The re-branding a perceived negative mega-company, Philip Morris Tobacco and the public relations efforts to
prevent having to do so. Obviously this is a HUGE topic, so just pick a small slice and explore it:
In the early 2000’s, internal documents revealed that the large tobacco companies, of which Philip Morris is the
largest cigarette manufacturer in the United States, had knowingly developed hybrid tobacco plants that were
highly addictive and targeted tweens for a lifetime of smoking addition. They were required to place far more
stringent warnings on the products, create remunerative advertising to alert the public as to the dangers of
smoking, and stop using “blame tactics” to charge the user for their medical issues related to tobacco use.
Philip Morris’ brand value plummeted, as did all large tobacco companies.
Altria Group was founded by Philip Morris in 1985 as a holding company with interests in tobacco and wine.
I was absolutely outraged when I become bombarded recently with advertising for “Altria: Moving Beyond
Smoking”, and “From a tobacco company…to a tobacco harm reduction company”, and “taking action to
transition millions towards less harmful choices”. The visuals show blighted fields on the left and brightly
colored, well patterned grids on a landscape on the right hand side of the screen. The print has a shot that
appears to be from space of the planet with again, blight on the left and green on the right.
To decide to re-brand is an enormous decision for a company – their brand must be tarnished irreparably. And
what does a “tobacco harm reduction company” do/produce?
Please consider the public relations effort to re-brand the company after the previous pr efforts to cleanse the
image of the company by “disguising freedom to blame as freedom of choice” which translate in pr terms as
“the liberty and the right to smoke… so as to shift the industry’s responsibility away from the tobacco producers
and onto the users.” (https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/10.2105/AJPH.2014.302226).
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