I was introduced to cigarettes at a very young age. Yes, in the womb like most kids my age, but I don’t actually remember that. What I do remember is when I would wake up in the early morning and see my Dad light up his Salem cigarette. He was a pretty hardcore smoker. My Mom on the other hand, only busted out her stale, “I only buy a pack of Marlboro’s a year,” for special occasions, i.e. family gatherings and events. I remember at one of these parties, my Aunts talking about how cigarettes curb your appetite and help you digest food after a meal. So early on I believed that cigarette smoking was good for you because it helped to keep the pounds off.
Vintage cigarette ads typically have doctor’s recommendations for smoking and this one is no exception. However, that is not the focus of the ad. You don’t care that “It’s toasted” to prevent throat irritation, because your eyes are immediately drawn to the dark and ominous pudgy shaped man or woman in the background. In very fine print it says, “We do not say smoking Luckies reduces flesh. We do say when tempted to over-indulge, Reach for a Lucky instead.” So when being chased, or pushed into the water by your colossal self, grab a cigarette to ward them off.
Weight loss has always been a lucrative industry in and of itself. Cigarette advertisers understood that being able to align their own brand with this type of powerful messaging was smart advertising. The successful role that this association in advertising played even led to brands specifically designed to target and appeal to this audience. Virginia Slims ads with attractive and slender young women happily smoking their fat away with a puff of their “thin” cigarette.
You see the use of weight loss and similar messages in advertising today like this PETA ad. The message is about being a vegetarian but the draw is to Alice Silverstone and her very slender body, i.e. save animals and get fit while doing it.
We even use the term “thin” as a descriptor for our electronics.
So according to the Lucky ad, if you don’t smoke Luckies, you can turn into a pudgy, soft, less attractive man or women. A clever ad sells us a lifestyle or a choice, not the product itself. It targets your underlying desires (or fears, i.e. the fear of getting fat) with tangible benefits, i.e. athleticism and attractiveness.
In the modern day, selling a lifestyle, or passion driven marketing has become even more important especially with the advent of social media. Consumers are bombarded with ads and being able to stand out has become even more challenging. On top of that, marketing a lifestyle in such a way that it is centered around emotions and associations, has higher share appeal. One of the best examples of this is the Apple iPod ads. These famous ads became famous because they each target a lifestyle in their own unique way. Are you rock ‘n roll, punk, hip hop, disco, soul, reggae, country? Do you want to be a couch potato, or do you want to get up and move? Viewers can easily connect to these ads because of the way they make you feel – they make you feel the lifestyle and they leave the choice for what that will be up to you.
So, what lifestyles are we being sold today? What emotion desire or drive are brands aligning themselves with to sell you their product?