Great Marlborough Street was named in honour of distinguished soldier and statesman John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. But his name has become a byword for rocky canyons, dramatic sunsets, rugged mountains and manly imagery known as the ’Marlboro Men’.
Philip Morris opened a shop in London’s Bond Street in 1847, selling tobacco and rolled cigarettes.
[I]n the 1890s on a site behind the London Palladium in Great Marlborough Street Philip Morris set up a factory to supply cigarettes for his shop. Upon Mr. Morris death, ironically from lung cancer, his wife Margaret and his brother Leopold took care of the business. The company had a range of products named after London streets including Cambridge and Derby (also named after titles conferred on the nobility) so the choice of Marlborough for another brand seemed an obvious one.
However Marlborough didn’t look too good on the packet so ‘ugh’ was lopped off to make Marlboro.
The brand was launched in 1924 and targeted at women using the strap line ‘Mild as May’. There was a red band around the filter to stop lipstick stains and when sold in America the company highlighted the brand’s Englishness.
Health scares in the 1950s prompted the company to promote these filtered cigarettes (also helping profitability by using lower grade tobacco and less of it) but the public still saw them as products for women.
In 1954 American marketing gurus got hold of the brand and in Marlboro Man and Marlboro Country created one of the greatest marketing successes in history, the new cowboy image was introduced and the sales skyrocketed by 5,000 per cent.
Initially, commercials involving the Marlboro Man featured paid models pretending to carry out cowboy tasks but it was felt they just didn’t have the right degree of ruggedness and so were dropped in favour of the real McCoy.
After using a number of authentic cowboys they came across Darrell Winfield whose authenticity led to his 20-year run as the Marlboro Man, which lasted until the late 1980s. Upon Winfield’s retirement, Philip Morris reportedly spent $300 million searching for a new Marlboro Man.
By the year 2000, four in every 10 cigarettes puffed across the globe were Marlboro.
As a footnote three Marlboro men – Wayne McLaren, David McLean and Dick Hammer – died of lung cancer, thus earning Marlboro cigarettes the nickname ‘Cowboy killers’. After developing lung cancer in 1990, Wayne McLaren became an anti-smoking crusader citing his 30-year smoking habit as the cause of his cancer. During the time of McLaren’s anti-smoking activism, Philip Morris denied that McLaren ever appeared in a Marlboro ad.
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