A Lesson About Branding Your Fund From The “Cowboy Killer”


Remember the ‘Marlboro Man? It’s been a while since we last saw him ride into the sunset - such advertising was banned in the USA during the Nixon era in 1970. Many other countries followed suit; by the late 1990s you’d have trouble finding a Marlboro Man billboard anywhere in the world. While there’s been strong evidence of health-related diseases, and decades since the last ad was aired on TV, there’s a good lesson to be learned from the ‘Marlboro Man’ campaigns, also known as the ‘Cowboy Killer’.

When the Marlboro Man was first conceived in 1954, the company had owned <1% of market share. But it recognized two things:

1. Brand loyalty in the industry was extremely high

2. It was important to distract the consumer of risks associated with the product

Most companies then were marketing like this:


The Marlboro Man, however, was a trailblazer in its era with its Lifestyle Marketing Approach. When you think Lifestyle Marketing, think: Energy Drinks (i.e. Redbull) & athleticism, or action cameras (i.e. GoPro) & adventure. People weren’t (and still aren’t!) interested in hearing about fact-based, research-driven information. They simply don’t care [enough] about just the facts.

People don’t want to hear about fact-based marketing and research-based statistics. They aren’t convinced [enough] about just facts alone; people are invested into a product because of its attributes, and the conviction of the team behind the product.

By introducing the Marlboro Man, the company bypassed anything to do with facts around the product itself, but rather, promoted the attributes of freedom and hard work that the average person off the street wanted to be associated with. Within months, it went from a <1% market share company to the 4th best-selling brand in the USA. By 1958 (4 years after the campaign launch), it was the world’s #1 brand and has stayed in top spot since then.

While advertising has been banned for good reason, it’s worth remembering why that brand - and ad campaign - is etched so deeply in people’s minds, so many decades since it was last seen on television. People don’t want to be sold a product; they want to be a part of something they feel a connection with. Something they feel whose attributes resonates with theirs, and something that they believe in. Try marketing outside of the usual talk - facts only sell up to an extent.

By Alan Chu

March 2019Alan Chu