Six things about … Marian Salzman21 Jan 2019 · 3 min read
1. Marian is not a smoker.
“Frankly, I probably don’t look, speak, or act like someone who would be the chief spokesperson for a tobacco company. I don’t smoke. But I don’t have to smoke in order to advocate on behalf of PMI, on behalf of the men and women who deserve better alternatives to continued cigarette smoking.” She believes that her appointment, against stereotype, helps prove that PMI is a company that is keen to engage with the wider public.
2. She likes the challenge of hard jobs.
“Getting people who would otherwise continue smoking to quit cigarettes and switch to something that is a better choice for them is really serious stuff. It is far, far more important than trying to persuade someone to switch from one restaurant chain, or lipstick brand, or savings bank to another.” Marian believes that PMI is on a trajectory to become a completely different company, offering better options for the sizable adult population that will, in any given year, continue smoking.
3. She’s passionate about driving change forwards.
“One of the things that first struck me at PMI was how apologetic people were about the situation in which we found ourselves. I couldn’t initially understand what people were afraid of.” She has found it hard to square that defensiveness with the fact that, for more than a decade, the company has been spending substantial funds on the search for better alternatives to continued smoking. “I couldn’t understand why there wasn’t more willingness to talk openly about the transformation we were undergoing.”
4. She made “metrosexual” a thing.
“I see the PMI smoke-free campaign as a natural, though not necessarily obvious, extension of previous campaigns with which I have been involved, and I guess this includes the rise of metrosexuality, which produced the word of the year in 2003.” For more than two decades, Marian worked on various groundbreaking brands and causes, from helping to launch #GivingTuesday to messaging on climate change for the United Nations Foundation, to getting Apple back into the mainstream with #thinkdifferent, and even to working on the commercialization of America Online. “I am probably best known for the popularization of the ‘metrosexual’ man—which, unfortunately, will likely end up on my tombstone.”
5. Marian looks at the bigger picture.
“The very mention of “Big Tobacco” may be enough to provoke an allergic reaction in some people. But that does not mean they are unremittingly hostile to everything tobacco companies do. Most people don’t lie awake at night worrying about “Big Tobacco.” They are more likely to be worrying about other things, such as terrorism, climate change, opioids, [in the U.S.] guns in school, cyber-bullying, and [around the world] the loss of stability in society.”
6. She wants every year to be a year of change.
“When I think about the consumer, I default to a stereotype for better or worse and think about a married man, probably in his 30s, with two kids, a mortgage and a wife who may also be a smoker.” And the best way to convince that consumer, she believes, is to tell him the simple truth—not that smoke-free products are good for them, but that they represent a better choice than continuing to smoke cigarettes. “If people get the evil eye when they light up a cigarette, but get a smile when they tell people how they have switched from cigarettes to smoke-free products, then we’ll know that we have changed the culture. Changing culture, ultimately, should be our benchmark for success.”
* On January 1, 2024, Marian Salzman was appointed Senior Vice President & Chief Corporate Citizenship Officer.