Collection: Marlboro Men
With the rise of filter cigarettes in response to the increasing health concerns tied to smoking, Philip Morris decided to reposition its Marlboro brand for the filter market. What was originally a cigarette marketed as “Mild as May” to attract a primarily female audience, all at once gained a filter and became a man’s cigarette. No longer would Marlboro advertise “Ivory Tips to protect the lips” or “red beauty tips to match your lips and fingertips,” as it had done since the 1920s; Instead, Marlboro underwent a complete sex change in 1954. The brand’s new mascot, the “Marlboro Man,” would exude rugged manliness in an effort to position Marlboro as a filter with flavor. Previously, most filter cigarettes were considered to be “sissy” or effeminate, lacking in flavor and meant for those who couldn’t handle stronger brands. With the Marlboro Man campaign, Philip Morris worked to reverse this sentiment. The original Marlboro Men were excessive in their masculine virility. The models ranged from rough cowboys and sailors to alluring businessmen and academics. Whether the Marlboro Man was pictured preparing his gun or playing chess, he always sported a military-inspired tattoo on the back of his hand. In 1960, the tattoo was discontinued, but its message – that of intrigue and masculinity – remained vibrant in the Marlboro Men of the decades to follow.
Advertising which portrays smokers as fearless (e.g. cowboys, soldiers, athletes, and macho men in general) is a means of conveying health reassurance. Smokers who identify with such imagery perceive that they, like the smoking role models portrayed in these ads, are too brave to fear smoking. Smoking is a very public badge of their fearlessness and willingness to face danger with indifference because they are immune to such anxieties.