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Into the black: Marlboro brand architecture, packaging and marketing communication of relative harm
  1. Timothy Dewhirst
  1. Department of Marketing and Consumer Studies, University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Professor Timothy Dewhirst, Department of Marketing and Consumer Studies, College of Business and Economics, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada; dewhirst{at}

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In 2008, Philip Morris International (PMI) launched a new global brand architecture for Marlboro, which involved establishing three Marlboro brand families known as Red (centred on flavour), Gold (based on contemporary style with contrasting diameters and taste profiles) and Fresh (being mentholated and dubbed as ‘refreshing taste sensations’). The new brand architecture includes Marlboro brand variants being offered in black-coloured cigarette packages. For example, as part of the Marlboro Fresh product line, Marlboro Black Menthol was launched in Japan during 2008, and soon thereafter offered in several additional markets, including Indonesia and the Philippines.1 According to PMI’s 2008 annual report, Marlboro Black Menthol was launched ‘to deliver a cigarette with a bold, long-lasting, high-cooling sensation in a striking black pack. The brand’s boldness is represented by a strong black stallion in motion, the main element of the communication campaign’ (figure 1).2 Additional Marlboro offerings from the Fresh pillar include Ice Blast and W-Burst (also launched in Japan), Blue Ice (launched in Brazil), as well as Kretek Mint and Black Freeze (launched in Mexico, where the company possesses over 80% of the menthol segment). By 2011, PMI had developed over 220 new or redesigned brand variants for Marlboro, with Marlboro Fresh variants available in more than 90 markets.1 3–5

Figure 1

When Marlboro Black Menthol was launched in Japan, marketing communication for the brand depicted a strong black stallion in motion. The brand’s marketing communication in Indonesia and the Philippines also featured a black stallion.

The use of brand extensions or variants has facilitated tobacco companies such as PMI to ably position and create the perception that some cigarettes are healthier versions of …

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