendulkar.
Later on this very same thing happened to Reebok when Dhoni
started using Reebok bats.
Now here the question is – is it a coincidence that millions
of children all across the country
were so stupid to mindlessly buy a bat with a sticker of a
rubber tyre company ?
If not, then how the hell did this even happen ?
Well, here’s where the magic of lifestyle marketing happens.
We all idolised Sachin Tendulkar and we all wanted to be
like Sachin Tendulkar.
So subconsciously, the MRF bats made us feel as if
we were holding the exact same bat as Sachin Tendulkar
So to put that straight, what we essentially bought into
when we bought MRF bats is not the bat itself
but the connect that it had with our idol, that is, Sachin
because we wanted to be like Sachin Tendulkar.
Now in the US the same thing happened to Nike’s Air Jordan
wherein when Nike signed up Michael Jordan
the fascination for Air Jordan shoes became so crazy
that even today, after 18 years of Michael Jordan’s
he still makes $100 million dollars every single year just
This is what we call as lifestyle marketing wherein
consumers buy more into the lifestyle of the icon whose
associated with the product
than the product itself.
And this is exactly what the marketeers of Marlboro
cigarettes did to their brand.
After the 1964 report, which was released by the surgeon
general of the US,
brands started to do everything in their capacity to keep
Some brands tried to justify cigarettes while some brands
completely disapproved the very research itself.
Back then Marlboro was a very small company that made
cigarettes only for women.
But as soon as this news broke out
the parent company of Marlboro, which is Philip Morris
decided to shift their method of marketing
and became an epitome of business propaganda in the 20th
So what the marketeers of Marlboro did is that
instead of justifying smoking and using statistics that were
difficult to understand
they came out with a campaign called the Marlboro Man.
wherein they introduced a character who was supposedly
everything a man wanted to be like.
and they named this character “The Marlboro Man”.
Marlboro Man was a cowboy who had perfectly built up body
and the commercial showcased him as the ultimate architype
He was tough, affectionate and stylish and overall stood as
the icon of freedom and manliness.
And just as we kids bought into MRF bats
men of the 1960s were so fascinated by the Marlboro man
and started buying Marlboro cigarettes
that the commercial became a massive game changer for the
And within a year Marlboro went from having less than 1%
to becoming the 4th largest cigarette manufacturer in the
And the fun fact is in all of those commercials
cigarette was not even the primary subject of focus.
In fact, cigarette as a product got less than 10 seconds of
time footage time
in all of those commercials.
And because of this even when cigarette commercials were
permanently banned from television
and brands couldn’t show cigarettes in commercials or TV,
Marlboro was very easily able to navigate through that
because their focus was anyways not on cigarettes but on
Marlboro Man himself.
And that is how they were able to communicate their emotion
even through print and magazine.
And this is the reason why even after the 1970 ban
Marlboro’s business still kept growing.
In fact, the sales skyrocketed because the rest of the
brands were struggling
to market their brands without showing their products.
And that is how Marlboro became a legend in advertising
and laid the foundation for Marlboro to become a $58 billion
Now, more than a business lesson there is a very very
important life lesson
that we all need to learn from this iconic case study.
People, just like Marlboro in the 1960s, even today
what we often fail to realize is that
we are constantly being bombarded with lifestyle cigarette
that do not appear as ads but in the form of pop culture
Now, this includes a James Bond appearance
wherein he appears in a tucks and symbolises gentlemanliness
or Kabir Singh who is portrayed as the epitome of manliness.
Now, regardless of how lucrative they look
what is important for us to understand is that
they are merely tapping onto your insecurities to convince
you to do something
which will give you a feeling as if you are an elevated
version of yourself.
But the truth is
because of your lack of self awareness
you don’t realise that your insecurities are putting money
into their pockets
eventually to make those companies billions of dollars
but to turn you into a sick, miserable addict
of either cigarettes or social validation, depending on what
you’re buying into.
So keep your eyes open and do not fall into these traps.
And last and most importantly
my big brother’s advice to you is
“Always remember that buying dumb sh*t will never make you
or make you a better version of yourself.
The only thing that will make you feel better is your
acceptance of your insecurities and imperfections.
And at the end of the day if you do not embrace your
some billion dollar brand will dig into your misery and
and make a fortune out of it.”
So think about it and if you think I make sense to you then
help me spread this message
And like once a great woman said,”Imperfection is beauty,
madness is genius
and it is better to be absolutely ridiculous than to be
absolutely boring.” – Marilyn Monroe.
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