Pentagram Rebrands Cigarettes, to Make Deadliness a Virtue

DJ Stout, a partner at Pentagram, unveils a concept for cigarette packaging, in light of new tobacco regulations.

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Yesterday, President Obama signed new legislation that aims to make the marketing of cigarettes more difficult than ever—and the law has some provisions that would affect graphic designers, such as a mandate that print ads be in black and white, rather than color. So the St. Petersburg Times asked Pentagram partner DJ Stout to redesign the cigarette package, in light of these changes. What he produced is meant to appeal to smokers, while also turning off others.

Stout says that to pull that off, tobacco companies could embrace tobacco's deadly effects:

"Over the years there has been an onslaught of public awareness messaging about the evils of smoking. Unless you've been living in a cave for the last 50 years you are very aware that smoking is not only bad for you, it could very likely kill you. All smokers know this for sure but it doesn't deter them.

"Our marketing advice to cigarette companies in the new heavily regulated era is to fully accept the new aggressive anti-smoking restrictions and wallow in the government's apocalyptic health warnings. Don't make excuses or dance around the stepped-up marketing regulations, just transform the whole cigarette pack into a three dimensional warning label."

But is that even possible? Wouldn't these kind of amazing packages catch the eye of many more potential new users?

For its part, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the new laws—in addition to other regulations, such as higher taxes—would curb youth smoking by 11 percent, and adult smoking by 2 percent. Presumably, taxes are really the biggest lever in that equation. What would the numbers really look like if tobacco companies went as cynical as Stout suggest? Wouldn't the approach just make cigarettes cooler?

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Related Stories:
Triumph of the Design Haters: After Facebook and Tropicana, Whose Redesign Is Next to Go?
Never Mind! Pepsi Pulls Much-loathed Tropicana Packaging
Knowing When It's Time For A Packaging Makeover

[Via Coudal]

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6 Comments

  • White Shaka

    All true! Smokers tempt fate to test their immortality. That's why the do-good message doesn't really work on smokers.

    If this were a real brand - it would have an instant following!

    Think about the SC governor who cheated on his wife while also going to Bible study class and you'll understand the inherent contradiction - smokers know exactly how dangerous it is but test their power against the bigger Power.

    Oddly enough there is a part of the brain called the insula - if it is disabled you'll quit right away - it deals, among other things, with mind-body relationships.

    Smoking is deep - check out www.cigseduction.com

  • Cliff Kuang

    @Atrian--Ha, yes. I noticed that too. Oddly enough, the New York Times had that locution as well. I think what they meant to say is that half of smokers eventually die due to causes directly related to the habit. Which actually is a bit less than I would have guessed!

  • Atrian Wagner

    If half of cigarette smokers eventually die, then does that mean the other half gain immortality?

  • Cliff Kuang

    Wow--Thanks for commenting White. That's a fascinating parallel. That said, I don't think it's quite precise. As the presentation you link to implies, cigarette companies have, in their marketing, always resorted to attaching their product with universal aspirations--as all brands attempt to do. With cigarettes, that basically means changing the subject, with respect to the damage that cigarettes cause--that is, associating their products with being healthy, young, and rich. Stout's proposal reverses that course. But in our age--where ironic advertising abounds--that too could be counted as a type of sex appeal.

  • Cliff Kuang

    Wow--Thanks for commenting White. That's a fascinating parallel. That said, I don't think it's quite precise. As the presentation you link to implies, cigarette companies have, in their marketing, always resorted to attaching their product with universal aspirations--as all brands attempt to do. With cigarettes, that basically means changing the subject, with respect to the damage that cigarettes cause--that is, associating their products with being healthy, young, and rich. Stout's proposal reverses that course.

  • White Shaka

    Actually, the tobacco people have always factored self-destruction into their brand message. Pierre Martineau and Ernest Dichter (50's market researchers) both noted that. As for Marlboro - it is the "soldier's cigarette" and designed to look like a medal. So putting death on there wouldn't necessarily kill the brand. To see how this works look at this visual trailer from Cigarette Seduction http://www.empressr.com/View.a...