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"Original" Winston: 1954-1996


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Old 06-27-2014, 07:06 AM
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Thumbs up "Original" Winston: 1954-1996

This thread is for us "veteran" Winston smokers (past and current) to reminisce about our much loved "old" pre-1996 Winston cigarettes. Winston was the best selling filter cigarette in the U.S. for eighteen years (1954-1972) and was the best selling of all brands from 1966 to 1972, when its market share was overtaken by Marlboro. It remained the #2 brand in sales until the mid-1990s. It has been the best selling brand in Puerto Rico for over 30 years, and remains so today. Winston sponsored the Winston Cup Series NASCAR racing from 1972 to 2003. It was also the sponsor of NHRA racing from 1975 to 2001. The Winston cigarettes of the 1950s to the 1990s actually did "taste good as a cigarette should" (a Winston slogan), having a rich tobacco taste that "was for real" (another Winston slogan).

Then, in a misguided attempt to reclaim market share from Marlboro, in late 1996 RJR changed everything about the brand: the tobacco blend, now additive-free (though no longer labeled as such); the pack design; and even the appearance of the cigarette. It became, in fact, an entirely different brand, and many loyal Winston smokers, myself included, abandoned the brand. The outcome was predictable: in less than four years, by 2000, its market position fell to fifth place. Today it is tied with Kool for sixth place. Interestingly, Winston remained unchanged for the Puerto Rico market, even though the Winstons sold in Puerto Rico are U.S. made.

I invite anyone to post comments here about what was once a classic and leading American brand. Comments about how you reacted to the change in 1996, and even how you think of the "new" post-1996 Winston compares to the "original" Winston, are welcome. And if you have any ideas of satisfactory alternatives to the "original" Winston, please share them!

P.S. Since 1999, all RJR brands sold outside the U.S. and its territories are products of JTI International, the international arm of Japan Tobacco ... so non-U.S. made Winstons, Salems, and Camels are actually Japanese cigarettes! Later edit: since the 2015 merger of Reynolds American with Lorillard, the Winston and Salem brands are owned by Imperial Tobacco. A shame considering that RJR is based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina!

Last edited by masklofumanto; 02-13-2019 at 07:09 PM. Reason: correction
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Old 06-27-2014, 07:33 AM
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Default "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should"

The enduring Winston advertising slogan from the brand's introduction in 1954 to 1972 (coincidentally, the same year it was displaced by Marlboro from the #1 position in U.S. market share) was the grammatically dubious: "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should." Initially, "Winston tastes good as a cigarette ought to" was considered, but was replaced by the now classic slogan, which in 1999 was ranked the eighth best of all advertising jingles in the U.S. for the 20th century.

In radio and television advertisements, the slogan was presented in a "singsong" fashion with a two-beat clap near the end. In addition to being the sponsor of "The Flintstones" in its first two seasons (1960 and 1961), it was the sponsor of "The Beverly Hillbillies." When the characters of the latter TV series spoke the line, they stretched the grammatical boundaries even further. Jed: "Winston tastes good ..." Granny: "Like a cigarette had ought-a!"

The slogan was the subject of a "grammar controversy" because it was grammatically incorrect and should be rendered as "Winston tastes good as a cigarette should." Walter Cronkite, then hosting "The Morning Show" (Winston was the sponsor), refused to say the slogan as written, so the announcer was used instead. The grammatically incorrect slogan was credited for Winston's meteoric rise to the #2 position in the U.S. market within a year of its introduction and its overtaking Pall Mall as the #1 cigarette in the U.S. in 1966. The slogan even succeeded in winning a "battle" in the "grammar controversy": in 1961 the editors of the "New International Dictionary" refused to condemn the use of "like" as a conjunction, and cited the Winston slogan as an example of popular colloquial use. The mass media, however, wasn't swayed: the "Chicago Daily News" condemned the dictionary's decision as "a general decay of values."

By 1971, RJR decided to revamp Winston's image, and to cheekily respond to the "grammar controversy" at the same time, with a new slogan: "What do you want, good grammar or good taste?" "MAD Magazine" published a parody of this on the back cover of its January 1971 issue. Set in a cemetery, it featured four tombstones with epitaphs written in past tense: "Winston tasted good like a cigarette should've" ..."You mean as a cigarette should've" ... "What did you want, good grammar or good taste?" ... "I wanted to live longer than this!" With the new slogan launched, the old slogan was retired permanently in 1972.

