Tobacco Marketing: Get Them Young or Not at All
The tobacco industry has been in a battle to capture the youth market for decades mainly because of the degree of brand loyalty that is characteristic of cigarette smokers. Cigarette companies have a lot at stake in making sure that their brand is one of the first tried by the young smoker. In its bid to obtain young smokers, R.J. Reynolds created the Joe Camel campaign with a cool character that youths found highly appealing and the company created fierce advertising, promotional, and sales campaigns to take their message to market. The Joe Camel campaign proved to be one of the most successful bids to capture young smokers in tobacco history. Ultimately, its tremendous success was in part the reason for the campaign's eventual downfall, as public outcry demanded that cigarette companies stop marketing to adolescents and as courts gained legal leverage against the tobacco industry. Today, Joe Camel may be vanquished, but R.J. Reynolds and tobacco companies continue to find more subtle ways to target youths at an early age and have moved on to lesser developed countries where opposition to the industry isn't as strong.
It's ironic that cigarette companies obtain a customer for a lifetime, but that the lifetime of the customer is cut short by cigarettes. Each year, 420.000 cigarette customers die and must be replaced. Thus, young people are the tobacco industry's primary target replacement market for selling cigarettes. And, this target market is working for tobacco companies with three thousand teenagers beginning to smoke every day, amply replacing the number of smokers that are dying. Loss of smokers was an even larger problem for R.J. Reynold's Camel brand than for other cigarettes. The Camel cigarette was originally an unfiltered cigarette that was purchased by older smokers. Therefore, Camel was losing its "lifelong" customer at a more rapid clip than other cigarette brands because Camel cigarettes were more toxic and because they were being consumed by an older age group. Thus the birth of the Joe Camel campaign in 1988 by R.J. Reynolds to win a larger share of young smokers that its competitors.
It's important for tobacco companies to target smokers when they are young because of the nature of brand loyalty. Ninety percent of all smokers begin to smoke before they are twenty one, and sixty percent begin before they are fourteen. Once they choose a brand, cigarettes smokers are very brand loyal because they enjoy the taste of a particular brand. In a survey of one thousand smokers, eighty six percent stated that they would never consider buying another brand on a regular basis. Approximately, forty one percent of smokers in the age bracket twenty five to thirty nine years claim they have been smoking their regular brand for ten years or more.
Of these smokers, only fourteen percent said that they would even consider changing to a different brand in the future. Forty one percent smoke brands other than their regular cigarettes when their brand is unavailable. Forty two percent of the 1000 respondents stated that about three quarters of all the cigarettes they smoke are their regular brand and thirty seven percent stated they would never smoke another cigarette other than their regular brand
And, once a smoker is hooked, the tobacco company now has a long-time customer. According to many experts, the nicotine in tobacco is more addictive than cocaine, heroin, or opium. One survey of high school students who were daily smokers showed that only five percent of them intended to be smoking in five years. But after five years seventy five percent of them were still smoking An occasional smoker beginning at fifteen will be a daily smoker by eighteen. And, even more interestingly, age plays a large role in causing addiction and brand loyalty. Kids who start at the age are much more likely to become addicted to nicotine. The earlier you get them, the more likely they are to get addicted. And, the earlier you get someone interested...
Reynold's Joe Camel campaign was extraordinarily successful at creating large brand recognition and market share for Camel cigarettes. Studies show that nearly one third of three-year-olds were able to associate Joe Camel with a cigarette and they by age six children were just as familiar with him as they were with the Mickey Mouse logo on the Disney Channel. The Joe Camel character is largely attributable to transforming Camel cigarettes from a brand smoked by less than one percent of smokers under the age of eighteen in the United States to a one-third share of this market and nearly a half billion in annual sales, all in less than three years.
By targeting young smoking candidates, tobacco companies can take advantage of a group that is vulnerable and insecure. Tobacco companies direct their advertisements towards young consumers that promise that smoking will make them either attractive, independent, tough, strong, popular, happy or cool, all crucial needs and desires of adolescents R.J. Reynolds is part of R.J. Nabisco, a company that produces many products that are consumed by children and they certainly know how to get their attention. Joe Camel appealed heavily to the cool category although many campaigns crossed several categories of insecurity. Joe Camel is a high-rolling, swinging cartoon character with a sax, sunglasses, and hip clothes portrayed in trendy social settings such as bars and pool halls. Many anti-smoking critics have accused R.J.Reynolds of selecting Joe Camel for its campaign not only because children will associate with the cool character, but also because children think that cute cartoon characters mean that the product is harmless.
Joe Camel started a trend in the tobacco industry for using cartoon characters to promote cigarettes. Joe Camel inspired other cartoon advertisement campaigns, including a penguin tested by Brown & Williamson, U.S. subsidiary of transnational giant BAT industries. Also, "Willie the Kool," the penguin used to promote Kool cigarettes, has buzz-cut hair, day-glo sneakers, sunglasses, and is very conscious of being "cool."
Marlboro, Camel and Newport are the three most heavily advertised brands, It's no coincidence that eighty six percent of young smokes that bought their own cigarettes purchased either Marlboro, Camel or Newport (see Figure 1 for a comparison of their advertisement messages). Marlboro and Camel control over 90% of the adolescent smoking market. The appeal to coolness coupled with heavy advertising was responsible for Camel's success. Camel was bested only by Marlboro with its Marlboro Cowboy campaign that appealed to a youth's desire for independence, toughness and strength.
Figure 1: Advertising Messages Used To Target Youth
Marlboro Camel Newport
Independent Cool Popular
Initially, R.J. Reynolds repeatedly denied that it created the Joe Camel character to target the youth market or that it targets youths in general. The company stated that Joe Camel is no more improper for cigarettes advertising than is other cartoon characters that sell other products. R.J. Reynolds also argued that it was impossible to isolate its marketing efforts for eighteen and over individuals and those under eighteen reasoning that:
Even if tobacco companies did try to tailor their advertising to an older group, 18- to 24-year-olds for example, "there's no way you can draw a sharp distinction between 18 and 17 or even 18 and 16," he says. "Things which appeal to 18-year-olds naturally appeal to 17-, 16- and 15-year-olds, because the younger kids emulate the older kids."
However, the evidence against R.J. Reynolds and other companies targeting young smokers started to mount after their advertising and promotional campaigns were fully understood.
The advertisement mediums and promotional campaigns that R.J. Reynolds pursues show that adolescent smokers are a large target audience as explained in the following summary from ABCNEWS.com:
Look at the kind of concerts they sponsor. It ain't the golden oldies," says John Banzhaf, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health.
Although they do not maintain Web sites to advertise their products, they do sponsor sites that appeal to teens.
In many games, particularly driving-type games, players speed past billboards that advertise cigarettes.
They sponsor many popular movies, including Superman II (Marlboro) and Supergirl (Eve).
Giving jackets, posters and other items in exchange for cigarette packages is particularly effective, Banzhaf says, citing a pair of beach sandals that leave tracks shaped like camel hoofprints as an example clearly targeted at kids.
Although only two percent of smokers are teenagers, the tobacco companies spend fifty percent of their advertising money targeting young people to smoke. At the time of Joe Camel, tobacco companies widely used billboards to advertise, a form of advertisement available to all regardless of age. Tobacco companies also made heavy use of advertisements in magazines with high youth readership such as Sports Illustrated, People, Rolling Stone, Hot Rod, Glamour, Vibe, Motor Trend, Spin and Mademoiselle. All of these magazines have readers between the…
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