The Marlboro Man – Tapping in to Popular Culture and Trends

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I was doing some research on online trends earlier today when I stumbled onto something that serves as an excellent example of how a company managed to capitalize on popular trends to increase its sales.
During the 1950s and for a long time afterwards, cowboys were all the rage. There were rodeos, cowboy championships, cowboys being inducted into the national cowboy hall of fame, cowboy Christmases, and pretty much everything else that you could attach the word cowboy to, and for good reason. Cowboys were popular, and so was everything that became associated with them.
What many people don’t know is that Marlboro was initially introduced as a woman’s cigarette back in 1924 and they marketed themselves with the slogan “Mild as May”. Well into the 1950s, the company was looking for a new image and in an attempt to capitalize on the phenomenon of the cowboy, the company introduced what would make them the leader of the worldwide cigarette market. Every man wanted to be him and every woman wanted to be with him, he was a cowboy and he smoked. He was the Marlboro Man.
What could be a better example of a company tapping into a popular phenomenon to skyrocket their market share and their sales? By the time the campaign marketing the company’s new image was launched nationwide, the company’s sales jumped a whopping 3,241% (in one year) to $5 billion. Furthermore, with the introduction of the mythical cowboy land known as “Marlboro Country” the company was able to increase sales by 5,000% within the campaign’s first 8 months. Their market share went from less than 1% in 1954 to them being the market leader in less than 2 decades. That’s the power of prevailing popular culture and trends.

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  • syed

    Interestingly, the Malboro man died of lung cancer. One more thing, I think 7up have a popular icon once, fido dido. Really annoying though.

  • soufulow

    The success of Malboro Man affects the marketing world for decades – perhaps this is why we are seeing big shots advertisers paying huge pile of greens for SuperBowl (tapping into the culture/trend) advertisement.
    But do these marketing method still work today? with the high advertisement charges on big sports events, i doubt such marketing campaign ROI is can be something nice to see.