Extensive Marketing Strategy Of Marlboro – Complete Overview

Updated on: Aug 15, 2022
Marketing Strategy Of Marlboro - Featured Image

Schedule a Call

  Hey there!

My name is Aditya Shastri and I have written this case study with the help of my students from IIDE's online digital marketing courses in India.

Practical assignments, case studies & simulations from Business Review helped the students from this course present this analysis.

Building on this practical approach, we are now introducing a new dimension for our online digital marketing course learners - the Campus Immersion Experience.

If you find this case study helpful, consider leaving a comment below.

In a previous article, we learned about the SWOT analysis of Marlboro. In this blog, we are going to elaborate on the Marketing Strategy of Marlboro – the World’s Premium brand of cigarettes. 

The objective is to learn and gain insights into Marlboro and how it became the World’s premium brand of cigarettes and Marlboro aims to become the largest premium cigarette industry in India.

So, as you can see, the world is fully online now, and marketing is the rib of every industry. If you are interested to know more about marketing then do check out our Free Masterclass on Digital Marketing by the CEO and founder of IIDE, Karan Shah.

We will learn the entire marketing strategy of Marlboro by the end of this blog. Before diving deep into it, let’s begin with the company’s story, target audience and digital presence.

Digital Marketing Academic Challenge 2024 - DMAC

About Marlboro – Company Overview

Marketing Strategy Of Marlboro - Bob Norris

Not only an American cigarette brand but a worldwide famous cigarette brand – Marlboro is currently owned and operated as Philip Morris within the US and as Philip Morris International in international markets.

The original story of Marlboro dates back to 1846 when Philip Morris used to sell tobacco and roll cigarettes on the streets of Bond Street, London, UK. After his sudden demise due to cancer in 1873, his brothers Widow and Leopold Margaret continued the business by opening a factory on Great Marlborough Street, London, keeping their brother’s name as the company name which is Philip Morris Companies Inc.

Since then the cigarette got the simple name “Marlboro” from Great Marlborough Street and was marketed under this name until the name officially got registered and became a brand in the United States in 1924. 

Marketing Strategy Of Marlboro - The Cowboy Marlboro Man

Marlboro is known for its advertising and marketing strategies including advertising ladylike cigarettes and the cowboy Marlboro Man.

Quick Stats on Marlboro
CEO André Calantzopoulos
Area Served Worldwide
Industry Cigarettes Manufacturing
Market Share/ Revenue 40%
Vision We strive to be environmentally and socially responsible. We are dedicated to fighting the illegal cigarette trade. And we proudly support the communities where we source tobacco and where our employees live and work.
Tagline Mild As May”, “Come to where the flavour is. Come to Marlboro country” (1966), “You get a lot to like with a Marlboro”, “You Decide”


Marketing Strategy of Marlboro

Let’s learn the marketing strategy of Marlboro! And how Marlboro carries the marketing campaign etc.

Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning

Marlboro is classified as a premium cigarette segment, meaning the prices are higher than the average cost of tobacco products. Marlboro has established itself as the premium cigarette company in the market. This means that the better the product, the higher the price for cigarettes.

Young adults are a key target market for tobacco companies, and they are a key target for Marlboro both in the USA and internationally.

In their marketing campaign Marlboro focuses on young-oriented images that appeal to teenagers and feature young, attractive models partying, falling in love, adventure travelling and generally being ‘cool’. As a market leader, Marlboro positioned itself in the high-price segment with high-quality products.

Marketing Campaigns

Marketing Strategy Of Marlboro - Campaign 1

In December 2011, campaign billboards appeared with a large black lettered ‘MAYBE’ written on a white background with the MAY crossed out with a red cross (Image 1). The billboards were not attributable to anyone. This was a deliberate omission as these ads were intended to act as a “teaser campaign” to arouse people’s interest. 

Subsequently, a few weeks later, the advertisements developed from this simple ‘maybe’ into ads offering two choices and the slogan ‘Don’t be a maybe. Be Marlboro’ (Images 2, 3 and 4). All images unless otherwise stated are sourced from Frederic de Wilde’s PMI Investor Day presentation, 2012.

Marketing Strategy Of Marlboro - Campaign 2

The Marlboro Cowboy ads first appeared in the mid-1950s as part of Marlboro’s vision to appeal to the new filter cigarettes to men. This vision translated into the iconic Marlboro man, a male figure representing masculinity and cigarettes. Throughout the year many male figures became the face of the Marlboro Man but the most idolised figure in their ads and marketing was the iconic “Marlboro Cowboy”. 

The Marlboro Cowboy figure spanned many successful campaigns that generated sales growth and made Marlboro the number one tobacco brand in the world. The stunning appeal of the cowboys reached a broad audience and many of their successful ads depicting cowboys smoking in a natural environment while engaging in many activities were reflected in their success to appeal to a male audience. 

However, for their campaigns to achieve this level of success worldwide, their ads took full advantage of many rhetorical elements such as; visual elements, textual message and symbolism.

