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  • Tobacco marketing Review Strategic marketing in the UK tobacco industry Susan Anderson, Gerard Hastings, and Lynn MacFadyen Tobacco-industry marketing has played a central part in the global spread of tobacco use and addiction. Although the absolute size of the tobacco market has dwindled, the industry is still immensely successful, largely due to sophisticated and manipulative marketing strategies. The UK tobacco industry identifies target groups and builds enduring relationships based on careful brand management. Potential customers are exposed to brands which are likely to appeal to them most. Tobacco companies tailor their products to target markets by altering the content of tar and nicotine, and by adding flavourings to produce a distinctive taste. Marketing strategies ensure that the products are promoted heavily at the point of sale, and directed advertising and sponsorship agreements are used to increase the visibility of the brand and strengthen its image. Tobacco companies also target non-consumer organisations such as retailers and policy makers with the aim of creating the best possible business environment for tobacco sales. We review published evidence, internal-advertising-agency documents, and observational data about tobacco promotion, and discuss the use of targeted marketing strategies in the UK. Lancet Oncol 2002; 3: 481–86 Figure 1. Cigarettes are the most popular form of tobacco sold in the UK. Tobacco industry marketing has played a crucial part in the spread of smoking habits around the world (figure 1). Over data.20 Of the tobacco-industry documents, many are from the past three decades, research has established that tobacco the industry’s main advertising agencies, which are advertising encourages people to start smoking as well as extremely candid about specific details of marketing ensuring that existing smokers do not give up.1–6 More activities. Similar sets of archival data exist from litigation in limited research has also established that other promotional the USA and Canada, which provide an overview of strategic activities, such as merchandising, sports sponsorship, and marketing tactics, but we do not discuss them in detail loyalty schemes, all encourage smoking.7–13 Many tobacco here.15–19 The observational data comes from recent and producers use sophisticated techniques to target potentially ongoing research done by investigators at the Cancer profitable groups, such as young or disadvantaged Research UK Centre for Tobacco Control Research individuals, but rarely make any compensation for the social (University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK). In particular, we consequences of widespread tobacco use.14–19 use results from the centre’s continuing audit of tobacco However, marketing is much more than targeting marketing activity to illustrate the type of tobacco marketing promotions at vulnerable groups. It involves the use of that is done in the UK.20 The audit is essentially qualitative sophisticated techniques to influence behaviour—not just of and comprises a sample of adult smokers and a sample of individual customers, but also of policy makers, retailers who regularly provide information on tobacco shopkeepers, smugglers, and lawyers. Marketing strategies marketing in their local area. have undergone a paradigm shift in recent years, moving away from an emphasis on generating one-off sale transactions, to building powerful long-term relationships SA is Research Co-ordinator, GH is Director, and LM is Senior with customers. Research Fellow, all at the Cancer Research UK Centre for In putting this review together, we analysed research Tobacco Control Research, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK. from media/marketing journals, evidence obtained from Correspondence: Dr Lynn MacFadyen, Cancer Research UK Centre for Tobacco Control Research, University of Strathclyde, tobacco-industry documentation acquired as part of the 173 Cathedral Street, Glasgow G4 0RQ, UK. House of Commons Health Committee Inquiry into the Tel: +44 (0)141 548 4237. Fax: +44 (0)141 553 4118. Tobacco Industry in the UK,14 and recent observational Email: l.macfadyen@csm.market.strath.ac.uk THE LANCET Oncology Vol 3 August 2002 http://oncology.thelancet.com 481For personal use. Only reproduce with permission from The Lancet Publishing Group.
