Cigarette blanding won’t kill cigarette branding

In this guest posting, Adam Joseph argues that new laws on cigarette packaging won’t work

Whilst I applaud Kevin Rudd’s sentiment in getting tough on smoking and the causes of smoking, I think there are some serious problems with his logic when it comes to removing all of the branding on cigarette packaging.  

For a start, most smokers have a very strong loyalty to their brand of choice. Assuming a smoker’s memory is longer than that of a goldfish, there’s a very good chance they will still remember the name of the brand of cigarette even without packaging to prompt them at point of sale every day.

After all, it’s not as if cigarettes are impulse purchases like copies of Zoo Weekly magazine or Tic Tacs. Smokes are a product designed to create a lasting habit, a fast moving consumer good with an addictive quality and a mildly narcotic effect.

Earlier this week Imperial Tobacco Australia spokeswoman Cathie Keogh told ABC Radio “Introducing plain packaging just takes away the ability of a consumer to identify our brand from another brand”.

Er, no it doesn’t. There are many ways to brand a product, and packaging is just one of them.

By “blanding” previously branded cigarette packs, I think it will simply force fag factories to dip into their massive coffers in order to innovate new ways of making their brand stands out from the crowd. No brand wants to be a commodity.

So if manufacterers can’t brand the packaging, then what about the product itself? It’s not too hard to imagine that the smoke makers might start to get creative with the actual paper they use to wrap the tobacco. Tradition says cigarette paper should be plain white – but there’s no reason it always has to be so.

For instance, what if Marlboro – the scarlet brand – added a thin red stripe to the design of their cigarette paper? When lighting up, this would clearly signal to a smoker – and to those around him or her – that they were a Marlboro Man or Marlboro Woman.

If you consent that in the smoking world Marlboro owns red, then Silk Cut owns purple. Benson & Hedges would lay claim to gold. Camel would get the hump if you contested it’s ownership of sandy yellow – and so on.

I don’t think “blanding” something will lead to it being wiped out in due course. After all, look at the major Australian political parties.

  • Adam Joseph is Readership Director of the Herald Sun in Melbourne and a member of the Australian Marketing Institute’s Victoria State Council.  He doesn’t smoke, but he does tweet

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