Last edited by masklofumanto; 06-27-2014 at 01:28 PM.
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Old 06-27-2014, 08:08 AM
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Default The "Bad-ass" Winston Smoker

With the permanent retirement of Winston's first slogan in 1972, Winston advertising took a new direction away from the light-hearted "Norman Rockwell" Americana themes extolling Winston's "down home taste." The new Winston ads reflected an America that was, quite frankly, angry. Bear in mind that this was the time when the Vietnam War was winding down, the country was "twisting its guts" with the Watergate scandal and Nixon resignation, and college campuses had become breeding grounds of social revolution instead of liberal arts education. Enter the "Bad-ass" Winston smoker, the man or woman whose attitude is "Yes, I smoke. F*** you!"

The "Bad-ass" Winston smoker shared traits that were fairly common in cigarette advertising: physically attractive and fit-looking, generally ranging in age from mid-20s to mid-40s, usually shown pulling a cigarette from a Winston pack or holding a lit Winston cigarette in one hand and the Winston pack in the other. The male models were usually handsome (with a few exceptions), sporting the style typical of the era: shirts unbuttoned to the mid-chest, exposing chest hair -- which was seen as manly and desirable back then (in one ad, I remember, the man's shirt was entirely unbuttoned, revealing his hairy torso); wide belts with large, heavy buckles, blue jeans, and sometimes a casual jacket. The female models were a "new" kind of woman, not feminine or "prissy," but attractive in their strength and confidence, often attired in more masculine, and casual, looking clothing. Regardless of the race, gender, or age of the model, what they had in common was an angry, or at least serious, facial expression . . . an uncompromising attitude to match the message of Winston's uncompromising taste. These were SERIOUS smokers, for whom Winston taste meant EVERYTHING. These were independent-minded, self-confident smokers who would buck what all the "authorities" were telling them and never think of quitting smoking, all because Winston's taste is for real. The Winston smoker didn't care that smoking is hazardous or dangerous to his health, he's going to keep smoking, so deal with it. This may have been a brilliant move given the new era for the tobacco industry. Recently gone were the days in which they could say practically anything they pleased in their ads; now the tobacco companies had to deal with having to print government-mandated health warnings on every ad. So Winston responded with, well . . . indignation (bear in mind, at the time the tobacco industry was still denying that smoking was hazardous to your health). I think, especially given the time, it was great advertising, even things that wouldn't normally seem so great would suddenly "kick ass" when presented in this way (especially if your target market is male). Note, this approach isn't a relic of the past, consider current Dodge auto ads, which practically scream "Buy Dodge, or f*** off!"

Given my analysis of the ads from 1972 to 1980, why didn't Winston recapture its recently lost lead over Marlboro? I think these were good ads, maybe even great ads. But Marlboro ads managed to capture something priceless in advertising: a timeless, quintessential, iconic image in the person of the "Marlboro Man." And there's no denying that the "Marlboro Country" advertising campaign was one of the most successful to date (ranked #3 in the "Top Ad Campaigns of the 20th Century" by CNBC). Philip Morris successfully distilled the Marlboro brand's identity into a single image -- the American cowboy as the ultimate masculine trademark. The "Bad-ass Winston Smoker" was cut from the same cloth, but the height to climb in order to compete head to head with the "Marlboro Man" was simply too great. RJR needed to focus on a single, equally effective image. The "Bad-ass Winston Smoker" was a good effort, but not quite good enough.

I think the Winston ads of the 1970s were effective at retaining the brand loyalty of those who were already Winston smokers. They might even have persuaded some smokers into switching brands. But when it came to the brand selection of new smokers, in comparison to Marlboro, they didn't quite hit the bullseye.

P.S. RJR's Salem ads from the same era had many of the same traits, but the Salem models were more relaxed and "friendly," rather than serious and "angry."

Last edited by masklofumanto; 06-28-2014 at 06:03 AM.
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Old 06-27-2014, 08:57 AM
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Default Winston. America's Best

In 1980 RJR launched the "Winston. America's Best" ad campaign, featuring the "Winston Hero" (as I'm calling him) -- manly men doing manly things . . . pilots, lumberjacks, mountaineers, and other rugged outdoors-type men. The slogan, I think, had a twofold meaning: "America's best" men smoke "America's best" cigarette.

