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Team Kool-Aid?

January 27th, 2007 by Chief Nut

The name “Marlboro” won’t be seen in Fomula 1 racing this year. At least not the name. The Ferrari F1 team, however, will still use the other strong visual elements of the Marlboro brand. The Philip Morris company (owners of the Marlboro brand) will continue this policy into the future unless there are attempts to legislate against such “subliminal branding.”

OK … here comes a heated riff!

This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and demonstrates that government legislative bodies have NO CLUE how brands work. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Cigarette smoking and kids don’t mix and we should ALL teach our children about the dangers of that bad habit. That’s not my point. The legislators’ idea, presumably, is that if people don’t see the name (e.g. kids), they won’t be swayed by exposure to the other core brand elements. And, more specifically, it’s a stand on morally high ground to protect our children from the evils of cigarette smoking.

I suggest that the removal of the Marlboro name may actually enhance the strength of the brand, not weaken it. Specifically, the removal of the name is not “subliminal” in ANY WAY. Is it coincidental that you no longer see the Target name in TV advertising? Let’s not forget the obvious removal of the Nike name on the outside of their retail outlets. In each of these cases, the strength of the brand equity built over time is not only strong enough to remove one of the key elements, the process of removing the name from the presentation may actually reinforce the recognition and make the viewer feel “smart.”

In this light, OF COURSE the folks at Marlboro are willing to take this tact. My bet is that they’re sitting around their offices snickering at the Washington bureaucrats for forcing them to do something that they were going to do anyway. They get to be seen as the compliant, dutiful, concerned company all while following a sound brand strategy.

This, of course, holds true until they’re forced to stop ALL advertising. In this case, Altria (the parent company of Philip Morris and Marlboro) would need to effectively swap out Marlboro with one of their other brands. Maybe have the Kool-Aid pitcher guy prancing around the pit stop giving the drivers high fives as they screach to a halt. OOHHH YEAAAHHHH!

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