Hard to believe, but Marlboro cigarettes were
originally directed at the 'sophisticated market'
of professional men and especially women.
Marlboro 'caught on' when it plugged into the
fantasies of the office worker.

sliding signifiers

Lacan's famous essay on 'The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason since Freud' introduced the notion of 'sliding signifiers.' Because each sign has a (metaphoric) signified/representation and other, independent material and semiotic qualities, it is capable of becoming detached from its conventional signified and contributing to a new constellation of meanings. This, in effect, is how new meaning ('hapax') is born - through a 'reverse logic' where some metonymical aspect becomes the basis for an 'empty center of meaning' that Lacan identifies with the 'sinthom'.

Zizek cites the example of the Marlboro Man. After World War II, returned veterans occupied with office jobs fantasized about their past adventures and attached these fantasies to parts of the American experience that had not yet been fully colonized by post-war society. Marlboro cigarettes, formerly a brand aimed at the 'sophisticated' (= woman) smoker, decided to draw on this fantasy projection and began to use rugged male models engaged in high-testosterone occupations.

The Marlboro Man illustrates how it's possible for a cowboy, a metonymical part of the larger ensemble of rural western landscapes, could become a 'hapax' phenomenon, a signifier pointing to something ('Marlboro Country') that did not formerly exist and still does not 'really' exist.

In general, signifiers slide until they are 'fixed' or 'quilted' (Lacan's preferred term) by a metaphoric constellation that frames and determines more or less permanent signifying relationships. With a frame of reference and defined point-of-view, the quilted metaphor seems to be a projection of some authoritative source (such as the mythical Marlboro Country Values). The non-existence of a real Marlboro Country works better than if there were really such a place.

Another example of the empty center of signification is Coke. Guaranteed not to quench thirst but increase it, emptied of calories and caffeine in some forms, Coke has nothing to be but 'It', as the commercials emphasize.