RICHMOND, Va. – The black packaging, bolder flavor and lower price point of Philip Morris’ Marlboro Black seems to have connected with millennials, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
The product quickly grabbed 1% of U.S. cigarette market share the first year it was introduced back in 2011 and has since helped Philip Morris USA, Richmond, Va., bump up overall sales 3 percentage points to 46% in 2014 from 2011 in the 18- to 24-year-old age range, the Journal said, citing the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
While Richmond, Va.-based Altria Group, Philip Morris’ parent company, does not release information specific to Marlboro Black, the Journal reported that the Marlboro brand has hit an all-time high of 44.1% market share.
“It’s making Marlboro relevant again,” said Bonnie Herzog, managing director of beverage, tobacco and convenience-store research for Wells Fargo Securities, New York, to the Journal. Though it is unclear how much revenue the brand generates, Herzog estimated 1% market share is worth about $320 million in annual revenue for Altria.
The marketing strategy for Marlboro Black repositioned the brand from a western cowboy theme to more of an urban, tattooed motorcycle-riding persona, the Journal said. Jerry Weger, director of sales for core products for Sheetz, Altoona, Pa., told the Journal that Marlboro’s “manly-man thing wasn’t that appealing” to the younger generation, but the black packaging gave the brand an upscale image that has allowed it to accumulate an estimated 6% to 8% market share at Sheetz stores. That boost helped Marlboro’s brands collectively hold about 50% market share. Without it, he said Marlboro could have lost share to rivals. Instead, it has helped make Marlboro Sheetz’s largest discount and largest premium brand by sales.
The Journal reported that in at least one Michigan market, a pack of Marlboro Black was $1.50 less than a pack of the premium Marlboro Reds brand.