Made For a Man Or a Woman? An Exploratory Comparison of Virginia Slims Advertising in the United States and Korea

EXTENDED ABSTRACT - Virginia Slims is a popular cigarette brand produced by New York-based Altria (parent company of Philip Morris), which is the largest tobacco firm in the world. By analyzing trade press and internal tobacco industry documents publicly accessible as a result of American court proceedings, a case study is provided of Virginia Slims brand marketing, in which comparisons are made between the brand’s American- and Korean-based print advertising platforms.



Citation:

Timothy Dewhirst and Wonkyong Beth Lee (2005) ,"Made For a Man Or a Woman? An Exploratory Comparison of Virginia Slims Advertising in the United States and Korea", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6, eds. Yong-Uon Ha and Youjae Yi, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 136.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6, 2005      Page 136

MADE FOR A MAN OR A WOMAN? AN EXPLORATORY COMPARISON OF VIRGINIA SLIMS ADVERTISING IN THE UNITED STATES AND KOREA

Timothy Dewhirst, University of Saskatchewan, Canada

Wonkyong Beth Lee, University of Waterloo, Canada

EXTENDED ABSTRACT -

Virginia Slims is a popular cigarette brand produced by New York-based Altria (parent company of Philip Morris), which is the largest tobacco firm in the world. By analyzing trade press and internal tobacco industry documents publicly accessible as a result of American court proceedings, a case study is provided of Virginia Slims brand marketing, in which comparisons are made between the brand’s American- and Korean-based print advertising platforms.

The late 1960s are regarded as a defining period for the proliferation of women’s niche cigarette brands and a corresponding increase in smoking prevalence among young American women (Pierce, Lee, and Gilpin 1994; Pierce and Gilpin 1995). Philip Morris’ Virginia Slims was introduced to the American marketplace in 1968, whereby "slims" represented a supposedly new product development (i.e., a reduced-circumference cigarette). Initial advertising campaigns during the late 1960s included the statements, "Now there’s even a cigarette for women only" and "This is the slim cigarette made just for women Tailored slimmer than the fat cigarettes men smoke." The slogan, "You’ve come a long way, baby" was launched at a time when women’s liberation was entering the American consciousness. The tagline remained relevant and in use until the mid-1990s, when it finally gave way to "It’s a woman thing." Market research shows that the typical Virginia Slims smoker in te United States is a woman between the ages of 18 and 34 (Roper Research Associates 1970; Holbert 1981; Princiotta 1981). The 1980 Cigarette Tracking Study, for example, revealed that 93% of Virginia Slims smokers were women, with 63% between the ages of 18 and 34. The most pronounced overrepresentation was within the 18-24 age segment (Princiotta 1981).

Virginia Slims was introduced to the South Korean market in 1988. This seemingly late market entry reflected that foreign cigarettes were banned in Korea until the mid-1980s (Sesser 1993). Undoubtedly, Philip Morris viewed their entry into Korea as a great market opportunity. During a 1989 Philip Morris Corporate Affairs speech in New York, John Dollison stated that, "U.S. cigarette exports to Asia account for close to 70% of our volume and 97% of our profits. Furthermore, future growth is likely to come from export markets such as Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Thailand" (p.2500101312). Philip Morris faced an interesting dilemma, however, with respect to the brand’s positioning; smoking prevalence among Korean men is 65%, while it is 5% among women (Mackay and Eriksen 2002). Moreover, by voluntary code, cigarette advertisements cannot be directed toward women in South Korea, and women are not allowed to be shown smoking in the promotions (Shafey, Dolwick, and Guindon 2003). Consequently, Philip Morris appears to be engaging an extreme makeover strategy for the positioning of Virginia Slims in Korea. That is, the brand’s advertising is seemingly targeted toward Korean men rather than women. Several Korean advertisements proclaim, "Virginia Slims: The cigarette for the successful man" (Cho 1997), and the advertisements commonly depict male models and circulate in magazines that have a predominantly male readership.

Our findings reveal that, unlike other markets, Virginia Slims is first and foremost a male brand in Korea (i.e., 94% of Virginia Slims consumers are male, while 6% are female), and the brand largely appeals to males who are older, health-conscious, and possess an above average income (Philip Morris 1993). This contradictory positioning appears to reflect differences in cultural values and regulatory environments.

REFERENCES

Cho, Namju (1997), "You’ve come a long way, mister: Virginia Slims woos Korean men," The Wall Street Journal (January 14), B8.

Dollison, John (1989), "890000 2nd Revised Forecast PresentationBCorporate Affairs, John Dollisson 000615BNew York," (June 15), Bates: 2500101311-2500101323. http://tobaccodocuments.org/landman/2500101311-1323.html

Holbert, N. (1981), "810000 Cigarette Tracking Study: Demographics of Smokers," (August 3), Bates: 2024984001-2024984056. http://tobaccodocuments.org/pm/2024984001-4056.html

Mackay, Judith and Michael Eriksen (2002), The tobacco atlas, Geneva: World Health Organization.

Philip Morris (1993), "1993 Market Tracking Study," http://www.pmdocs.com/getallimg.asp?DOCID=2504027130/7135.

Pierce, John P. and Elizabeth A. Gilpin (1995), "A historical analysis of tobacco marketing and the uptake of smoking by youth in the United States: 1890-1977," Health Psychology, 14, 500-508.

Pierce, John P., Lora Lee, and Elizabeth A. Gilpin (1994), "Smoking initiation by adolescent girls, 1944 through 1988: An association with targeted advertising," Journal of the American Medical Association, 271, 608-611.

Princiotta, J. (1981), "Virginia Slims Market Analysis," (June),Bates: 2043787044-2043787101. http://tobaccodocuments.org/pm/2043787044-7101.html

Roper Research Associates (1970), "A Study of Cigarette Smokers’ Habits and Attitudes in 700000," (January), Bates: 2040544778-2040545158. http://tobaccodocuments.org/pm/2040544778-5158.html

Sesser, Stan (1993), "Opium war redux," The New Yorker (September 13), 78-89.

Shafey, Omar, Suzanne Dolwick, and G. Emmanuel Guindon (2003), Tobacco control country profiles 2003, American Cancer Society, Atlanta, GA.

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Authors

Timothy Dewhirst, University of Saskatchewan, Canada
Wonkyong Beth Lee, University of Waterloo, Canada



Volume

AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6 | 2005



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