Andrew Lansdown wants cigarette brands to remove all branding from packaging and Greg Vallance, founder of Embrace Brands, is kicking off.
The news that Andrew Lansdown wants cigarette brands to remove all branding from packaging is creating a storm across the industry. To clear the air (excuse the pun) and shed some light on the issues brands should be aware of as the Government looks to push through its reforms, please see below comments from Greg Vallance, founder, Embrace Brands.
Greg comments: “The proposed move to remove all branding from cigarette packaging demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of the market and audience and, whilst unexpected by the industry, is shocking in its severity.”
If the initial plans are passed Greg believes we could see British brands suffering significantly, without any impact on smoking levels in the UK, particularly when it comes to teenagers / younger smokers:
“Advertising to teenagers has always been a taboo, with many industries finding themselves accused of ruining the innocence of childhood, or exploiting children’s desire to drive sales – especially at Christmas, where pester-power reigns supreme. However, the impact of branding on young people continues to be over-rated. Just because they are more impressionable does not make young consumers more receptive to branding. Indeed, young people looking to begin smoking, or any other activity for that matter, are far more likely to make their decisions based on price and peer recommendations rather than brand. ‘’Kids’’ will buy whatever is cheapest! If they could buy 2 sticks they would. Brand recognition and loyalty is something that develops with age.”
ILLICIT is MORE appealing – Government reverts to Draconian Steps
Greg continues: “Rather than continuing to invest in educating young people about the health implications, the government has moved directly to removing it from our consciousness. The day feared by the industry has come: the Government is, once again, taking a draconian step to crack a nut with a sledge hammer and, in the process, they are removing the ability of consumers to make an informed choice. This is especially ridiculous, given tobacconists aren’t even supposed to be selling to under 18s.”
“If the hope of this extreme measure is that it will make smoking appear less cool, the Government has clearly not done their homework. Putting products you are trying to defer attention from into bland packaging only serves to make them appear illicit and, therefore, more appealing. If you need a proof-point here, you only need to look at drug popularity; illegal drugs are never branded, or indeed packaged in many cases, but they are still desired and seen as ‘cool’ by many young people.”
“The saying actions speak louder than words couldn’t be further from the truth here. If the Government continues to invest in educating consumers here, they would not need to take this extreme action.”
Branding Crisis – the Death of the Preferred Smoking Brand?
Greg adds: “By removing branding from cigarette packaging the Government is leaving consumers open to abuse. A plain box effectively removes control over the contents – after all, who will be able to claim that their preferred brand is not right if there is no branding on the pack to claim that it is indeed their preferred brand?”
“This will also leave UK brands under threat from illicit foreign imports. Indeed, if imports remain branded then there will likely be a significant shift from UK brands to the branded imports, which will have a negative impact on our ability to export tobacco goods and compete at a global level as well as on the strength of the brand Britain.”
What should tobacco brand marketers do? Avoiding the Brand Blackout
Greg concludes: “Brands need to take a new tact here if they are to overcome the effect of this proposed Brand Blackout and it will be interesting to see who is first off the blocks here. To succeed I’d suggest the following course of attack:
- Be the first to launch the plain box:
The first brand to launch a plain box could gain significant advantage here, becoming synonymous with the unbranded box. But this opportunity will only be available to the quickest thinking brand.
- Win market share – drive innovation:
For those second or third to the party it is going to be all about trying to win share back from the first entrant. This could be done by something as simple as petitioning the government to allow differentiation by colour on pack – so you could be the brown pack, red pack, blue pack, etc – or something more elaborate; it’s really all about how far outside the box brands want to take this.
- Consider how removing the packaging from the equation will impact on your other marketing channels:
If differentiation on pack is proving difficult, brands should by-pass this entirely and focus on promoting off the box. Thinking about key images to include across the various other advertising media still at their disposal – whatever these may be – and devising a campaign incorporating TV, interactive and outdoor could be highly beneficial.
Revamp your split across channels wisely:
A note of caution here, however; be wary of the increasing restrictions around promoting tobacco products to consumers and keep your efforts inside these guidelines if you want to get anywhere. And remember, anything the pharmaceutical industry can do, can be done better (well, maybe not better, but certainly just as well!)”
Spotted on Right Brain, Left Brain on creamglobal.com