Marketing Lessons from a 43 Year Old Magazine Ad

I was cleaning out my 86-year-old Dad’s office.  He broke his leg and needed more room.  And did I find treasures!  Magazines!  Or more accurately, magazine ads!

lifecoversmlI dove into the ads from a Life Magazine from 1966 and, as you can imagine, had a good laugh. 

But I was also surprised at how similar, once you get past the hair styles, the advertising approaches of then and now are.  One of two approaches: lifestyle; or feature/function/benefit.  And what we can learn, or, what we can remind ourselves about good and not-so-good advertising.

That’s Ian Fleming, author of the Jame Bond books, on the cover.

I want to compare two cigarette ads: Winston, an established brand at that time, number one or maybe number two after Marlboro; and Lark, a less established brand fighting for market share.  It appears they both are competing on taste.  That’s right folks, in 1966 cigarettes tasted good!  And as you’ll see, added to the fun. . .if you smoked Winston, that is.

And okay, quick, complete the Winston slogan: Winston tastes good, like. . . .?

winstonadvsmlIt tastes good like a cigarette should.  All Americans over 50 know that slogan cold.  It was drilled into our heads.  Spaced repetition.  That was the underlying strategy of all advertising in the 50s, 60s and into the 70s.  Beat the crap out of your target audience with your slogan and they will recall your product when they’re buying your soap/soda/fast food, etc.

larkadvsmlCompare the Winston ad to the Lark ad (the Lark ad was back outside cover of the same magazine).  Winston’s ad was very likely what I call a defensive ad; an ad aimed at Winston smokers, reminding them how much fun it is to smoke Winston.  And hey, those people sure do look like they’re having fun, right?  Simple (Headline: Flavor that goes with fun, followed by a bit of supporting copy and the subhead: Winston tastes good. . .like a cigarette should).

The Lark ad struggles to demonstrate why they have good taste too (Subhead: Taste the good things that happen to smoke filtered through charcoal granules).  We all know ads with people in them work better than those without.  The Lark ad takes a feature/function/benefit approach, and needs to.  At least that’s my guess, as they were very likely new to the game and competing against a much more established Winston.  At a minimum, they were a tiny brand compared to Winston.

I have to say both ads are pretty good examples.  Winston: flavor, fun, happy people, stick with us, don’t switch.  Lark: you may not read the whole ad, but their FILTER and FLAVOR are very connected.

Does one cigarette taste better than another?  Can you tell Coke from Pepsi?  Bud Lite from Miller Lite?  No, no and no.  But brands had to give customers reasons to justify their lifestyle choices.  I identify with Winston, I’m a Winston smoker, so, uh, yeah, I like Winston’s taste better. 

So what about you?  If you are a market leader, do you have some defending to do?  If you are the Lark cigarette of your industry, are you giving customers enough reason to switch from the leader?

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