We all know how popular cigarette smoking was from the 1930s to just about a few decades ago, but there was one cigarette company who thought that fashion and clothing was so popular it could definitely sell cigarettes.
Marlboro Cigarettes founded in 1924 was a major cigarette company during these years. Originally marketed as “Americas luxury cigarette” it was sold primarily in exclusive high end resorts and hotels. Like all cigarette companies at that time their target customer was women and in the early 30’s and 40s their advertising was featured heavily in all the major women’s magazines. Their ads in Vogue magazine during the 1940’s are especially interesting.
Their ads consistently conveyed an air of refinement and luxury that was personified by the elegant illustrations of acclaimed artist Joseph Bolegard. I became really curious when I came across a photo ad in Vogue advertising Marlboro’s new bright red…yes red ‘fashion tips’. (shown on cover page).
With a little research I found out that Phillip Morris the company which owned Marlboro had teamed up with Revlon to create the red tips as a tie-in to Revlon’s newest lip and nail polish shade the ‘The Scarlet Slipper’. The tips were perfectly matched to the lipstick, so women wouldn’t have to worry about leaving unattractive lip stains on their cigarettes! Marlboro cleverly advertised them as “Beauty Tips to Keep the Paper from your Lips” since cigarettes at that time had either cut raw edges or overlaid paper tips at the top edge. Marlboro continued to offer their cigarettes with both ivory (which were available since the 1930’s) and red tips well into the 1940’s until they changed their marketing strategy in the early 50’s.
Marlboro also sponsored a fashion clothing line shown in a three page fashion spread that appeared in the September 1942 issue of Vogue. The styles were in the popular Marlboro Silhouette – Cigarette Slim of course, and colors were mostly neutral tones of tobacco brown, Marlboro brown, and tobacco leaf green. The ads however make no mention of the maker or the label under which the clothes were sold. Prices were not noted on any of the ads,
Much like the Cinema Fashions of the 1930s, the styles according to the photo copy were available in only “one fine store in each city”. Stores mentioned include Bonwit Teller (NYC), Neiman Marcus (Dallas), I Magnin (San Francisco) and Marshall Field (Chicago).
By the late 1940s Marlboro was facing some serious financial problems, sales were low and the government’s findings in the early 1950s that cigarettes smoking could actually cause cancer was a growing concern across the country. Hoping to broaden their customer base and increase sales Marlboro shifted their marketing strategy to focus primarily on men. Strong rugged men from all walks of life gradually led to the appearance of the Marlboro Man the rugged outdoor cowboy personified in their ads of the 1960’s.