Thursday, June 14, 2012

Salvaging a tobacco brand

"Plain" packaging.
Image: ASH Australia
Smoking rates in Australia have been dropping for some time. Figures depend on your source, of course, but it appears that around 20% of adults, or fewer, are daily smokers.

Various policies have helped the decline. There is active promotion of "quit" messaging, including highly graphic and emotive TV advertising. Smoking is prohibited in workplaces, restaurants and the like, and prohibitions are being extended to include many open areas (such as beaches).

Possibly the most overtly hostile action from the Government is the introduction of plain packaging laws. From December 1, 2012, tobacco companies will be required to remove all branding, other than the brand name, from cigarette packages. You can see the proposed pack in the first picture.

Metal pack. The logo will
outlast the paint job.
The tobacco industry is alarmed, and has challenged the proposed law in the High Court on constitutional grounds. The ruling is not expected for some months, so it will be interesting to see what happens.

Recently Peter Stuyvesant (owned by British American Tobacco) has been selling its cigarettes in a spiffy metal case, with the regular pack of cigarettes inside. This is seen by many as a way to circumvent the plain packaging laws. Assuming that the law is upheld in the High Court, then the metal case would be in breach of the law if it continued to be sold.

Current paper pack
Presumably the company hopes that people will keep the metal boxes and use them to contain their plain package cigarettes after the law comes into force.

The term "plain" packaging is clearly a misnomer. The packaging is far from plain, but is an overt attempt to dissuade the consumer from using the product, adorned as it is with ugly and vivid imagery of disease and illness.

It seems to me that having one's brand associated with such overwhelmingly negative images must be undesirable. On the upside, all the cigarette manufacturers are in the same position.

Will be more attractive
once the paint wears off
I bought one of the new metal packs the other day. (I don't smoke.) The same negative messages are dominant, as the photos show. However, the stylised "Peter Stuyvesant" logo is stamped into the case, and this will presumably outlast the paint job. I don't know whether the paint used for the anti-smoking messages will last as long as the imprint of the New York subway map (which is part of the branding). However, I do know that even after all the paint has worn off, the Peter Stuyvesant logo will remain, apparent to sight and touch.

Presumably that justifies the cost of producing the special edition packaging. It will be interesting to see if other manufacturers follow suit.

Some references

"National Health Survey: Summary of Results, 2007-2008", Australian Bureau of Statistics:
"Statistics on smoking in Australia", Cancer Council NSW:
"ASH Action: Plain packaging of tobacco":
"Designing smoking cessation" (Gerry Gaffney interviews Peter Benda about using technology to support quitters): (MP3 audio)

1 comment:

  1. The tobacco industry should look into alternative cigs, the same way us smokers are! It's a huge market, based on me! ;)