Subliminal message decals

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Subliminal message decals

This draft letter appears to have been written by an R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company(RJR) employee, as it refers to "our coupons,"and "our younger smokers," and mentions RJR brands. The writer signed the letter with the title "Elec. Tech. #72111"

The writer suggests RJR produce decals with cigarette brand logos on them that would be "targeted to our younger smokers" who "might place them on notebooks, lockers, purses, jackets or clothing items...". The writer says,

It is important that we develope [sic] either a series of 10 different color schemes or 10 different decals for each brand targeted to our younger smokers since they usually purchase one pack at a time...[E]ach carton will have a complete series of decals and be much more attractive to our younger smokers.

The writer suggests targeting both young smokers and non-smokers to increase RJR's market share:

The youth of this day are very decal conscious and logo orientated [sic]; Therefore, by targeting our younger smokers and non-smokers with quality decals, we should be able to capture a larger share of that fast-growing market.

A search on the writer's "name" failed to reveal more information about who this employee was or what department he actually worked in, but a search of the adjacent Bates numbered-documents proved quite revealing. An adjacent Bates number-document (507747289) is a memo from RJR's Director of Special Markets (T.C. Harris) revealing that a Mr. Richardson formally presented his ideas for using decals to RJR's marketing department, praising Mr. Richardson for his ideas, promising to follow up on them and encouraging submission of these kinds of ideas from all RJR company employees:

Last Friday Lynn Beasley and I attended a presentation by John Richardson in which he submitted his suggestions for a younger adult smoker targeted decal program. Not only did the presentation reflect a great deal of quality thought and preparation, it also contained some excellent ideas...I assure you that the program idea will be thoroughly evaluated and actively pursued...Doug, on behalf of the entire Marketing Department, I would like to thank you for soliciting this type of input from your people. By focusing the commitment of every employee of RJR against our key business issues, our chances of finding the answers are bound to increase.[1]

The above letter from Harris was written on 4 December 1989, just 2 months after Richardson made his suggestion to target youth with cigarette-brand decals. This dispels the notion that Mr. Richardson might have been a "rogue employee" acting without approval, and suggests that the corporate culture at RJR encouraged employees to think of, and suggest new ways to target youth.

Date 19891002
Bates 507747290
Collection RJ Reynolds
Pages 1