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(July 31, 2001) -- Philip Morris Co.'s Philip Morris USA plans to sell a new Marlborocigarettethis holiday season.

The new version, called Marlboro Special Blend, will be sold only by the pack at retail stores from Nov. 19 through the end of the year.

The holiday offer, a first for the marketer, aims to "create excitement in the marketplace among loyal Marlboro smokers and also 'competitive' smokers,"said Billy Abshaw, manager-media programs at Philip Morris.

There is no mass-media advertising planned for the new smoke, although the company will market it through direct mail, in retail trade publications and through point-of-sale.

Mr. Abshaw said Philip Morris has no plans at this time to extend the offer beyond the November-December period.

Marlboro is the nation's top-selling cigarette, which had a 37.7% market share last year, according to tobacco industry publication The Maxwell Report.

"They've been working to line extend that brand consistently," said Marc Cohen, an analyst at Goldman Sachs. Philip Morris last year launched Marlboro Milds, a cross between its Marlboro Menthols and Marlboro Light Mentholsvarieties.AlthoughMr. Cohenwasn't familiar with Marlboro Special Blend, he said that "it's not a bad idea. It's sort of a way of adding something special."

The new Marlboro Special Blends, which has a different blend of tobacco than existing Marlboro styles,will be offered in full-flavor and light versions in all-black packaging. The full-flavor style will feature red lettering and a red triangle with an "M" in the middle, while the lights will have a gold triangle with the centered "M," Mr. Abshaw said. -- Cara Beardi

Copyright July 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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