Who Was the Marlboro Man? Darrell Winfield Legacy

Who Was the Marlboro Man? Darrell Winfield Legacy

Last updated by Ori Adler on

The Marlboro Man advertising campaign was one of the most successful advertising campaigns in history. It changed the face of a cigarette company and, in a way, the entire industry. Almost anyone who has seen one of the classic ads still remembers it to this day. 

But who was the Marlboro Man? And why did the company make him the centerpiece of their campaign? Keep reading to find out more!

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Who Was the Marlboro Man? 

Who was the Marlboro Man? Well, there are really two answers to this question. One concerns the mascot, and the other concerns the real person behind the mascot. 

The Marlboro Man mascot was a character created by Marlboro cigarettes. He was designed to be the ideal image of what the people of the time saw as a manly man. This ideal image ended up taking the form of a rough cowboy. While some women were cowboys, the vast majority were men; thus, the image of a rough and tough man paired well with the image of a cowboy.

This rough cowboy, the Marlboro Man, would appear in advertisements for Marlboro cigarettes. He would often be shown smoking cigarettes while performing traditional ranching work. This included activities like working with his gear or riding a horse. In some ads, he would simply be depicted with a cigarette in his mouth and a classic cowboy hat on his head.

The real person representing the Marlboro Man was actually several people. As the ads ran for several decades, the person playing the Marlboro Man would change over time. 

However, the most notable Marlboro man was Darrell Winfield. He represented the Marlboro Man over the course of two decades and numerous different advertisements. When many people think of the Marlboro Man, Darrell Windfield's image comes to mind.

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Marlboro Man Origins

So, why did the Marlboro cigarette company create the Marlboro Man? And why did they take the direction they ended up taking?

The Marlboro Man campaign was born from the cigarette company's desire to sell more filtered cigarettes to men. At the time, filtered cigarettes were primarily consumed by women. This is because they were marketed as being lighter and healthier than their counterparts, despite the fact that filtered cigarettes are not actually healthier

Marlboro wanted to change this image. So, they decided to fight the stereotype of women smoking filtered cigarettes by casting a manly man as the centerpiece of their new ad campaign.

How Darrell Winfield Became the Marlboro Man 

The campaign started like any other advertising campaign would start, by casting actors in the role. People who looked the part were hired to play the role of the Marlboro Man. However, the company was disappointed with the results. They felt that the actors didn't fit the role well enough because they weren't authentic enough. They didn't like the fact that they were filming and taking pictures of actors rather than real cowboys.

So, they went out in search of someone far more authentic. Eventually, they came across Darrell Winfield. Winfield wasn't an actor and, instead, was someone who actually worked on a ranch. He was about as authentic as you could get and was even more authentic while wearing the best cowboy hats. He also looked the part and, thus, was exactly what the company was looking for.

The initial reactions from the company were incredibly positive. Winfield almost fit the bill too well, as the creative director at the time found him so tough that he stated that Winfield "scared the hell" out of him. With a reaction like that, it is no wonder that Marlboro chose him to represent their idea of tough masculinity.

From that point, Winfield became the face of the Marlboro Man. He held that position for 20 years and became the most recognizable Marlboro Man in the company's history. 

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The Legacy of the Marlboro Man

At the time, the Marlboro Man campaign was incredibly successful. It created an immediate surge in the popularity of Marlboro's products. Before too long, they had become one of the most successful cigarette companies.

This lasted for decades. Even as different men took on the role of the Marlboro Man, the campaign proved successful.

However, things started to change over time. People became more aware of the damage posed by cigarettes. To make matters worse, at least five of the men who represented the Marlboro Man died of smoking-related illnesses. The Marlboro Man started to be associated with death and sickness, and Marlboro cigarettes got the nickname "cowboy killers."

Laws regulating cigarette advertising became more prominent. Eventually, the entire advertising campaign started to fade away.

The Marlboro Man's Place In Cowboy Culture

While the Marlboro Man has a unique place in the history of cigarettes and advertising, the figure also has a unique place in the history of people's fascination with the wild west. This is particularly true in the case of Darrell Winfield.

This primarily comes from Winfield's authenticity. His story of going from a simple rancher to the figurehead of a multi-million dollar advertising campaign reflects the "rags to riches" story held within the American Dream. As this theme is also an essential part of the development of the wild west, it is clear to see where these concepts create a mental connection.

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The Marlboro Man was also an element that helped create more interest in cowboy culture. The wild west always held allure in American life. However, seeing Marlboro's advertisements on a regular basis brought that culture everywhere.

This popularity has reached a point where, nowadays, everyone can appreciate cowboy culture. While it was traditionally viewed as being a manly thing, women play a big part in a modern rodeo, and cowboy hats for women are incredibly popular. Now, if you see someone wearing a cowboy hat, they don't look out of place at all, no matter where they are headed.

Who Was the Marlboro Man? 

The Marlboro Man was a successful advertising figure created by the Marlboro cigarette company. The Marlboro Man was also a real person whose image lives on through the fame created by this campaign. Both figures form an important piece in the history of advertising, tobacco, and wild west culture.

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