Bite-size Case Study

Building global brands: a visual hammer

Published on November 30, 2020 Originally recorded 2014   2 min
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Finding a visual hammer helps a brand compensate for language differences. Take Marlboro cigarettes. Before Marlboro was launched, there were five strong cigarette brands on the market: Lucky Strike, Winston, Camel, Chesterfield, and Philip Morris. All of these cigarette brands were unisex, meaning they were trying to appeal to both men and women in their marketing. Here's a Lucky Strike ad. "Just one more." I think they're talking about the cigarettes. Here again, you see they're appealing to both men and women. Here's Fred Astaire with his sister, Adele. So what did Marlboro do? First, they narrowed the focus to men only. They didn't market to women. They said, "This is a man's cigarette." But you see, that wouldn't have worked. The focus alone wasn't enough. It wouldn't have worked without the added visual hammer. You see, a visual hammer isn't just any old visual. It's a visual that communicates an idea and your position and your focus. For Marlboro, the man's cigarette? Well, nothing more manly than a cowboy. That's the visual hammer that Marlboro has used for decades. Of course, this visual hammer is powerful not just in America but around the world, and it doesn't need any translation. The cowboy is a global symbol of American masculinity and the brand Marlboro. How successful was this cigarette targeted at cowboys? Well, today, Marlboro is the world's best-selling cigarette. It outsells the number two brand, Winston, by 130 percent.