As a small group of three we were tasked to analyse an assigned image, our groups is pictured above, using two of the four critical approaches taught to us in our lectures which are as follows; material culture analysis, historical analysis, feminist theory and queer theory. We had to analyse the image by thinking about how that figure represents masculinity.
Lady With a Mouthpiece Cigarette
What our group discovered about Marlboro brand is that initially it was advertised towards women as Marlboro were selling filtered cigarettes. However their advertising strategy changed after a major report was published in the early 1950s linking smoking to lung cancer. To combat the decline in cigarette sales many brands began promoting their cigarettes as safer than others, and quickly filtered cigarettes were perceived as the safest. However men were still reluctant to buy Marlboro filtered cigarettes as they were still seen as feminine.
Created by the advertising executive Leo Burnett, the Marlboro man advertisements were used from 1954 to 1999 in the US. These adverts included archetypal masculine characters, primarily cowboys, with a Marlboro cigarette. Cowboys at the time were popular and a symbol of masculinity, and within a year the brands market shares went from less to 1% to 4th best selling brand. Later on they stepped away from using actors and began to use real working cowboys seen preforming their working tasks, by 1972 Marlboro was the leading brand in the cigarette industry.
The reason the Marlboro Man was so successful was due to him representing masculinity and the values related to it. He was tough, self sufficient, hardworking and rugged, and stood for reason, independence and liberty, which were all values associated with cowboys at the time. By depicting this character smoking Marlboro cigarettes these traits are imbued into the product and sales rose as men purchased these cigarettes due to their desire to also be seen possessing these traits.
Due to our research we discovered that the material culture analysis and feminist theory perfectly suited each other as the branding of the product was changed from feminine to masculine through the use of cowboys which were idolised in popular culture during that time period. As a result of this we presented our material culture analysis and feminist theory analysis not as two separate categories but as one fluid analysis.
The feedback we received was very positive, our seminar tutor was impressed with how our research dictated what approaches we chose and how we decided to present our findings as one fluid piece and not as two separate approaches. She did however suggest we analyse the images themselves more, for example what visual signifiers are present in the images that help to back up our findings.