Research has proved that when products are in effect equivalent, people go with what’s familiar, even if the product is only familiar because they know its name from advertising and recognize the brand.
According to James Twitchell, author of “Twenty Ads That Shook the World”, the key insight that shaped modern advertising came to cigarette manufacturers in the 1930s. Twitchell’s book is subtitled, “The Century’s Most Groundbreaking Advertising and How It Changed Us All.”
During market research, cigarette manufacturers ascertained that smokers who taste-tested several cigarette brands without recognizing which was which couldn’t tell them apart. So, if any manufacturer wanted to sell more of his specific brand, he was either going to have to make it distinguished or make consumers think it was distinctive, which was significantly trouble-free. That insight give birth to the practice of selling a product by associating it with a glamorous lifestyle.
Marlboro is one of the best successful examples of changing the consumer behavior through a complete gender re-positioning. Ad agency Leo Burnett’s brilliant campaign made Marlboro one of the most valuable brands of all time. By creating the “Marlboro man,” Burnett transformed what was seen as an very feminine brand of filter cigarettes into a rugged, sexy masculine one in a matter of months. The image of the “Marlboro Man” projected rugged manliness in an effort to position Marlboro as a filter with flavor.
The Marlboro Man was first conceived in 1954. As the all-American cowboy, he was rugged and he was cool. He was the epitome of masculinity.
Back then, Jack Landry, the brand manager for Marlboro at Philip Morris said,
In a world that was becoming increasingly complex and frustrating for the ordinary man, the cowboy represented the antithesis—a man whose environment was simplistic and relatively pressure free. He was his own man in a world he owned.
Leo Burnett experimented with other ‘Marlboro Men’—ball players, race car drivers, and tattoo-covered hunks. They were all successful, but it was the cowboy that really “shook the world.” The macho spokes-model traveled the world. He crosses cultures and translated ideas of masculinity in a nonverbal manner, and became one of the most famous icons of all time.
In 1955, when the Marlboro Man campaign was launched, sales were at $5 billion. By 1957, sales were at $20 billion, representing a 300% increase within two years. Philip Morris easily overcame growing health concerns through the Marlboro Man campaign, highlighting the success as well as the tobacco industry’s strong ability to use mass marketing to influence consumers.