Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Branding's Bad Side

[After today's post, Change Marketing will take a short March Break. I'll be back next week.]

Just over three years ago, R.J. Reynolds decided it needed to capture a greater share of the young, fashionable and female smoking public. After all, if up-trending rates of lung cancer among American women are anything to go by, it's a growing market.

And thus Camel No.9 was born: A sleek, pink, and pretty cigarette brand that sold itself in fashion magazines. Cool, eh?

However, people noticed something funny about this brand. Why were they marketing their smokes using teeny-bopper giveaways like glitter stickers and cell phone accessories? And what kind of adult is this promotion aimed at?

(via Sociological Images)

Well, a recent study by Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego has the answer. They conducted five phone interviews about cigarette awareness and use between 2003 and 2008 with 1,036 males and females who were 10 to 13 years old.

One interesting finding was that youth who had never smoked before, but who named a favorite cigarette ad at the beginning of the study, were 50% more likely to start smoking later on.

That makes the other major finding all the more distressing:

"The number of boys with a favorite ad was stable across all five surveys. For girls, however, it was stable across the first four surveys, but by the fifth survey, which took place after the start of the Camel No. 9 campaign, the proportion of girls who reported a favorite ad jumped by 10 percentage points, to 44 percent. The Camel brand accounted almost entirely for this increase."

Study lead John P. Pierce, PhD, professor of Family and Preventive Medicine and director of the Cancer Center’s Cancer Prevention and Control Program, commented: “This national study demonstrated that the Camel No. 9 campaign had a huge impact on young adolescent girls across the country, effectively encouraging them to smoke.”

He also points out that the results go against the Tobacco Industry's agreement with U.S. State Attorneys General not to target adolescents with advertising.

What do you think? Can R.J. Reynolds actually plead ignorance on this one, and claim that they weren't targeting teenage girls?

Bling it on, indeed.


  1. I think this kind of advertising is despicable, but how does one regulate it? The alcohol industry seems pretty good at making their ads clearly aimed at adults. Is there some way to make the tobacco industry do the same?

  2. The alcohol industry hasn't been as successful as you might think. Here, Advertising Standards Canada pulls the plug on beer campaigns that use too-young-looking actors every once in a while.

  3. The point is that most brand campaigns are aimed at younger generations to create a brand<->person connection that is carefully crafted to ideally last a life time. Conditioning happens in our formative years - parents, governments and religious groups know this and, sadly, so do advertising agencies...

  4. Oh, and sorry for the late comment, I only came across you blog just then and am very inspired, thanks.