According to Talking Retail in January 2013, Marlboro Bright Leaf was exceeding expectations with its intended target group of legal age to 29 year old smokers. To ensure its long term growth PMI decided to rebrand Marlboro Bright Leaf as Bright Leaf .
According to their marketing director, this change is designed to clearly differentiate it from the iconic international Marlboro range. 11
The brand change was introduced in January 2013, occurring in two stages. The first stage involved three sides of the packet being kept the same as the current packaging with a ripped section on the front of the pack to reveal the new packaging underneath (Image3).
The second phase showed the new pack in full but the cellophane wrapping will be used to reassure current Marlboro Bright Leaf smokers with the message New Pack. Same Taste and the pack itself says Bright Leaf .from the makers of Marlboro .
It is not clear why PMI would wish to disassociate Marlboro from Bright Leaf. However, this may have been the plan from its launch. Marlboro is a premium brand. By creating a cheaper brand variant in the mid priced sector, the Marlboro brand s premium status is diluted. However, due to the limited opportunities to market a new brand in the UK owing to advertising regulations, the Marlboro name may have been used as a hook for those down trading to cheaper brands in the sub premium, mid priced segment. 12
Why is this Important?
With the level of advertising restriction in the UK, packaging is key to the success of a new brand. One of the possible consequences of plain packaging, if it is introduced into the UK market, would be to deter the launch of any new cigarette brands as it would be difficult to market a brand without packaging. The creation of this new brand would have been unlikely to succeed were plain packaging already in place.
Indeed, at the Bright Leaf launch in 2009, in response to the proposed Point of Sale advertising ban which would remove all packaging from public view, Jens Behrendt, managing director of PMI said, How can you launch a new product when you can t show it?
Low Priced Segment
Having a premium and a mid priced offering, PMI still lacked an economy brand in the UK. In April 2011 PMI launched Chesterfield cigarettes, available in red, blue and menthol variants. 13 14 The launch was supported by extensive advertising in trade magazines to get retailers to stock the brand and via hostess selling activity in pubs and clubs across major cities in the UK in order to raise its profile.
Tobacco firm begins ‘stealth-marketing’ campaign against plain packaging
With their backs to the wall amid increasingly tough regulations, as well as the looming threat of having to remove all branding from cigarette packets, tobacco companies need all the allies they can find. Who better to ask than the UK’s 10 million smokers themselves?
In a new stealth marketing campaign launched with the aid of a major lobbying firm which has waged similar offensives for rightwing causes in the US, the makers of Marlboro cigarettes are seeking to mobilise a grassroots fightback by customers against moves towards the introduction of blank packaging.
Buyers of Marlboro cigarettes have been finding messages inside their packets inviting them to visit a new campaigning website, , which describes itself as “the community for Britain’s smokers”.
Philip Morris, which also makes brands including Chesterfield and Virginia for the UK market, is running three different inserts in packets highlighting tough policies that aim to hit a nerve with smokers tax, the possibility of banning smoking in cars and homes, and how plain packaging might fuel the black market trade in cigarettes.
One insert reads “Plain packaging is the latest in a stream of proposals targeting smokers. Other excessive schemes have been suggested. Know more by learning the issues, then say no more to the government by joining our community and speaking out.”
The bottom left hand corner of the website states that it is sponsored by Philip Morris Ltd.
A background check reveals that the site is registered to Democracy Data & Communications (DDC) Advocacy, a major US lobbying firm which has become a specialist in so called stealth lobbying involving the setting up of “astroturf” websites and organisations to front campaigns that advocate for vested interests.
Its previous campaigns have included the establishment of a supposedly grassroots group called Citizens for a Safe Alexandria to attack moves by the Obama administration to prosecute Guant namo Bay prisoners in the US state of Virginia. Others have been mounted on behalf of US private healthcare giants and in support of moves by George W Bush to privatise social security.
DDC’s founder, chairman and CEO is BR McConnon, a former employee at Citizens for a Sound Economy, an anti regulation conservative political group whose offshoots have been reported to be guiding forces in the establishment of the Tea Party movement.
The Philip Morris campaign, which will run for the best part of a month, indicates that the tobacco lobby fears the impact of plain packaging on cigarette sales.
Although proposals to introduce such a measure were dropped in the Queen’s speech because of unease in Downing Street and Conservative fears of the “nanny state” label, the Liberal Democrat health minister Norman Lamb last month urged the coalition to press ahead.
A spokesman for Philip Morris said “Adult smokers and tobacco retailers in the UK face some of the strictest tobacco control regulations and pay some of the highest cigarette taxes in Europe, but typically they do not know about these policies until after they have been enacted.
“Consumers and retailers tell us that they would appreciate receiving information about public policies and government proposals that directly impact them, so we launched the Know More website to do exactly that.
“The website focuses on issues that affect retailers and adult smokers currently and potentially in the future.”
However, anti smoking campaigners say the emergence of such campaigns demonstrates the degree of distrust of tobacco companies.
Martin Dockrell, director of policy at Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), said “The industry faces the same old problem that they just can’t solve who will they find to speak for an industry that kills half its users?
“This is the latest attempt to get smokers to do the work for them. This time they seem intent on keeping tight control of the messaging.
“The industry dilemma is this they hope to achieve more credibility by using organisations that look independent, but the more independent the spokesman, the less the tobacco companies are in control. This time they are mimicking online campaign sites like 38 Degrees, recruiting smokers as ‘netizens’, but retaining maximum control over the content.”
Philip Morris is the fourth biggest tobacco company in the UK, selling about 7% of the 4.4bn cigarettes sold each year, which means the inserts will run in potentially as many as 1.5m packets over the course of the campaign to raise awareness among its customers.
Philip Morris is not running the campaign in conjunction with the other “big four” tobacco companies Japan Tobacco International (JTI), Imperial Tobacco and British American Tobacco and is not a member of the trade body the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association.
The tobacco industry has been stepping up lobbying efforts against proposed government regulations in recent months.
The JTI UK subsidiary Gallaher, which markets brands including Benson & Hedges, Silk Cut and Camel, has run a series of ads in national newspapers attacking government policy.
The ads hit out against anti tobacco groups as well as plans for proposals including the introduction of plain packaging.
Groups including Ash and Cancer Research complained to the advertising watchdog that the content of the ads contained inaccuracies. The Advertising Standards Authority banned three ads for being misleading.