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Virginia Slims

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Title: Virginia Slims  
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Subject: Philip Morris International, Altria, 1978 Virginia Slims ad.jpg, Philip Morris USA, Max (cigarette)
Collection: 1968 Introductions, Cigarette Brands, Philip Morris Brands
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Virginia Slims

1978 Virginia Slims magazine ad. The image at the top is a photograph of a woman hanging laundry outside. The ad text reads: "Back then, every man gave his wife at least one day a week out of the house. You've come a long way, baby. Virginia Slims – Slimmer than the fat cigarettes men smoke."

Virginia Slims is a brand of cigarette manufactured by Altria Group (formerly Phillip Morris Companies). The brand was introduced in 1968 and marketed to young professional women using the slogan "You've come a long way, baby." [1] Later campaigns have used the slogans, "It's a woman thing," in the 1990s, and "Find your voice."

Virginia Slims are much narrower (23 mm circumference) than ordinary cigarettes (hence, "Slims"), and are also longer than normal "king-sized" cigarettes (which are 85 mm), sold only in longer 100 mm and 120 mm lengths, to give the cigarettes a more "elegant" appearance and ostensibly to reduce the amount of smoke they produce. They are also sold in "Superslims", "light," "ultra-light," and menthol varieties. The packaging, designed by Walter Landor, is white with colored stripes running lengthwise along the left side.


  • History 1
  • Marketing 2
  • Market share 3
  • USA varieties 4
    • Superslims 4.1
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Virginia Slims were introduced on July 22, 1968, by Philip Morris, and marketed as a female-oriented spinoff to their Benson and Hedges brand. The blends, flavorings, color scheme, and overall marketing concepts closely followed the Benson and Hedges model. Early packs (1968-1978) read "Benson and Hedges Park Avenue New York", near the bottom.

The first test market was San Francisco, California. Originally scheduled for six months, it was cut short after seven weeks due to the success of the introduction - a nearly 3% market penetration. Distribution and marketing was implemented nationwide, and by September 30, 1968, the entire U.S. was covered.[2]

  • In 1976, a 120-mm full-flavor packing was test-marketed in Fresno, California. Designed to compete with RJ Reynolds 'More' brand, the test ultimately failed and this entry was withdrawn.
  • In 1978, Virginia Slims Lights were introduced, with good success. Although early marketing concepts included soft pack, Philip Morris decided to use a box-pack design only.

Throughout the 70s and early 80s, growth and market penetration was significant, drawing the attention of competitors who introduced their own slim, female-oriented brands (such as American Tobacco Company's Misty, Brown and Williamson's Capri, Liggett's Eve, and R.J Reynolds' Dawn).

  • In 1984, Virginia Slims Ovals were test marketed in Rochester, NY, Birmingham, AL, and Las Vegas, NV, but were unsuccessful and withdrawn. Ovals were light, and had an oval-shaped cross section.
  • In 1985, Virginia Slims Luxury Light 120s were introduced - a 120 mm length packing again intended to better compete with RJ Reynolds 'More' brand, as well as other 120s on the market.[3] After test marketing in Portland, OR and Nashville, TN was successful, the new style was rolled out nationally. While initially concerned that 120's might 'cannibalize' customers from other packings (especially Lights), this proved to be unfounded, as the 120's appeared to attract a slightly older demographic. The packing has since become a mainstay of the smoking glamour community. It is arguable as to whether VS120s are truly 'light', since their rating numbers compare more closely to full-flavor.
  • In 1987, Ultra-Light 100s were introduced, in keeping with changing consumer tastes, other competitive entries, and the Benson and Hedges model. Marginally successful, this packing remains on the market today.
  • In 1989, Ultra-Light SuperSlim 100s were introduced, in response to ultra-thin (21mm circumference) competition and consumer demand for a 'low-smoke' product entry. These were also marginally successful, and remain on the market.
  • In 1993, a 10-Pack version of Light 100s were introduced, with 10 cigarettes per pack, costing approximately half the price of a 20-pack. This entry had limited success and came under attack from critics. It was ultimately withdrawn.
  • In 1994, Virginia Slims Kings (85 mm length) were designed as a discount entry and possibly to compete with other king-size entries such as RJ Reynolds' Camel brand. It is not clear whether Kings were ever test marketed, but they were never introduced on a nationwide basis.
  • In 2003, a box-pack was introduced for full-flavor 100s, in response to consumer demand. This packing is steadily displacing the classic soft-pack.
  • In 2004, Ultra-Light 120s were introduced with marginal success. It is likely that this packing will continue to be supported.
  • In 2008, Virginia Slims Superslims introduced a smaller size "Purse Pack."

All packings were simultaneously introduced in both Menthol and Non-menthol (e.g., Regular or Filter) varieties. Unlike most other brands, Menthol represents 40–55% of the total sales of a particular packing (vs. 25–35%).