I'm convinced that the "Winston. America's Best" ads were another RJR effort at reclaiming Winston's market share from Marlboro by portraying the brand as a more masculine one; that is, the "Winston Hero" was RJR's answer to the "Marlboro Man." Winston ads from the 1970s featured both male and female models, and heavily stressed the message of Winston's rich, superior taste. Marlboro's displacement of Winston as the #1 selling brand was, IMO, entirely an advertising victory, and one scored through image rather than message. In other words, the "Marlboro Man" kicked butt in the advertising war with Winston (while Brown & Williamson's Viceroy was snipping, rather unsuccessfully, at both Marlboro and Winston). Marlboro ads of that era were very minimalist, featuring the "Marlboro Man" or the striking visual imagery of the American West, both with little or no message, sometimes there wasn't even a slogan! Marlboro ads relied entirely on image, and the brand's iconic strength, for its persuasive force. I think the "Winston. America's Best" series might have stopped the "hemorrhage," but it still couldn't reclaim the #1 spot from Marlboro. By that point, Marlboro had a nearly insurmountable lead.

I think the "Winston. America's Best" campaign had the right idea, and what I'm calling the "Winston Hero" could have been RJR's competitor to the "Marlboro Man." I think the slogan, with its dual meaning, was also a good idea. So what was wrong? As I see it, the mistake was that the ads lacked focus. There were pilots, rescue teams, mountain climbers, lumberjacks, fishermen, construction workers, and even a surveyor. There were just too many images. All were manly men doing manly things, but I think the ads were just too scattered. By 1963, Philip Morris had settled on the American cowboy as the primary model of the "Marlboro Man" (and shortly afterward retiring the earlier "Tattooed Man"). RJR needed to do the same with the "Winston Hero" . . . settled on a single prototype, such as the pilots, even if a variety of individual men were used to portray him. The choice should also have been an appealing one to new smokers (admittedly that meant young smokers). Of the images used in the "Winston. America's Best" ads, I think the pilots would probably have had the greatest youth appeal, especially if shown with stunning background scenery and cool looking aircraft. Like the Winston ads of the 1970s, the Winston ads of the 1980s were good, but just not good enough if Winston were to compete "head to head" in the advertising war with Marlboro, especially given Marlboro's widening lead.

The irony is that Winston was a stronger smoke than Marlboro! It had higher tar and nicotine yields than Marlboro (so did Camel, btw), it had an equally easy draw, and a potent throat and lung "hit." And the taste, in my opinion, was richer and more complex than Marlboro. Perhaps had RJR introduced the "Winston Hero" earlier and more effectively, it might have given Philip Morris more of a "run for the money."

Last edited by masklofumanto; 06-27-2014 at 09:21 AM.
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Old 06-27-2014, 09:16 AM
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Default Winston Advertising Variants

1974: "If it wasn't for Winston, I wouldn't smoke."

1977: "It's Winston taste or nothing" and "I won't settle for less. Would you?"

1983: "Join the first team. Reach for Winston" (in the "Winston. America's Best" campaign).

Winston Menthol: Although RJR's flagship menthol brand was Salem, there was a Winston Menthol in the late 1960s/early 1970s. I think it was discontinued in the mid-1970s. Last October, while in Puerto Rico, I had two surprises: I saw green-white-green packs of Winston Menthol (never saw them there before, though it's possible I might simply not have noticed them before); and, unpleasantly, a major cigarette tax hike.

Winston Select: Introduced in 1992 with a different filter than "standard Winston." The Winston Select filter was a "two-stage" carbon/cellulose filter, which supposedly gave a smoother, more flavorful smoke. Secondarily, though Winston Select cigarettes were only minimally lower in tar and nicotine than their "standard Winston" counterparts, the carbon stage of its two-stage filter may have made Winston Select a "less hazardous" cigarette. Conventional cellulose filters are not very good at removing the most hazardous compounds (acrolein, hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide, and tobacco-specific nitrosamines) in cigarette smoke, while carbon filters are able to trap and reduce these compounds missed by cellulose filters. Winston Select's filter differed from charcoal filters (for example, Lark) in that it used smaller-sized carbon particles that increased the surface area of the carbon coming in contact with cigarette smoke in comparison to filters containing charcoal granules, making Winston Select's filter more effective than the charcoal filters already on the market. RJR never made any health-related claims for Winston Select, saying that it simply didn't know if it is a "safer cigarette" -- it limited its claims entirely to the smoother taste accomplished by the removal of impurities that contribute to harshness and aftertaste. Winston Select was discontinued in 2003.

