Marlboro is far and away the world's best-known and biggest-selling cigarette, with a huge global presence and retail sales still well in excess of $40bn, even after tax. Ownership is split primarily between what are now two entirely separate companies: Philip Morris USA and Philip Morris International. Ironically, as the tobacco industry comes under ever more intense regulatory pressure, and as cigarette volumes steadily decline, Marlboro is still going from strength to strength at least in terms of market share. Somehow the brand has retained a uniquely distinct marketing message, even though worldwide regulation makes that message virtually impossible to convey. With the exception of Camel, it is virtually impossible to name any other cigarette which has any form of defined brand, though even that image is now gradually being eradicated by uniform unbranded packaging. In its home territory, more than four out of every ten cigarettes smoked is a Marlboro. Volumes were 88.9bn cigarettes in 2020, equivalent to 43% market share. (At an average price of $8 for a single 20-cigarette pack that's a gross retail value of around $35bn in the US alone, or approx $27bn net). Michael Brace is general manager of the Marlboro brand at Philip Morris USA. That dominance is mirrored to a lesser extent in just about every other territory the brand is marketed. Internationally, Marlboro accounts for more than a third of PMI's total unit sales - 233bn cigarettes in 2020 - and more than twice the volumes of the next two brands combined. (At an average price of $4 for a single 20-cigarette pack that's a gross retail value of around $47bn, or approx $18bn net of excise). The Marlboro brand accounted for one out of every 10 cigarettes sold internationally (excluding the US and China) in 2018, and almost one in five in Europe. Significantly, PMI also now markets heated tobacco units for its IQOS smoke-free platform under the Marlboro brand, in addition to its traditional cigarettes. Marlboro may now be the quintessential American brand, but it has its roots in Britain, where Philip Morris first began making cigarettes in the 1850s. It was first introduced in the US in the 1920s as a cigarette for women, but failed to make any head way against leading local brands like Lucky Strike and Chesterfields. Ad agency Leo Burnett was invited to make one last attempt to save the brand in the mid-1950s, repositioning it as the brand for a rugged "man's man", with ads featuring tatooed sailors and cowboys. These proved an extraordinary success, causing sales to soar. Within a decade, Marlboro was transformed from a no-hoper on the verge of extinction to America's top-selling brand.
Capsule checked 31st March 2021
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Historical profile information for Marlboro
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