In all, there have been 11 packings introduced or test marketed in the US, of which 7 are still on the market. There are other varieties marketed in the Asian-Pacific region (including the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and Vietnam), Russia, and South Africa. Virginia Slims has never had a significant European or South American presence.


From inception, Virginia Slims have been designed and marketed as a female-oriented fashion brand, generally targeted towards a younger demographic (18–35 year olds). While various themes have emerged in the marketing campaigns over the years, the basic threads have been independence, liberation, slimness, attractiveness, glamour, style, taste, and a contrast to men's cigarettes.[4]

A report by the Surgeon General of the United States has interpreted these marketing strategies as attempting to link smoking "to women's freedom, emancipation, and empowerment."[5] This report also tied the increase of smoking among teenage girls to rises in sales of Virginia Slims and other "niche" brands marketed directly to women.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the themes of feminism and women's liberation, with the slogan "You've Come A Long Way, Baby" were often used in the ads, and often featured anecdotes about women in the early 20th century who were punished for being caught smoking, usually by their husbands or other men, as compared to the time of the ads when more women had equal rights, usually comparing smoking to things like the right to vote.[6] [7]

Television and print ads often featured well-known models and designer fashions. Print ads were generally placed in women's magazines, and formed the mainstay of the marketing campaign, supplemented with billboards and point-of-purchase displays. From 1969 until 1971 (when cigarette advertising on television became prohibited), television advertising was an important component; the commercials would begin with actors dressed in period costumes re-enacting the early 20th century anecdotes in comedic fashion, followed by a glamorous modern-day model, smoking the product while proudly dressed in the latest fashions, accompanied by "You've Come A Long Way, Baby", which in the commercials was an up-tempo, catchy pop-rock jingle:

You've come a long way, baby
To get where you've got to today
You've got your own cigarette now, baby
You've come a long, long way

Virginia Slims also sponsored the Women's Tennis Association Tour. This sponsorship is sometimes credited for the growth and success of women's tennis during the 1970s and early 1980s.

Several other, less important, marketing vehicles were employed, such as the Virginia Slims Book of Days (a day timer/calendar book), fashion shows, and an extensive line of products, apparel, and accessories.

The Leo Burnett advertising agency handled the Virginia Slims account throughout most of the product lifetime.

Market share

From its inception until 1978, Virginia Slims saw a steady increase in market share to 1.75% (3.9% of all female smokers). With the introduction of Lights in 1978, the market share increased to 2.5%. Other packings, including 120s, Ultra Lights, and Superslims helped push the market share to a peak of 3.1% (nearly 7% of female smokers) in 1989. With increased competition from other brands, notably Capri and Misty, the brand lost ground but stabilized at around 2.4% though 2003. Since then, it has lost about .1% per year, and was 2.0% in 2007 and 1.8% in 2009. This slow but steady decline is expected to continue, since the brand is no longer heavily promoted. Despite this, brand loyalty is well above average, and is still one of the highest in the industry.

USA varieties

Virginia Slims are 23mm in circumference and are not available in king-size (85mm).

  • Virginia Slims 100's - Soft and Box
  • Virginia Slims Gold Pack (Lights) 100's - Box
  • Virginia Slims Gold Pack (Lights) 120's - Box
  • Virginia Slims Silver Pack (Ultra Lights) 100's - Box
  • Virginia Slims Silver Pack (Ultra Lights) 120's - Box
  • Virginia Slims Menthol 100's - Soft and Box
  • Virginia Slims Menthol Gold Pack (Lights) 100's - Box
  • Virginia Slims Menthol Gold Pack (Lights) 120's - Box
  • Virginia Slims Menthol Silver Pack (Ultra Lights) 100's - Box
  • Virginia Slims Menthol Silver Pack (Ultra Lights) 120's - Box


Superslims are 21mm in circumference and are slightly more than half the diameter of regular Virginia Slims. They are also known as "purse packs."

  • Virginia Slims Superslims - Box
  • Virginia Slims Superslims Gold Pack (Lights) - Box
  • Virginia Slims Superslims Menthol - Box
  • Virginia Slims Superslims Menthol Gold Pack (Lights) - Box


  1. ^ * How an agency builds a brand — the Virginia Slims story
  2. ^ * How an agency builds a brand — the Virginia Slims story
  3. ^ Why They Stretched the Slims, New York Times, Author Cathryn Jakobson, June 8, 1986
  4. ^ * How an agency builds a brand — the Virginia Slims story
  5. ^ "CDC - Surgeon General's Reports - 2001 - Marketing Cigarettes to Women - Smoking & Tobacco Use". Retrieved 2012-11-25. 
  6. ^ Internet Archive: Details: Virginia Slims Commercials
  7. ^ "Virginia Slims ads : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive". Retrieved 2012-11-25. 

External links

  • How an agency builds a brand — the Virginia Slims story
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