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How Philip Morris built Marlboro into a global brand for young adults: implications for international tobacco control
  1. N Hafez,
  2. P M Ling
  1. Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Pamela M Ling
 MD, MPH, Box 0320, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143-0320, USA;


Objective: To describe Philip Morris’ global market research and international promotional strategies targeting young adults.

Methods: : Analysis of previously secret tobacco industry documents.

Results: Philip Morris pursued standardised market research and strategic marketing plans in different regions throughout the world using research on young adults with three principle foci: lifestyle/psychographic research, brand studies, and advertising/communication effectiveness. Philip Morris identified core similarities in the lifestyles and needs of young consumers worldwide, such as independence, hedonism, freedom, and comfort. In the early 1990s Philip Morris adopted standardised global marketing efforts, creating a central advertising production bank and guidelines for brand images and promotions, but allowing regional managers to create regionally appropriate individual advertisements.

Conclusions: Values and lifestyles play a central role in the global marketing of tobacco to young adults. Worldwide counter marketing initiatives, coupled with strong, coherent global marketing policies such as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, are needed to break associations between young adult values and tobacco brands. As globalisation promotes the homogenisation of values and lifestyles, tobacco control messages that resonate with young adults in one part of the world may appeal to young adults in other countries. Successful tobacco control messages that appeal to young people, such as industry denormalisation, may be expanded globally with appropriate tailoring to appeal to regional values.

  • MISTA, Marlboro International Study for Testing and Advertising
  • MWCRC, Marlboro Worldwide Creative Review Committee
  • YAMS, young adult male smoker
  • advertising
  • globalisation
  • young adult
  • corporate documents

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  • This work was supported by the Minority Training Program in Cancer Control Research, National Cancer Institute, grant #R25CA78583 and National Cancer Institute Grant number CA-87472

  • Competing interests: none declared