This theme features ads for Merit cigarettes. A Philip Morris brand first introduced to national markets in January of 1976, Merit uses the positive connotation of its name in order to attract consumers. The word “merit” denotes a product worthy of praise or deserving of respect.
Internal industry documents reveal that in order to convince consumers that Merit had low tar as well as great taste, “our ads had to be absolutely believable” because “the false claims of past years and past brands presented road-blocks” (1). The brand name, “Merit,” helped contribute to formulating an aura of credibility for the brand. The advertisements also reflected the same goal, with a strategy internally referred to as “bold” and “aggressive.” The ads were meant to convince consumers that Merit was a “breakthrough” cigarette, and thus presented information in the style of newspaper articles, “featuring headlines” with “scientific substance and validity – ads that looked important and impressive.” Indeed, Merit’s ad campaign, reaching into the 1980s, “used a journalistic, reportorial style – one which an editor might use for a front page story in a major newspaper.”
As is the case with the majority of products on the market, brands of cigarettes were named in order to send particular messages to consumers. The brand name “Kool,” for example, not only reminds consumers of the throat-cooling sensation of menthols, but it also speaks to the word’s meaning in slang; to be “cool” is to be hip and trendy. The choice of certain brand names also extends to tobacco companies’ efforts to ease the concerns of worried smokers. Indeed, when the tobacco companies could no longer rely on explicit health claims in their advertisements due to FTC regulation, they developed countless methods to subliminally convey the same message, including brand name.
1. “The Merit Story.” 1981. Philip Morris. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/miz08e00/.