The Marlboro Man’s devious client-getting secret

It’s one of the problems with how available info is these days.

Any Joe Schmuck can throw up a blog or a YouTube channel and start pontificating about some topic. No experience, no actual results or success — just a fancy camera and some slick editing software and you can be the next big YouTube sensation.

Good for them…

Bad for the blokes and blokettes using the “anti-advice” they share.

That’s why I actually consume way less info these days. I have a few trusted sources that I’ve fully vetted and I stick to what they say. In many cases, it’s old stuff. Books written decades (or more) ago by people who have passed on.

I find a lot more value in the ground floor type stuff.

Or the people who synthesize that stuff for me.

Anyway, was reading back through one such book recently… a book that sells for $200-$300 in most places and is considered the “bible” by all the fancy, big name online marketers. And for good reason, this thing is packed with aha moment after aha moment.

One of the things he raps about is the conundrum of jaded markets.

Markets that’ve been sold to in every conceivable way. They’ve heard every claim, seen all the before and afters, got caught up in every slick, new fancy gadget, method, “proprietary process” — and they just don’t hear any of it anymore.

“I ain’t got no time for dat!”… they say.

What do you do then?

You still got a business to run!

Well, he uses the Marlboro Man ads back in the day as a clever example. By the time they ran, the cigarette market had been through every conceivable marketing evolution. They’d heard every claim, seen every new “mechanism”, feature… and they weren’t having it.

They also had regulators breathing down their neck.

And a public that had started to become anti-cigarette.

So, Marlboro devised a clever new approach…

Identity Marketing.

They made smoking “cool” by associating their cigarettes with “masculine” men of the time. The cowboy being the iconic one everybody remembers. People smoked their cigarettes not for the taste or the filter or any of the “features”… they smoked them because that’s what the “cool kids” did.

And it worked.

In 1955, when the Marlboro Man campaign was started, sales were at $5 billion. By 1957, sales were at $20 billion, representing a 300% increase within two years. Hell, I remember when *I* was in school 30+ years later… smoking was still considered something “cool” all the “rebel” kids did.

It’s still one of the main hurdles all the anti-cigarette groups have to deal with.

That all started with the Marlboro Man…

And was born out of trying to market to an exceptionally jaded market.

And, it still works today. Fire up your Instagram and start following some “influencers”. All their perfectly edited photos on their lavish vacations. Their dope desk setups — and on and on. It’s all about identity. It’s all about being their own little Marlboro Man.

Being the “cool kid” everybody wants to hang out with.

Of course, us smart folks know a lot of it’s fake.

But, it still works.

From a strategy perspective, it’s really *the* play on social media. Post a bunch of pictures or videos of you doing cool stuff and say, “Wanna be like me? Buy my thing.” At least from the posting side of things. That’ll get you reach and attention anyway.

Not necessarily influence, though.

That’s the rub nowadays.

It’s sort of an open secret in the “influencer” world. All these big accounts who make very little from their following… mainly because it’s all hollow. People will absolutely follow you, like your stuff and comment nice things because they consider you “cool”.

Buy your stuff?

Not so much.

For that, you need depth. Which is one of the things I show you how to do in my Social Media Marketing course. Yes, creating reach… but going beyond that to influence. Specifically, creating a following of *potential clients* — not just randos — and building trust and loyalty with them.

To the point they WILL buy from you.

And what you’ll find is you don’t need near as big of a following as you might think…

When you have genuine influence.

The “numbers game” works a lot better when people trust you…

Not just think you’re cool because of the neat filter you use on your photos.

Ironically, I first learned all this as a quasi-spammer back in the days of MySpace. The very first company I had breakout success with… then unceremoniously killed off because I felt dirtier than a — well, I felt dirty… let’s just say that.

Of course, I’ve stripped all the spammy elements out.

And show you exactly what to do in the course.

Anyway, because the course is up on Skillshare, you can get access to it for essentially free. Here’s how it works:

As a teach there, I can get you an extended 1-month free trial of the site. The normal trial is just 7 days, so that’s three extra weeks. I do earn a small referral fee from that, fyi.

Then, once you’re in the trial…

You get access to all 30,000+ courses on the site, including all mine.

Take whatever courses you want. 

And, then simply cancel before the month is up, and you don’t pay a penny. You get the course for basically free — and I get credited with the “watch time” of all the courses of mine you watch.

Which is how Skillshare pays me.

So, it’s a fair deal both ways.

Anyway, if that tickles your tomato, you can learn more about the course and the trial here: Might be worth a look… especially if you’re using social media at all to try and get clients.



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John Morris


I’m a 15-year veteran of freelance web development. I’ve worked with bestselling authors and average Joe’s next door. These days, I focus on helping other freelancers build their freelance business and their lifestyles.

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