Marketing Strategy Of Marlboro - Marlboro Man

Perhaps, “Marlboro Man” is one of the most successful marketing campaigns of the 20th century. Marlboro’s efforts to appeal to the male audience spanned the iconic brand image of the “American cowboy” that even today we associate with cigarettes. Ultimately, the cowboy served as a masculine trademark and helped establish Marlboro as the best-selling cigarette brand in the world. 

Despite the many health concerns from smoking that emerged during their campaigns, Marlboro was able to attract many customers through its iconic advertisements. This ad in particular is a perfect example of how many rhetorical elements such as visual, linguistic and symbolism were blended to create an image that is iconic and persuasive. Even after smoking advertisements were officially banned, the “Marlboro Cowboy” ads left behind a legacy that is masculine and controversial.

Social Media Marketing

Marlboro is not active on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. The reason is, that the tobacco industry and cigarette promotions are banned by the government for direct promotion through social media platforms, instead, cigarette manufacturing companies are allowed to promote products indirectly such as Marlboro which introduced the advertisement the “Marlboro Cowboy”.

Direct promotion of tobacco products from social media platforms can lead to a boost in the sales of cigarettes and ultimately cause instant surprise in health-related issues. 

SEO Strategies

sMarketing Strategy Of Marlboro - eo

As per SEO ranking, it is said that the number of keywords – below 500 is bad, above 1000 is good, and 10,000+ is amazing. As we can see that www.marlboro.com has 26 organic keywords and it’s considered as bad. That means the digital marketing of Marlboro is gaining a bad number of insights. 

Also, the traffic per month is around 6 which is not good in terms of SEO. Hence, Marlboro still needs improvements in its SEO strategies while working hard enough to keep the brand soaring in the Google organic SERP results.

Influencer Marketing

Marketing Strategy Of Marlboro - Influencer

Marlboro is well known for its collaboration with motor racing especially Formula One racing where the clothing of the Ferrari team was completely done by Marlboro. Similarly, it was also the strong sponsor of other racing sequences like the Superbike world championship and Grand Prix motorcycle racing.

Marlboro has collaborated with the motor racing team since the start. From the 1972 season with the sponsorship of Formula One team BRM. 

  • Marlboro sponsored the Arrows F1 team in 1994. 
  • Marlboro sponsored the EuroBrun team in 1988. 
  • Marlboro sponsored the Fittipaldi Automotive team in 1981
  • Marlboro sponsored the Forti F1 team in 1995 and 1996
  • Marlboro sponsored the Merzario team from 1977 until the team’s collapse in 1979. 
  • Marlboro sponsored the Minardi team in 1995.

Also, Marlboro collaborates with various celebrities for promotion and marketing on TV commercials, billboards, templates etc. and more. The one and only Marlboro man – Mr Bob Norris is one of the biggest influencers and has graced thousands of billboards and magazine ads, always with a Marlboro cigarette. One amazing fact is that Bob Norris himself never smoked.

E-Commerce Strategies

In talking about the e-commerce strategies Marlboro has its website which is restricted to users below the age of 21 years. Only registered users approved by Marlboro who are a smoker 21 years of age or older are allowed to access the website content.

Content Marketing Strategies

Marlboro releases its product via various traditional marketing sources such as banners, sponsorship, celebrity collaborations, etc. They don’t get involved in social media or blog writings. Marlboro products are meant to be sold directly through traditional channels.

This ends the elaborative marketing strategy of Marlboro. Let us conclude our learning below from the marketing strategy of Marlboro.

Digital Marketing Academic Challenge 2024 - DMAC

Conclusion – What’s unique in Marlboro Marketing?

In the marketing strategy of Marlboro, we saw that Marlboro is gaining love and support from all the places in the world. The uniqueness of being the world’s premium brand has lessened the competition for them. Though Marlboro lacks in its digital marketing methods, it is still trying to evolve and grow in the digital sector.

As we all know, digital marketing has taken a drastic change because of pandemics that affected every business. Digital marketing is crucial since it links a company with its clients when they are online and is effective across all sectors. It links businesses with ideal consumers through SEO and PPC on Google, social media marketing, and email marketing. If you would like to learn more and develop skills, check out IIDE’s 4-Month Digital Marketing Course to learn more.

Alternatively, you can enrol in one of our free online masterclasses led by IIDE’s CEO, Karan Shah, to gain insight into the field of digital marketing. 

We hope this blog on the marketing strategy of Marlboro has given you a good insight into the company’s marketing strategies.

If you like such in-depth analysis of companies just like the marketing strategy of Marlboro check out our IIDE Knowledge portal for more fascinating case studies.

Thank you for taking the time to read the marketing strategy of Marlboro, and do share your thoughts on this case study marketing strategy of Marlboro in the comments section below.

Share post via

Aditya Shastri

Lead Trainer & Head of Learning & Development at IIDE

Leads the Learning & Development segment at IIDE. He is a Content Marketing Expert and has trained 6000+ students and working professionals on various topics of Digital Marketing. He has been a guest speaker at prominent colleges in India including IIMs......[Read full bio]


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Posts