Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Chasing the Young and Stupid

Pity those poor executives over at Phillip Morris USA, makers of Marlboro cigarettes. They have a "millennial problem," since 85% of young adults these days don't smoke. What to do, what to do? First, they've got to ignore the following facts:  

1. The main cause of small cell and non-small cell lung cancer is cigarette smoking, which accounts for 80 to 90% of lung cancer deaths in women and men, respectively.

2. From 2005 to 2010, an average of 130,659 Americans died of smoking-attributable lung cancer each year. An estimated 158,080 more will die from it by the end of 2016. 

3. Nonsmokers have a 20 to 30% greater chance of developing lung cancer when exposed to secondhand smoke. Such exposure causes approximately 7,330 deaths annually.

"What, me worry?"
Done! In fact, an article in today's Wall Street Journal celebrates the fact that Marlboro cigarettes are on the rise again, after a long decline. Since most of the smoking baby boomers are either already dead or on the way, dragging those oxygen tanks around airports and train stations as punishment for years of self-abuse, the target audience is millennials and they have finally been reached! The problem was that young people couldn't relate to that old cowboy image of the Marlboro Reds, so some brilliant marketing execs came up with a "bold, modern take" on the packaging (of the poison). They switched the color of the box to black and voila! -- the new kids ate it up. Marlboro Blacks are now that generation's top choice in coffin nails, responding to the trendy images of tattoos, black jeans and motorcycles in all advertising and direct mail pieces.

Whew, that's a relief, because God forbid a million times the makers of Marlboros should go out of business. Quite the contrary, the new branding has helped Marlboro reach an all-time high of the market share. Marketing executives eager to make money off of the addiction abound: For example, in the city of Atlanta they are pushing the product by dispensing coupons for $1 packs at popular underground dance clubs and neighborhood taverns frequented by their target audience. "It's making Marlboro relevant again," said one elated business analyst who apparently lacks a soul.

The ubiquitous tobacco company suffered a setback years ago when several of their top spokesmen, handsome models like Wayne McLaren who appeared as the hunky, sexy, tough "Marlboro Man" living out on the range, wild and free, began suffering from lung disease and making commercials about the dangers of smoking. According to Wikipedia, "In one such TV spot, images of the handsome young Wayne McLaren in a Stetson hat are juxtaposed with shots of his withered form in a hospital bed just prior to his death." And as recently as 2014,  Eric Lawson, another television actor who appeared in Marlboro advertisements between 1978 to 1981, died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) at the age of 72. Like McLaren, Lawson had started smoking early and then later publicized the dangers of smoking in an anti-smoking commercial, which apparently impacted lots of potential smokers but no cigarette producers or tobacco farmers.

So now all those fresh-faced millennials who think the new Marlboro Black box is "cool" are slowly destroying their still-pink and healthy young lungs, unaware or simply uncaring that another, entirely different kind of black box awaits them years from now.

1 comment:

  1. A brilliant read, today, and a blog that begs a wider audience... That black box awaits us all, but the cool marketing gurus at Philip Morris remind us that the lifespan of some companies can be longer than for some people

    ReplyDelete