Marketing Icons: The Rise and Fall of the Marlboro Man

Marketing Icons: The Rise and Fall of the Marlboro Man

The Marlboro Man must be one of the most iconic images ever created by the advertising industry.

Developed by industry legend, Leo Burnett, it emerged in the 50s during a time when smoking was prevalent and the health dangers little known, and it ran until 1989 in the USA. There were several actors that filled that famous Stetson—such as, Wayne McLaren, David McLean, Dick Hammer, and Eric Lawson—a few of whom lost their lives to smoking-related illnesses.

Philip Morris, the makers of Marlboro, had originally launched the brand in the '20s as a filtered cigarette for women. Aiming to re-position it in the '50s as a man's cigarette, their market research, however, suggested that men would be unwilling to embrace something that had originally been a women's product—thus the iconic image was born as the very embodiment of ‘American macho’ and cool.

The decline of the Marlboro man, however, accompanied the growing awareness of the perils of tobacco use to long-term health. And the end was hastened by the fact that the cigarettes became associated as the 'cowboy killer', on account of the number of actors who died from smoking-related illnesses. And, the fact that Eric Lawson, the third person to play the part, became a prominent anti-smoking campaigner, certainly didn't help the perception of the brand in the eyes of consumers.

While the iconic image itself died a death in the USA in 1989, it did continue to be seen in some overseas markets well into the 2000s.

Will Trevor is NYCRAMA's VP of Social Media. He has a background in sales and marketing, where his experience spans both agency and client-side positions. Will also worked in a range of industries, from the public sector, to manufacturing and recruitment. Most recently, he has applied his practical experience to the field of education and training, where he teaches in higher education, both in the UK and the USA. Find out more about Will on LinkedIn.

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