Project DB

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Project DB was an attempt by R.J. Reynolds to increase its military market share by introducing a new brand with imagery targeting young adult males' need for "peer acceptance" and "masculine user imagery." The brand was to appeal to "middle and lower income males" in the military and was to be sold at a price competitive with generic cigarettes.

A 1983 document about Project DB refers to "younger adult males smokers" as "a lucrative source of business" and repeatedly refers to young males' "needs for a sense of social belonging," "peer acceptance," "peer approval" and "masculine" or "virile imagery." Sample language from the marketing document gives an idea of how cigarette marketing minds view young "prime prospects":

DB's imagery should, therefore, project the male target smoker as a part of a group of male friends who share the same interests, lifestyles and attitudes. The group with whom the target associates emanates a special kinship and social rapport. They enjoy a group friendship which spans enough mutual experiences and private jokes for these men to know each other well and appreciate each other's company. Because of their collective history, they are completely at ease with each other...The group reassures and reinforces its members' sense of social belonging and well-being. They talk and listen to each other about their everyday wins and losses; they back each other up; they have been through something together; they have a good time together and basically see the world the same way. While their individual personalities may be different, collectively they form a balanced personality, compensating for each other's shorts and strengths. This group reinforcement mechanism will be positioned in DB's favor, acting as a peer endorsement for selecting a good cigarette at a substantially lower price. The group recognizes the real value which DB offers.

Project DB is an example of how cigarette companies use psychology to sell a deadly, addictive product to young, low-income males who have decided to serve the U.S. in the military. [1]

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  1. R.J. Reynolds Project DB Military Introduction Plan Marketing document. July 20, 1983, 60 pp, Bates No. 502486716/6775