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Smoke signals rule in tobacco identity crisis


16 Aug, 2012 03:00 AM

”IMAGINATIVE” use of brand names and social media could become the next
big marketing weapons for tobacco companies, as cigarette packs look set to
be stripped of their branding, experts said.

Anti-smoking groups were also concerned that incentives for vendors to
promote certain cigarette brands could increase as tobacco companies fought
for their share in a declining market.

”It’s impossible to exaggerate what a massive blow this is for tobacco
companies because their pack is their brand identity,” Professor Simon
Chapman, a public health academic at the University of Sydney, said.

”But what they’ve still got is their name and I think we’ll see companies
really start trying to introduce compelling new brand names that in
particular will appeal to a young demographic.”

Professor Chapman pointed to boutique cigarette brands such as Pink Dreams
and German brand, Sex Smooth ‘n Easy, as examples of brand names that could
lure young smokers.

Becky Freeman, from the University of Sydney, whose research into online
tobacco marketing was published in the international journal Tobacco
Control, said cigarette companies would increasingly look to the ”poorly
regulated” online space to promote its products.

”Already we are seeing a lot of activity here with fan pages for
cigarette brands on Facebook and product reviews on YouTube. As another
avenue for marketing closes in Australia, this industry is going to look at
what avenues are still open to them and invest in those areas in very
creative ways.”

Tobacco companies are banned from advertising on Australian websites but
there is nothing stopping them directly, or indirectly, from setting up
Facebook pages that promote their brands.

A Melbourne Business School associate professor of marketing, Don
O’Sullivan, said the best form of advertising left open to tobacco
companies in Australia was word of mouth and people seeing others smoking,
”whether it be within their social network or on TV”.

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