One thing I think most Decent Marketers are getting truly tired of is corporate marketing doublespeak. We talked about this a bit at the "Does Marketing Need Reform?" conference in Boston. So many companies say whatever they need to say, in cleverly crafted talking points, about their marketing, but behave very differently. Take the case of R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., manufacturers and marketers of Kool brand cigarettes.
In a story today in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, reporter Kaitlin Bell writes about Kool's current marketing program called Kool Mixx, " ... a series of disc jockey competitions that Kool sponsors in cities across the country as part of an aggressive marketing campaign for its Smooth Fusions line of cigarettes." The program is accompanied by a promotional CD-Rom that "... features hip-hop artists waxing poetic about their music and allows users to create their own mix 'n' scratch tracks and graffiti on their computers."
It seems even former Surgeon General David Satcher thinks the Kool Mixx program is an obvious attempt to get the attention and interest of young people, as does the National African-American Tobacco Prevention Network (NAATPN). It wasn't that long ago that I was a "young person." As a mid-30s girl now, I can tell you that I can't imagine as many people aged 25+ being interested in the Kool Mixx program as I can people who are, say, 10 to 20 years old, regardless of the corporate BS that Reynolds puts out, such as this: "'It's about an urban experience, [R. J. Reynolds spokesman Mark] Smith said." Oh, well that clears things up! He also added that flavored cigarettes aren't just for kids, according to the article. (Just for kids?)
Kool Smooth Fusions comes in flavors like Midnight Berry, Mintrigue, Mocha Taboo and Caribbean Chill.
Satcher believes flavored cigarettes are starter cigarettes, and the NAATPN thinks these companies use sweet flavors to lure young people into smoking. According to the CDC, black and Hispanic teenagers overwhelmingly prefer mentholated cigarettes.
Now here is some copy directly from R. J. Reynolds' website, in a section called Our Marketing Philosophy:
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJRT) believes that cigarette smokers are at significantly increased risk for a number of diseases and conditions, including lung cancer, cardiovascular disease (including heart disease) and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (emphysema and chronic bronchitis). Our company's philosophy is to operate as if smoking is a cause of these diseases. As a result, we believe that children should not smoke. We believe that pregnant women should not smoke. We believe that children should not be exposed to secondhand cigarette smoke or any other airborne irritant. Reynolds Tobacco is not interested in trying to persuade any nonsmokers to begin smoking or in persuading any smokers not to quit.
Now think about the above statement being written at the same time that people in the marketing department are coming up with the Kool Mixx program. Do you think this might qualify as doublespeak? Or doubledeeds? Or doublesomething? R.J. Reynolds knows what it is doing, even if it does so subconsciously. I don't think they have a memo somewhere that says, "Let's get all the black kids addicted to smoking!" But they're coming up with compelling ways to do just that, all the same.
It's all part of the marketing delusion many of us suffer, where we convince ourselves we're not doing something when in truth we really are. As Decent Marketers, we need to think twice.