Collection: Salem Shows Spirit
In 1982, Salem rebranded their product toward a younger demographic and launched a new campaign, “Salem Spirit.” The new campaign served to rival Newport’s ongoing efforts targeting youth and attempted to steal Kool’s declining young customer base. In “Salem Spirit,” groups of young men and women bond together over fun, youthful activities, ranging from sledding and hot air ballooning to picnicking and frolicking in the ocean.
Internal R.J. Reynolds documents described the Salem smoker as “self-confident, up-to-date,” and as “younger adult smokers (18-23) who are characterized as social leaders/catalysts since they uniquely possess that sense of humor/wit, spontaneity, warmth and unpretentious style that makes them fun and exciting to be with” (1, 2).
The ads were constructed carefully in order to target this very specific demographic in many ways. One way was the use of what R.J. Reynolds referred to as “refreshment communicators.” Used to reflect the potentially unknown sensations of menthol to new smokers, refreshment communicators included “greenery, water, snow, and outdoor situations” (2).
Another method for attracting youth was through the campaign’s use of young, fun-loving models: “Model attitudes should continue to advance the campaign’s imagery through a warmth/caring focus as a vehicle to reflect a sense of group belonging and peer group acceptance,” one document explains, citing the equivalent of peer pressure as a primary method for hooking youth. “This is an important element differentiating the Spirit campaign from Newport’s exclusive ‘coupling.’ Model closeness will be emphasized to gain social smoking acceptability” (2). Another result of “model closeness” is that the activities all feel younger and almost child-like. Indeed, sharing a big drink at a picnic, sledding together, swinging on a tree swing, or playing “chicken” at the beach are all childish activities which contrast strikingly with any claims that the ads target solely adult audiences.
Young people have been (and remain today) a key marketing target for Salem cigarettes. In the 1980s, R.J.R. placed a strong emphasis on the necessity of hooking teens early, claiming that “younger adult smokers have been the critical factor in the growth and decline of every major brand and company over the last 50 years. They will continue to be just as important to brands/companies in the future…” (3). Later in this same document, the company literally refers to its smokers as if they assets, claiming that a young smoker “appreciates in value over time because of increased consumption.” Decades later, the sentiment that youth must be targeted remains prevalent. A more recent R.J. Reynolds document from 1998 explains that because only 31% of smokers begin smoking after age 18, and only 5% after age 24, “younger adults are the only source of replacement smokers” once adult smokers pass away (4).
1. Neher, WK. “Refined Positioning Statement for Salem.” R.J. Reynolds. 2 July 1984. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/qoe95d00/pdf
2. Hatheway, GM; William Esty. “Salem Spirit DAR Research Perspective.” R.J. Reynolds. 19 July 1984. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/koe95d00/pdf
3. Burrows, D.S. “Younger Adult Smokers: Strategies and Opportunities.” R.J. Reynolds. 29 February 1984. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/tqq46b00/pdf
4. “The Importance of Younger Adults.” R.J. Reynolds. 27 Feb 1998. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/eyn18c00/pdf