It's the story that fills the dreams of marketing executives: an ad campaign that vaulted Marlboro from girly cigarette to symbol of manliness. Back in the 1950s, Marlboro was considered a women's cigarette, so ads were created showing men working on cars or flying airplanes and later, with the image that stuck, the Marlboro Man. As noted in Ad Age, sales jumped more than 3,200 percent in the campaign's first year.
Marlboro was just one of many examples where companies have attempted to move in on a new market that happens to comprise half of the population. From perfume and diet plans to sports cars and beer, companies have spent millions trying to appeal to the other sex.
Sometimes the marketing ploys flop. Nike found that women didn't respond to superstar spokespeople like men did. Jenny Craig was not remade as the new manly diet company upon hiring Jason Alexander, "George Costanza" on Seinfeld, as a spokesman. Similarly, diet soda has long been difficult to sell to men, with numerous notable failures. A recent ad campaign for a diet beverage aimed at men went for directness: "Dr. Pepper 10," yells the male voice of a television ad. "It's not for women!"
Read on to see some of the best gender-bending campaigns, and a few of the worst.
Marlboro Ivory Tips
Marlboro was first marketed to women under the "Mild as May" slogan. The filters were originally called ivory tips and later, with red filters to avoid a lipstick smear, beauty tips. One ad at the time featured a photo of a cute baby with the following text: "Just one question, Mom ... can you afford not to smoke Marlboro?"
In an attempt to rebrand a female cigarette for men, Marlboro launched the "Tattooed Man" campaign in 1955 and, two years later, the "Marlboro Man." Super manly and bursting with testosterone, the Marlboro Man is still considered among the most successful branding campaigns ever. In less than 20 years, Marlboro went from less than 1 percent of national market share to the top brand worldwide.
Clif Bar was launched in 1992 by entrepreneur and outdoorsman Gary Erickson and named after his father. Extreme sports have long been dominated by men, and the energy bar market has historically been much the same way.
In 1999, Clif Bar creator Gary Erickson launched this energy bar aimed at women consumers. The packaging makes no mistake, featuring dancing women and the following tagline: "The Whole Nutrition Bar for Women." However, men have been known to eat them, too.
Started in 1909 with hair dyes created by a chemist in Paris, the world's largest cosmetics company has grown largely by selling to women. One foray into the men's market was Drakkar Noir, launched in 1982.
Getting men to buy cosmetics is no small feat. L'Oréal is attempting it through a campaign called "Men Expert," launched this year. The manly expert in the ad campaign goes through questions like how to tie the perfect tie or how to pick a lock in order to brand L'Oréal as a brand for men, with products like the Hydra energetic anti-fatigue moisturizer.
The Oregon-based shoe and apparel company was built on testosterone and the male sports fantasy fueled by superstar spokesmen like Michael Jordan, Lance Armstrong, and Tiger Woods.
Nike has tried to break into the female markets for shoes and apparel for decades. The company was, after all, named for the Greek goddess of victory. Ad campaigns focused on women include "If you let me play" in 1995 and the 2001 campaign called "Nike Goddess."
Founded in 1926, Schick was something of a late arrival to the marketplace, which was dominated by men. The company had a big hit in the 1930s selling a new device with "blades injected into razor from metal clip," as noted in an October 1934 article in Popular Mechanics.
Razors for use by women were introduced in the early 20th century. An early example was the Milady Décolletée that Gillette launched in 1915. Retailers had to battle early ideas that hair removal was immodest. In the 1950s, razor makers were still piggybacking on the sales of men's products when the chic Lady Schick line was launched.
Weight Watchers International and competitor Jenny Craig have both launched ad campaigns to appeal to men during the past few years. They are trying to broaden the base for the dieting industry, in which roughly 90 percent of the customers are women, according to AdAge.com
Jenny Craig for Men
A spokesperson for the Jenny Craig for Men arm of the business was Jason Alexander, "George Costanza" on the TV comedy Seinfeld. Jenny Craig's website sells the program like this: "Jenny Craig knows that the only time you want to count points is at a basketball game."
Ugg boots are one of the unusual brands that went from a male-dominated market to a female-dominated one. There are now attempts to go back. The boots were made popular among men in the 1970s as surfers stepped into them after a cold surfing session.
Throughout the last two decades Ugg boots became a fashion trend for women. The boots have been worn by an endless list of celebrities and shown off on the runway. A recent campaign by Deckers Outdoor, the American holder of the Ugg trademark (it is considered generic in Australia and New Zealand), featured New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in an attempt to make Uggs more popular among men.
It's no secret that beer companies blatantly use sex symbols to appeal to men. Enough said.
Michelob has been working to appeal to women with Michelob Ultra fruit-infused beers and spokeswoman Natalie Gulbis, a professional golfer. The flavors include lime cactus, Tuscan orange grapefruit, and pomegranate raspberry.
There's a reason that the classic image of video game players is men. To some degree, games on phones and tablets are changing that. Women now make up 42 percent of game players in what was a $25.1 billion market in 2010, according to the Entertainment Software Assn.
Game systems like Nintendo's Wii are helping get female consumers into the gaming market. Marketed as a way to stay in shape, the Wii features an optional add-on balance board that tracks body-mass index and weight.
Men have long been the primary marketing target of sports car makers, with most of the cars' buyers male. Porsche is no exception.
There was something of an outcry among Porsche purists when the company introduced the Cayenne in 2002. At the time, 85 percent of Porsche drivers were men, according to the New York Times. The vehicle is now Porsche's top seller, with sales in the first six months of 2011 that nearly doubled from a year earlier, to 30,055 vehicles.