Collection: Black Musicians
Although tobacco companies repeatedly exploit music in brand advertising and promotion to appeal to youth, perhaps the KOOL brand has been most relentless in its adoption of music, and jazz in particular, in its advertising and promotional techniques. In 1975, KOOL began sponsoring jazz festivals to target African American consumers. By 1980, KOOL industry documents described KOOL Jazz Festivals as “the premier events in Black soul music,” and cites the attending audience as “90% Black” (http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/ofn14f00). The series grew to 22 cities when in 1986 B&W decided to downsize to 3 cities and focus on other musical avenues like “KOOL Country Shindig” due to “growing concern that the more successful the [Jazz] Festivals became, the blacker the [Kool brand] image would become” (1).
Although B&W may have been primarily “using the events to offset Black media availability deficiencies” (1), the company also realized that jazz music and music in general could appeal to other demographics as well, as a sort of added bonus. Internal documents from 1981 cited music as “an idea or symbol that was truly Pan-Racial… an idea that transcended the color of a smoker’s skin” (2). In describing a new print ad technique depicting solo musicians of varying ethnicities, B&W’s advertising agency explains, "The print media, due to segmentation, provide the option of 'segregated' brand communication (for example, see Salem campaigns). However, this approach was avoided since it encouraged a split personality, or dual image, for the brand […] Further, we believe that Black smokers increasingly will 'see through' this approach and possibly resent what essentially amounts to a 'separate but equal' dual campaign strategy” (2). In a National Sales Meeting speech, a B&W exec explained their music-oriented approach: “That’s not advertising for Blacks or Whites or Hispanics, that’s advertising for everyone who likes music. And how many people do you know who don’t like music? […] Black smokers are very important to KOOL, as you well know, and we could, like Salem, create a separate ad campaign to run in Black publications… with Black models only. But why should we? We don’t have to do that, we’re going to own the world of music, where the subject of Black and White don’t matter because the only real issue is one of pleasure. Musical enjoyment…linked to smoking satisfaction” (3).
Still, KOOL continues its targeting of young black consumers through the exploitation of popular music. B&W’s “B KOOL” campaign of 1998 included a series of “House of Menthol” promotions, reminiscent of the famous “House of Blues.” The House of Menthol series included KOOL MIXX, nightclub events featuring Disc Jockey (DJ) and Emcee (MC) freestyle rap competitions. In advertising KOOL Milds, B&W positioned the brand as “Groovin’: High Notes, Tasty Beats, and a Smooth Vibe. You’re right, that sounds just like the flavor of KOOL Milds” (4).
By 2004, the KOOL MIXX promotion included limited edition cigarette pack art, meant to “Celebrate the Soundtrack to the Streets.” One advertisement for the special limited edition packs claimed that “DJs are the Masters of Hip Hop like KOOL is the Master of Menthol. KOOL MIXX Special Edition Packs are our mark of respect for these Hip Hop Players.” This national release of limited edition KOOL MIXX packs caught the attention of regulators, who filed lawsuits against B&W asserting that the KOOL MIXX campaign was in violation of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) because it explicitly targeted black youth. The lawsuit was picked up by R.J. Reynolds when they acquired B&W, and RJR agreed to a settlement which limited (but did not forbid) future KOOL MIXX promotions and required B&W to shell out $1.46 million toward youth smoking prevention and cessation in minority communities previously targeted by the campaign (5). Thereafter, B&W maintained the KOOL MIXX promotion in its limited form and skirted the intent of the regulation by formulating an entirely new music promotion with similar appeal. In 2004, B&W released the KOOL Nu Jazz Festival which toured in Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Detroit, and was “meant to communicate the evolution of music” (5). An internal document explains that the Festival was “not just about jazz – it’s about R&B, Neo-Soul, Funk, Jazz, and how each genre of music led to the next” (6). The series included 27 concert events and 20 after parties. KOOL Nu Jazz artists included contemporary hip-hop, R&B, and soul artists including Erykah Badu, The Roots, and Big Boi of Outkast. This expanded in 2005 and 2006 to be “The New Jazz Philosophy Tour,” including John Legend, Common, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes and Blackalicious (7,8).
1. Broecker, BL. “Umbrella Music Strategy.” B&W. 16 July 1981. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/tir40f00
2. Cunningham & Walsh Advertising Agency. “Kool: The Revitalization of an Image.” B&W. 1 July 1981. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/leb91d00
3. Lewis, LR. “Speech for National Sales Meeting.” B&W. Oct 1981. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/crj40f00
4. “KOOL. TPUSA UPDATE.” RJ Reynolds. 2004. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/zpl77a00
5. “Company News; Reynolds Settles Suits in 3 States Over Cigarette Ads.” The New York Times. 7 Oct. 2004. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0DE1D9173BF934A35753C1A9629C8B63
6. RJR. “The Kool Nu Jazz Festival Adult Smoker Engagement Training Program.” RJR. 2004. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/wdd87h00
7. “The New Jazz Philosophy Tour 2005” RJ Reynolds. 16 June 2005. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/wwr27a00
8. “The New Jazz Philosophy Tour 2006” RJ Reynolds. 2006. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/zpl77a00