Project YAX was an R.J. Reynolds term for a young adult smoker brand. The project was to develop a new brand whose marketing would cause the cigarette to rival Marlboro's popularity among the young. The new brand was to have extra sweetness and smoothness to make it attractive to "young adult" smokers, or YAX.
An R.J. Reynolds document about Project YAX shows the psychological scrutiny that tobacco marketing departments give the psychological needs of young adults, and how these companies target a cigarette brand's imagery to the deep-seated psychological needs of that segment of the population. Note how RJR preys on young adults' emotional needs for belonging, closeness, financial security and well-being:
- A brand that stands for serenity via tranquil/majestic settings will be perceived by younger adult smokers as contributing to their sense of well-being....A brand that stands for the joy, closeness, and sense of belonging of male/female relationships via intimate and/or romantic situations will be perceived by younger adult smokers as contributing to their sense of well-being....A brand that stands for the openness and sense of belonging of friendships via close, interpersonal situations will be perceived by younger adult smokers as contributing to their sense of well-being...A brand that stands for financial security via achievable wealth-oriented imagery will be perceived by younger adults as contributing to their sense of well-being...
RJR strove to encourage young adults to derive a sense of well-being, joy, closeness and serenity...from cigarettes -- a product which could addict, sicken and kill them.
Additional industry documents on YAX ads
An R.J. Reynolds document, A Qualitative Study on Yax-Phase II, relates to focus group testing done on young people (some still in high school) to find out their reactions to cigarette ads that were designed to appeal to their inner wants for serenity, calm, romance, excitement, risks, friends, fantasy, etc.
The surprisingly frank responses from some the young people often made great sense, and may have been comments that the cigarette company overlooked too easily. For example, when viewing a cigarette ad that had the word "America" in the headline, several respondents pointed out that "It is not appropriate to sell America when selling cigarettes." When viewing a cigarette ad with a backdrop of natural scenery, some respondents said they felt that "the natural scenery would be defiled by smoking a cigarette, i.e. the scenery and the product category did not really fit..."
When shown an action-based ad with the actor engaging in a physical activity that was daring and challenging, some respondents said "They could not connect the activities shown with smoking, i.e., 'how could someone in that position be smoking a cigarette.'"
Aside from helping us understand how cigarette companies position their advertising to appeal to young people's psychological desires, this document shows us that young people deserve a lot of credit for having the smarts to point out the obvious absurdities of such ads.