Philip Morris carved out their niche in users awareness very deeply. This is evident because even people today, after huge cutbacks and ban of tobacco advertising, are aware of what ‘Marlboro’ signifies. From researching the progression of cigarette advertising and consumption for Marlboro cigs brand, I believe that Philip Morris was aware of the social image of smoking once Marlboro cigarettes became popular, and then capitalized upon it. Their switch to a social focus in Marlboro advertising is evident to me in the progression from a lone Tattooed (Marlboro) Man campaign to a more social Marlboro Country. Yet, I also can identify implicit affiliations between the men in the Tattooed Man campaign through their tattoos.
Overall, the image of Marlboro has been one of independence, ruggedness, strength, and adventure. Yet, it seems that the image of Marlboro presents itself in a way that no one who smokes Marlboros is ever alone. There is a sort of collective independence among those loyal to the brand. This has been presented in the advertising as either an implicit feature, as through the tattooed men, or explicitly through cowboys working together in Marlboro Country, sharing work and Marlboro cigarettes.
The Tattooed Man commercials from 1955 in the Smithsonian collection had one man per commercial, each doing what I define as a masculine-
stereotyped activity. Some examples are a cowboy, a mountain climber, a man watching sports on TV, a fisherman, a man fixing a car, a man adjusting a rifle, a high-diver, and a man chopping wood. These all seem to be stereotypical male activities indicating strength, ruggedness, and independence. All of these men were presented alone in each commercial.
Yet, in the television and magazine advertising that consisted of this tattooed Marlboro man, the tattoo is very much a connecting feature of the advertising campaign. The tattoo is a recognizable feature of each man in this campaign, and while independent from other men smoking other cigarettes, he is part of a larger group of rugged Marlboro men. This is how even in a seemingly solo image campaign, a social belonging seems implicitly indicated in the brand.
The creation of the Marlboro Country campaign out of the cowboy image seemed to be a natural progression to continue the image of the West and display more of this Marlboro Man’s life. I do believe however, that part of the change that occurred was a shift from individual focus, to explicit social focus. Social sharing, collaboration, and leisure is much more present in the Marlboro Country campaign. It is even evident in the titles: Marlboro ‘Man’ indicates one; Marlboro ‘Country’ indicates many. Comparing advertisments of the tattooed Marlboro men and Marlboro Country, it is most notable that the cowboys in Marlboro Country are social creatures. Even though the tattooed men spoke of friends and sharing Marlboros, the cowboys of Marlboro Country are shown sharing work, meals, and cigarettes. Many of the ads show more than one man in the picture. In “How Marlboro Led the Pack,” BATCo describes the social implications of the Marlboro cowboy perfectly: “Although he comes across as a solitary figure, he is also sociable, sharing the campfire with his fellow workmen” .
After people knew ’strong, rugged, independent’ Marlboro as a popular brand, the continuation of its advertising was simply to invite more people to join the ‘independence bandwagon’. At the end of every Marlboro Country commercial, there is always the invitation: “Come to Marlboro Country.” Philip Morris explicitly invited consumers to join the Marlboro image. They knew that many men, women, youth, and foreign countries had already joined, and so were capitalizing on their own popularity. The range of Marlboro’s popularity is discussed most aptly by John Landry of Philip Morris, from the interview files of the Smithsonian: “A hand resting on the pommel of a horse with a cigarette was enough to recognize the brand”.