Rebranding Tobacco, Marlboro Style

Posted on December 27, 2016 by Media Culture

After years of dropping market share, Marlboro is finally reclaiming its place as the crown jewel of Phillips Morris USA.

From 2005 to 2011, the brand lost nine percentage points in share of the 18- to 25-year-old market, dropping to just 43 percent in a market it once dominated. But since then, Marlboro’s marketing team has been working hard to get in touch with what its key demographic is really looking for. For Millennials, it’s out with the old cowboy motifs and in with more modern imagery.

Moving branding from horses to Harleys

Earning its Millennial market back wasn’t easy, but Marlboro’s marketing team managed an incredible turnabout with the creation of a new cigarette called Marlboro Black.

Black is a cheaper, bolder cigarette than the former best seller, Red. Everything about Black is designed to speak to a modern youth market. Horses have been traded for Harleys, blue jeans for black jeans and Stetsons for tattoos. From 2011 to 2014, the company’s share of that same demographic climbed by three percentage points because of these changes.

Between better branding and a newfound dedication to pushing the brand places where smokers might be found, like dance clubs and bars, the entire line is seeing a massive resurgence. Although exact sales numbers are a secret, Wells Fargo analyst Bonnie Herzog told the Wall Street Journal that just a one percent share could equal as much as $320 million in annual revenue. That would make even the three percent gain worth nearly a billion dollars in annual revenues for parent company Altria.

Modern marketing and a whole new line-up

Although Marlboro wasn’t going for a total escape from its roots in Western masculinity, Marlboro Black has gone a long way to boost credibility with customers with more urban roots. The company spent considerable time producing digital shorts starring graffiti artists, lowriders and Chicago photographers, images that are almost the complete opposite of the classic Marlboro Man.

Between the branding and the new sleek black packaging, Black has been a massive hit. Marlboro is building on this success with other cigarette varieties like NXT and Edge, both featuring the popular black graphics. Modern branding, a streamlined look and cheaper price point have served Marlboro well to reach younger tobacco customers.

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