The year 1964 marked an important moment in history. The United States government officially declared that cigarettes cause cancer, putting the $8 billion tobacco industry and the incomes of 750,000 families at stake. While most companies saw their sales plummeting, Marlboro miraculously went from having just a 1% market share to becoming the 4th largest cigarette brand in the world in less than a year. And after 1970, when cigarette advertisements were permanently banned from television, this brand became even more popular and went on to become the largest manufacturer of cigarettes in the world.
But how did they do it? What did Marlboro do differently that allowed them to thrive even after the cancer report and the subsequent ban that was supposed to kill their business? The answer lies in one of the most iconic marketing strategies ever witnessed by mankind, which is called lifestyle marketing.
CASE STUDY ON LIFESTYLE MARKETING-
Let's start by understanding lifestyle marketing using a simple example that is closer to home.
If you are a 90s kid who watched Sachin Tendulkar play, chances are that at some point in your life, you or someone in your friend circle must have bought an MRF bat. You did not care which wood the bat was made of or whether it was original or duplicate; you just wanted a bat. And then you had two choices: bats with no stickers or bats with MRF stickers. And you chose the MRF bat by default. Later on, you realized that the full form of MRF is Madras Rubber Factory and that it is primarily a rubber tire manufacturing company that happened to sponsor Sachin Tendulkar.
The same thing happened to Reebok when Dhoni started using Reebok bats.
The question is, is it a coincidence that millions of children all across the country were so stupid to mindlessly buy a bat with a sticker from a rubber tire company? If not, then how did this even happen? Well, this is where the magic of lifestyle marketing comes in. We all idolized Sachin Tendulkar, and we all wanted to be like him. So subconsciously, the MRF bats made us feel as if we were holding the exact same bat as Sachin Tendulkar himself. What we essentially bought when we bought MRF bats is not the bat itself, but the connection that it had with our idol, Sachin Tendulkar, because we wanted to be like him.
The same phenomenon happened to Nike's Air Jordan shoe lineup in the US, where the fascination for Air Jordan shoes became so crazy that even today, after 18 years of Michael Jordan's retirement, he still makes $100 million every single year just in royalty. This is what we call lifestyle marketing, wherein consumers buy more into the lifestyle of the icon associated with the product than the product itself.
MARLBORO LIFESTYLE MARKETING-
After the 1964 report, which was released by the surgeon general of the US, brands started to do everything in their capacity to keep their reputation. Some brands tried to justify cigarettes while some brands completely disapproved of the very research itself. Back then Marlboro was a very small company that made cigarettes only for women. But as soon as this news broke out the parent company of Marlboro, which is Philip Morris decided to shift their method of marketing and became the epitome of business propaganda in the 20th century So the marketeers of Marlboro did that instead of justifying smoking and using statistics that were difficult to understand.
They came out with a campaign called the Marlboro Man. wherein they introduced a character who was supposedly everything a man wanted to be like. and they named this character "The Marlboro Man". Marlboro Man was a cowboy who had a perfectly built-up body and the commercial showcased him as the ultimate archetype of manhood. He was tough, affectionate, and stylish and overall stood as the icon of freedom and manliness. And just as we kids bought into MRF bats, men of the 1960s were so fascinated by the Marlboro man and started buying Marlboro cigarettes that the commercial became a massive game changer for the company. And within a year Marlboro went from having less than 1% market share to becoming the 4th largest cigarette manufacturer in the world. And the fun fact is in all of those commercials cigarette was not even the primary subject of focus.
In fact, cigarettes as a product got less than 10 seconds of time footage time in all of those commercials. And because of this even when cigarette commercials were permanently banned from television and brands couldn't show cigarettes in commercials or TV, Marlboro was very easily able to navigate through that situation because their focus was anyways not on cigarettes but on Marlboro Man himself. And that is how they were able to communicate their emotion very easily even through print and magazines. And this is the reason why even after the 1970 ban Marlboro's business still kept growing. In fact, the sales skyrocketed because the rest of the brands were struggling to market their brands without showing their products. And that is how Marlboro became a legend in advertising and laid the foundation for Marlboro to become a $58 billion brand.
Marlboro's success with lifestyle marketing did not go unnoticed by other companies. Soon, many other brands started using the same tactics to sell their products. From sports shoes to energy drinks, lifestyle marketing has become a popular strategy for many companies looking to connect with their target audience on a deeper level.
So what can we learn from Marlboro's success with lifestyle marketing?
First, it's important to understand your target audience and what motivates them. In the case of Marlboro, they knew that their audience consisted mainly of men who desired to be seen as rugged and independent, so they created a campaign that spoke directly to those desires.
Another important lesson is the power of emotion in marketing. By creating a powerful emotional connection between their brand and their audience, Marlboro was able to create a loyal fanbase that would continue to buy their products for years to come. This emotional connection is what separates successful brands from mediocre ones and can make all the difference in the success of a marketing campaign.