Last edited by masklofumanto; 06-10-2019 at 05:21 PM. Reason: correction
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Old 06-27-2014, 09:39 AM
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Default New Winston. The Demise of a Brand.

For 42 years, Winston held a U.S. market position of either #1 (1966-1972) or #2 (1954-1966, 1972-1996), so it was certainly RJR's most successful brand. But by the mid-1990s RJR became so concerned with Winston's widening gap behind Marlboro that it decided to entirely revamp the brand, rather than just its advertising. Consumer polling and test marketing suggested a favorable response to an "additive-free" cigarette, perhaps catering to a common belief among smokers that the additives used in most cigarettes make them more hazardous. So in late 1996, the old blend, and its pack design, and even the print on the cigarette, was retired and "New, Additive-Free" Winston was launched. The new advertisements of the "No Bull" campaign resembled the "Winston is for real" slogan of the 1970s, playing on the idea that serious or "real" smokers prefer a "no bull" (additive-free) or "real" cigarette.

Thus began the story of the brand's ill-fated demise. In less than four years, Winston's U.S. market position dropped to fifth place. And another five years later, it slipped still further into sixth place. In 1999 it became subject, together with Santa Fe Natural Tobacco (manufacturer of American Spirit), of an action by the FTC against deceptive advertising. The settlement with the FTC accepted by both companies resulted in a secondary warning label: "no additives in our tobacco does not mean a safer cigarette." Since changing the pack design again in 2008, the words "additive free" have been removed from the pack.

Winston's fourth place global market share still makes it a popular brand, but one that is far behind Marlboro, which is #1 both globally and in the U.S.

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Old 06-27-2014, 10:10 AM
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They should have learned a lesson from the "New Coca-Cola" fiasco. Had they marketed the additive free blend as a new product, rather than a replacement of the original, they might have retained the #2 position, but gained overall market share by adding a new product associated with a leading brand name.
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Old 06-27-2014, 01:55 PM
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Originally Posted by wbealsd View Post
They should have learned a lesson from the "New Coca-Cola" fiasco. Had they marketed the additive free blend as a new product, rather than a replacement of the original, they might have retained the #2 position, but gained overall market share by adding a new product associated with a leading brand name.
I suspect that by the time RJR realized that it was a mistake, they had shifted their attention to their more successful revival of Camel, which was practically brought back from the dead! The "Joe Camel" campaign proved very effective at catapulting Camel back to a top five market share almost overnight, but I think it "boomeranged" in that you can practically pinpoint the transition of the anti-smoking movement from the fringes of society to the mainstream with the beginning of the Joe Camel advertising campaign. If I'm right about that, then Joe Camel caused much greater damage to the tobacco industry, not to mention the industry's customers, than the resuscitating of the market share of a formerly struggling RJR brand is worth.
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Old 06-27-2014, 02:04 PM
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Default Winston . . . When Your Taste Grows Up (1980)

One of the early ads of the "Winston. America's Best" campaign featured a lumberjack, aged in his forties, taking a break to smoke a Winston cigarette. The slogan is "When your taste grows up, Winston out-tastes them all." The not too subtle message is that Winston is the cigarette to satisfy the veteran smoker, who has reached the age to know and appreciate what's best; i.e., Winston is the cigarette for adults . . . you might start smoking with one of Winston's competitors, but when you grow up you'll smoke Winston. The ad continues with mention of Winston's "Sun Rich Blend," which is reinforced by the sunrise in the background.



Curious that the tar and nicotine yields differ between the soft pack and the flip-top box.

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Old 06-27-2014, 02:09 PM
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Default The "Winston Hero"

This ad from 1983, of helicopter pilots, is one example of the "Winston. America's Best" series.

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