Jul 23

The Marlboro Man swinging his LassoIt’s astonishing how western multinational companies invested their time and money around the globe to build their brands as easily recognisable as they are today. Nobody says Cola anymore but Coke and you are used to dine at Mc Donald’s or Burger King and know that your Big Mac or Whopper will taste the same in Addis Ababa or New York or Capetown (even though that isn’t completely true).

Global brand power…

Companies like Starbucks or Pizza Hut gain their strength for expansion from their easily recognisable Logos, colours and symbols, which make a good part of a successful franchise.

The cigarette industry is another example for that. Who doesn’t know the Marlboro Man, who is riding a free man the prairies in the still Wild Wild West and who even has a brother and sister at Glitter Gulch in downtown Las Vegas. Howdy howdy, welcome!

…doesn’t work necessarily in IndonesiaGlitter Gulch Cowboy in Las Vegas - the Marlboro Man with a serious gambling habit?

So what to do when you want to expand in a country, which is still pretty homogeneous, run by family businesses and with almost monopoly structures? Where the locals smoke a strange weed, which none of your products offer?

That is how Indonesia looked a couple of years back. Indonesia is a country of 230 million people, the world’s 4th most populous country and the most populous Muslim-majority nation, although officially it is not an Islamic state. Almost 70% of the male population smokes and anti-tobacco laws are light.Indonesian Gudang Garam Filter Kretek Cigarettes

Not a market you want to miss out as the market leader.

But what is that? Close to 90% of the smokers don’t smoke ‘simple’ filter cigarettes. They smoke Kretek. They go by the names like Gudang Garam, Djarum, Sampoerna Hijau (green, menthol-like ones), Bentoel, Wismilak.

So what the fun is Kretek?

Kretek are cigarettes made from a complex blend of regular tobacco, cloves and a sweet flavouring sauce. They leave a sweet taste and smell and produce a crackling sound, when smoked, from the ‘exploding’ cloves inside.

You can smell the Kretek smell the first thing when you step of the plane in Jakarta, Bali or Manado or even in the deepest Kampung on the islands of East Timur.

Okay, but how do we get a share in this kind of market?Indonesian Djarum Super Kretek Filter Cigarettes

That was the question asked by Philip Morris, now Altria, or Mother Company of the Marlboro Brand a couple of years back. First they flooded the market with cheap filter cigarettes, which helped to establish the brand here as well. Still nowhere in Asia you can buy cheaper branded cigarettes than in Indonesia.

That worked nicely for Altria, but didn’t get them anywhere close to the market share they are used to in other countries around the globe, which is usually anywhere between 40-60%, depending on country, history and region.

So a quantum leap was necessary instead of organic growth and small steps forward.

How good that the founding family of Indonesia’s biggest Kretek Empire – Sampoerna – was a bit tired lately and ready to sell out. In May 2005 they handed over control of the company to Altria for a cheap 5.2 billion USD. What a celebration!

New Marlboro Filter Kretek Cigarettes in IndonesiaFor just a few weeks now you have the first child of this operation. The Marlboro Mix-9, or better the first Kretek Cigarette sold by PT Sampoerna Surabaya under the supervision of Philip Morris Products Switzerland. The box is smaller than usual and holds only 12 Kretek Cigarettes (standard in Indonesia), the colours show a dark wine-red, with a golden glow. One cigarette got 30mg tar and 1.8 mg Nicotine.

Suddenly the marketing got into full spin as well. Switch on any TV in the country and you will see advertising for Marlboro Kretek, the streets are plastered with posters over and over. Shops and Warungs alike reserved a big portion of their cigarette shelves for the Newcomer.

You actually can buy now clove-flavoured Marlboro’s everywhere in Indonesia.

The one thing I was wondering about ever since watching Thank you for Smoking! or The Insider with Russel Crowe was the future of the Marlboro Man.

Does the Marlboro Man have a future in Indonesia?

So 2 weeks ago I stormed into the Cinema for the Die Hard 4.0 movie (strangely enough, no cigarettes were harmed during that one), but what really interested me was the unavoidable advertising for the new Marlboro Kretek just before the start of the show.

There he was!

The Marlboro Man. He was riding his horse as usual through the plains and valleys of Utah, Nevada or Colorado against a beautiful sunset. Nothing unusual so far.

But advertising Kretek Filters? Ahso?!Does the Marlboro Man has a future? It just doesn’t make sense!

So, that’s why I’m quite sure that soon there will be a Muslim Marlboro Man introduced in Asia.

Maybe one wearing a turban, with a long grey beard and a AK-47 in his hand. I remember seeing one early version already somewhere. He was riding a horse as well, through a dusty desert somewhere in north Asia.

Okay, not so fast – maybe not next quarter!

But one thing is definitely sure: even if that doesn’t happen, Altria will raise once more their quarterly-paid-out dividends to make even non-smoking stock investors happy. Cheers! ;-)

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written by Chris

8 Responses to “The Marlboro Man – a Muslim soon?”

  1. Michael at Traveling Stories MagazineNo Gravatar CANADA Says:

    Unfortunatley, it seems that one of the most powerful ways to change the destructive nature of corporations is through the economic system itself. If we can change the mentality of the population (aka non-smoking) then the corporations will cater to this mentality, so it is interesting in your post to see such a blatant example.


  2. GeorgeNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    I also agree that if the masses are keen on an important change in society, corporations will want to cater to such changes because of the financial interest involved.

  3. AndrewNo Gravatar MALAYSIA Says:

    Marlboro my no2 favorite brand after Dunhill, I just hate the recent price increase seems like tobacco as good a commodity to oil. btw did u look up the clove cigarette .kretek in wiki, its supposed to help in asthma in heating the lungs.

  4. PreyankaNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    I wonder if the same backlash that’s occurred here in the states against smoking will eventually occur in Asia. I grew up in Asia and started smoking pretty young. I moved to the states for college and quit almost immediately. You just don’t see people smoking very much here. When I’m back in Asia, I start feeling cravings and always end up smoking when I go out drinking.

  5. online cigarette » The <b>Marlboro</b> Man - a Muslim soon? UNITED STATES Says:

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  6. bagasNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    have you ever seen Muslim wearing a turban, with a long grey beard and a AK-47 in his hand in my beloved country Indonesia??

  7. gilangNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    you tell story about how your religion comes to indonesia.???..with the tank,raped,guns….indonesian muslims never have problem about what religion and race such as actor,minister,general they have,,,

  8. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    bagas and gilang, yeah right! What what your point again in regards to this non-serious article? ;-)

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