History of Marlboro Reds cigarettes?
September 3, 2011 7:41 AM   Subscribe

What is the branded history of the Marlboro Red cigarette? I am contemplating the history of marketing to women right now, and I am especially interested to know if the "Red" branding of today goes back to when the cigarettes had red filters to blend with lipsticks. Are they "Reds" of today called such because of the red packaging, the processing of the tobacco, the historical marketing to women, or something else entirely? It would be especially interesting to me if these cigarettes, which are hyper-masculine today, are direct descendants of a quintessentially feminine product.
posted by mortaddams to Society & Culture (13 answers total)
As I remember it, they weren't actually called Reds until Marlboro 100s hit the market (late 60s, early 70s) in similar but gold packaging. Initially they were called regualrs and longs but eventually became Reds and Golds.
posted by buggzzee23 at 7:51 AM on September 3, 2011

To my knowledge, and from what I recall working as a supermarket clerk who often worked the customer service desk and fetched cigarettes for people, they're simply called "reds" after the box--it's not actually a branded name, as you can see just by looking at the box. Those in the red box are simply "Marlboros" officially.

The wikipedia article you link to gives a basic run-down of how the brand started as a women's brand generally, but that's not something unique to Marlboro reds.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:55 AM on September 3, 2011

And thenm there was Virginia Slims, which I believe was aimed at females.
posted by Postroad at 8:01 AM on September 3, 2011

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marlboro_%28cigarette%29

They were a women's cigarette to start, but changed when sent to soldiers during WWII (thus addicting a new generation).
posted by Riverine at 8:06 AM on September 3, 2011

The red is "trade dress" largely, now what we would call "brand identity"; it's an association that's been built since the 1950s, apparently, with the shift in marketing towards men and the creation of the "macho" cigarette. That was a big step in evolution from the early red or white tips, so they say. ("Tips" were not filters; cigarettes did not have filters then, not until, really, the 1950s.) There's a decent amount of literature on this history if you hit the library.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:15 AM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I smoked Marlboros for 20 years, and never heard or used the term "red" until differently-colored packages came out, and it became the easiest way to identify which sort of Marlboro you wanted.

They're being marketed mainly to women now? That wasn't the case back in the 70's and 80's when I was dumb enough to smoke them, so if they are, that's a relatively (in decade terms) evolution.
posted by tyllwin at 8:46 AM on September 3, 2011

Not that you asked, but don't forget the "reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet" campaign.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:23 AM on September 3, 2011

I worked for Philip Morris Asia for a couple of years in the 90's. It is amazing how powerful the Marlboro branding is. Whenever a country would implement an cigarette advertising ban - Marlboro sales and market share would rocket upwards as the branding was so indelibly imprinted into the culture. I cannot overstate how much effort and money went into building and protecting the Marlboro brand.

The Marlboro men were real live cowboys - the company sponsored and paid for a horse ranch, and four times a year (each season) - an advertising team would head up and build a photo campaign.

The formulation for the cigarette flavor was a crazy top secret - apparently only known to 2 or 3 people. A person with a metal suitcase containing canisters of flavoring would arrive at the factory during a production run by helicopter - insert the canisters, wipe down the machine - and immediately leave with the empty canisters. No one else was allowed to touch or handle the canisters.
posted by helmutdog at 9:40 AM on September 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

The Marlboro Man 1954-1962.

During the early 1950’s there were six filter cigarettes on the market: Winston, Kent, L&M, Viceroy, Tareyton and Parliament. Many American men considered filter tips effeminate, and together, these six brands totaled just 10% of all cigarette sales. Philip Morris had been making their non-filter tipped "Mild as May" Marlboro since 1924. The brand name had been picked from early trademarks that the original English firm had registered. Marlborough and Poland streets was the location of the first Philip Morris factory in London. In 1936 a red ‘beauty’ tip, meant to hide those tell tale lip stick smears, was added to the line. This "beauty tip" line extension was advertised with the slogan: "to match your lips and fingertips." Men thought Marlboro a brand for women or sissies, and in 1954 sales were less than one quarter of one percent–a brand with a dim future. With little to lose, Philip Morris decided to name a new filter tip cigarette Marlboro. Beginning May 1954, Marlboro with a recessed "selectrate filter" was test-marketed in Texas. etc
posted by infini at 10:07 AM on September 3, 2011

Actually in Israel, all "regular" (as opposed to "light") cigarettes still have orange filters, including Marlboro reds.
posted by alon at 10:36 AM on September 3, 2011

RJ Reynolds replying to this post is slightly eponysterical!

Anecdata: I worked in a supermarket cigarette kiosk in the 1980s in England, and everybody -- male or female -- asked for Marlboro Reds if they meant the regular Marlboro, Marlboro Lights for the gold ones.
posted by vickyverky at 10:56 AM on September 3, 2011

The book, La Diva Nicotina, covers the history of cigarettes as a feminine product and their marketing and branding. Here's a bit about the history:

Prior to 1829, all the Fabrica's workers had been men, but these proved to be too clumsy and slow for cigar making. The Fabrica arrived at a solution by employing single women, whose fingers were nimbler and who would accept a lower wage than men with families to support.
The girls themselves did not smoke cigars but papelotes - the shredded tobacco wrapped in paper that was the favorite of Spain's poor. Papelotes were soon in vogue amongst visiting French writers, being a necessary part of their armoury of seduction. When these men returned to Paris, they carried papelotes with them where the device was renamed. Its new appellation is now the most commonly used French word on the planet: 'cigarette'.
In Britain, cigarette smoking was frowned upon as a 'miserable apology for a manly pleasure', a habit that might only appeal to the 'effeminate races of the continent'. The few social or public figures who smoked cigarettes did so to shock.
posted by hoppytoad at 11:21 AM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

In Britain, cigarette smoking was frowned upon as a 'miserable apology for a manly pleasure', a habit that might only appeal to the 'effeminate races of the continent'. The few social or public figures who smoked cigarettes did so to shock.

Anecdata: I'm a female smoker and back in my early twenties when my father figured it out, he requested me to never smoke in front of him. His reason was that in his generation only vamps and "bad women" smoked in the movies and such, that is, cigarette smoking was one way to communicate that this character was a "fallen" or "fast" woman. That conditioning stayed with him and so he did not wish to see his daughter smoke.
posted by infini at 11:48 AM on September 3, 2011

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