It s one of branding s eternal truisms that when you find an idea that works, you stick with it. It s why fatherly CEO Dave Thomas appeared in over 800 TV spots for Wendy s, why Aflac has stuck with the duck since 1999 and why Go Daddy has held tight to Danica Patrick s bumper for 11 Super Bowl spots now. There s a corollary to this rule, too. Once one brand discards a great idea, there s nothing stopping a similar brand from taking it up. Case in point the Marlboro Man and what looks like his kid brother in the ads here. But be it a tobacco smoke from the 50s or one of the many electronic alternatives on the market now, cigarette brands love associating themselves with the All American bruiser.

“Cigarettes were always about being a rebel,” observes Gwenaelle Gob , creative director of marketing think tank Emotional Branding and a filmmaker who recently explored gender representations on American billboards in her film This Space Available. “The imagery connects because it s an ideal,” Gob said. “Who doesn t want to be some version of the tough guy? This is what everybody demands men to be.”

This rugged but successful marriage between tough guys and cigs goes back to 1954 when Philip Morris introduced Marlboro as its first brand to feature a filter. Fearful that the foam tip would make the brand seem soft and feminine, the company hired legendary adman Leo Burnett, who understood that making Marlboro a real man s smoke meant showing real men. While most people recall the Marlboro Man as a cowboy, he was actually a variety of characters for the first few years mechanics, hunters and, like our hairy chested friend here, a coach (ex Navy at that, judging from the tattoo on his right hand). The hitch worked. By 1972, Marlboro was the best selling cigarette brand on the planet.

Of course, all the muscles in the world weren t enough to fight off the attorneys general in most every state in America. The $206 billion Master Settlement of 1999 sent the Marlboro Man riding off into the sunset. But good ideas are tough to kill as this 2013 ad for Blu e cigarettes demonstrates. “My intuition is that Blu purposely went to the Marlboro Man to give this ad the same look,” Gob said. Even if the brand didn t do that literally, the similarities are striking. Chances are you wouldn t pick a fight with either of these dudes.

It s anyone s guess if the tough guy image will work as well for Blu as it did for Marlboro. Blu is a battery driven vapor generator that comes in flavors including Cherry Crush and Vivid Vanilla facts that are a little tough to reconcile with the Brando esque aura of our denim clad stag here. Still, there s no denying the logic of the presentation. “If you walked up to anyone who s lived long enough, they can immediately conjure the Marlboro Man s image and describe it to you,” Gob said. “That icon is endless.”

Best electronic cigarettes: a guide to disposables, rechargeables, and mods

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The Sentinel from Grand Vapor is the epitome of a mod, and a current favorite among vaping enthusiasts. (Especially if you like shiny objects.) The Sentinel features machined aluminum and brass components that make this mod stand out from the crowd. And the entire device is telescopic, making it possible to use a range of battery sizes, from small 18350 batteries to 18650 monsters. It also features silver coated pins for maximum battery connectivity, and an adjustable bottom button to fine tune your vape. And yes, you will have to get your own tank/clearomizer, batteries, and e juice before you’re ready to roll with this looker but by the time you get to this level, you should already have all that in your stash.

Additional information

So, which one is the “best” e cigarette? The one that works, and that you enjoy using, whether it’s a disposable or heavy duty mod. If possible, test out a few different models and see which one fits with your lifestyle, and what you’re looking to get out of vaping. The one you like best is best.

Also, note that the kits and prices listed above are mainly for your convenience. If you re looking for the best deal, check out FastTech, which is easily the least expensive vendor out there, but has long shipping wait times due to China based suppliers. As for e juice, Mt. Baker Vapor is a favorite among e cig aficionados due to its high quality product, low prices, and wide range of flavors. (Pro tip Try the Ecto Cooler, it s a slam dunk.)

Images via librakv/Piotr Marcinski/nito/Shutterstock/Giuliano Correia