Marketing Spin in the 1940s


Have you heard the story about how the American Tobacco Company changed the color of the Lucky Strike cigarette package to aid the war effort during World War II?

The story goes something like this:

When the United States entered World War II, the federal government mandated that all green pigments would be used for the war effort. The pigments were essential for camouflage coloring.

Lucky Strike’s product managers were extremely concerned because they considered their “Lucky Strike Green” package an essential ingredient for cigarette sales. Lucky was fifth in sales at the time. Since they couldn’t get the green pigment, they filled the radio airwaves with the advertisement, “Lucky Strike’s green has gone to war. We must all do our part in saving America and we want you to that Lucky Strike green ha gone to the front lines to do its part. But, when the Axis is defeated, you’ll see your beloved Lucky Strike green on your grocery shelves again. Until then, please accept our color substitute, red.”

Lucky changed its package to red and saw sales soar. When the war was over, they were only slightly behind Camels for first place in sales. Needless to say, Lucky Strike’s green was a casualty and never returned from the war to the grocers’ shelves.

It was all marketing spin.

The truth was that in the early 1940s, women smokers were on the rise and the marketers at American Tobacco had discovered that the green Lucky Strike package didn’t appeal to them The war was just a timely excuse to change the packaging!

The “Lucky Strike Green Has Gone to War!” campaign broke about the same time that American troops invaded North Africa in November 1942. Six weeks later, Lucky Strike sales were up 38%.

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