  • Review Tobacco marketing Marketing strategies that target specific umbrellas and caps.20 It is far less stringently controlled than markets other types of marketing, so is a convenient way for tobacco Tobacco companies develop and market brands by focusing companies to get around advertising restrictions.24 on four main characteristics: product, price, placement, and Cigarette packets are also promotional devices in promotion. These headings are central to the theory of themselves. The brand image is strengthened and marketing and enable brands to be directed at different consolidated by eye-catching designs and colours. Recently, consumer groups, according to their individual needs and evidence has been collected that supports the view that there values. are psychological benefits to owning products with an q Product. Tobacco products are manufactured with attractive design.25 The packaging of several brands including amounts of nicotine, tar, and extra ingredients, which Silk Cut, Mayfair, and Royals, have all recently been vary between brands. These subtle changes mean that redesigned with the likely aim of rejuvenating their image. each type of cigarette has a signature taste and strength, and can be designed to suit a particular social group. Tobacco marketing in practice q Price. Some, but not all, smokers consider price to be Despite many recent developments which have restricted important in their choice of brand. Low-income smokers tobacco-company operations—including increased dom- may be forced to buy economy brands because of their estic and international regulation, a more informed and budget restrictions, but are often unhappy about having health-aware customer base, increased taxation, pressure to do so because of commonly held views that cheaper from public-health bodies, and the burgeoning black market cigarettes are lower quality than more expensive brands. for tobacco—the industry as a whole remains immensely Tobacco companies produce a range of premium, mid- profitable and is worth about £12 billion per year (about $40 priced, and economy brands to cater for personal budget billion per year) in the UK alone.26 This impressive financial requirements. performance belies a steady decline in the overall size of the q Placement. The route by which products are made market for tobacco in the UK, which peaked in the 1980s available to the public is also an important determinant of and gradually levelled out during the 1990s. The most recent the popularity of a particular brand. Tobacco companies national statistics for smoking prevalence in the UK reveal aim to ensure that all their products are available to all that, even today, 28% of men and 26% of women are smokers and, as a consequence, cigarettes are available smokers.27 The continued success of the tobacco industry is almost everywhere including grocers shops, newsagents, due, in part, to the sophistication of marketing strategies. petrol stations, supermarkets, fast-food outlets, There are three basic tenets to modern marketing: off-licences (liquor stores), pubs and bars (via vending q customer orientation, which encompasses demographics, machines), and even ice cream vans. Cigarettes can also be lifestyle, aspirations, and product needs; obtained through the internet and from some market q building enduring relationships with customers; and, stalls. q addressing the context of the business and tackling key q Promotion. Several techniques are used to maximise the market influences. public awareness of each brand. The position of products The remainder of this review focuses on how the UK in retail outlets is very important, and teams of sales tobacco industry put these three principles into operation representatives regularly visit retailers to ensure that their and how specific groups are targeted. products are in the best possible position and that the correct pre-agreed amount of display space is allocated to Customer orientation them. Key mid-priced and economy brands are promoted The market for tobacco is not a homogeneous one; heavily and made widely available in low-income important sub-groups exist, which are separated by communities. demographic characteristics, lifestyles, aspirations, and Tobacco brand images can achieve extensive publicity smoking habits. Therefore, tobacco companies divide the if they are used to sponsor sporting events including tobacco market into smaller target groups, for which they Formula 1 motor racing, snooker, cricket, darts, and golf; all formulate separate products and marketing strategies. For of which receive high-profile television coverage and have example, there are brands specially designed for health- the potential to reach a wide audience. The consensus image conscious women (low-tar brands), those for low-income of a particular sport or event is carefully researched, and smokers (economy brands), and others aimed at young companies then choose the most appropriate forum for image-conscious smokers (premium brands). In the UK, placing their particular brand.21 An example of this type of there are two key target groups: the starter market and low- strategy comes from research conducted for Gallaher Group income smokers. plc who identified Formula 1, big-boat sailing, basket ball, and ice hockey as the most active sports, which have the Young smokers as a target market potential to create a “more dynamic, exciting” brand The starter market consists of those taking up smoking for image.22 Similarly, Silk Cut sponsorship of Rugby League was the first time and is an important battleground for the proposed so that Silk Cut would be seen as an “exciting, tobacco industry. The largest proportion of this group dynamic, and less pretentious brand”.23 (figure 2) are children and young people in their mid to late ‘Brand stretching’ is the use of tobacco brand names on teens. Around two-thirds of smokers begin before the age of non-tobacco products or services, eg, clothing, rucksacks, 18 and one-third before the age of 16.28 In absolute terms, 482 THE LANCET Oncology Vol 3 August 2002 http://oncology.thelancet.comFor personal use. Only reproduce with permission from The Lancet Publishing Group.
  • Tobacco marketing Review Young people prefer products that have medium tar Rights were not granted to include this content and those that are perceived to be mainstream and image in electronic media. Please refer popular. Unlike adult smokers, they are not simply motivated by a need for nicotine; indeed, their initial to the printed journal. contacts with nicotine may be extremely uncomfortable. However, younger smokers consider image to be of utmost importance and pay most attention to “openly fashionable brands and up-to-date designs.”37 New and more effective ways to sell tobacco products to younger people are constantly under investigation by tobacco companies. Ideas such as the ‘lad’s’ cigarettes, with packets or actual cigarettes that feature scantily clad women, are thought to appeal to younger smokers.38 Contrary to common perception, young smokers are not very price sensitive. They value popular, mainstream, and premium brands, much in the same way as designer clothing brands are favoured by younger people; they also respond positively to brands that are heavily advertised.38–41 Young smokers do not seem to be interested in ‘value for money’ but they do consider the actual price paid (lay-down price), ie, some individuals are willing to pay 50 pence for a single Figure 2. Young people are one key target markets for tobacco company cigarette, rather than buying in bulk or sticking to cheap marketing strategies. cigarettes. The tobacco industry has responded to this finding by producing packs of 10 premium-brand cigarettes around 450 children start smoking every day.29 During the (rather than packs of 20), to reduce the lay-down price. first half of the 1990s the demand for cigarettes in this Production of these half-size packs can also help to market sector increased, particularly among young girls, but circumvent the effects of increased taxation on cigarettes.42 it subsequently decreased during the second half of the For starter smokers, easy access to cigarettes is essential, decade. The most recent statistics show that 10% of school and despite the regulations preventing under-age sales, 80% children aged 11–15 smoke regularly (at least one cigarette a of young smokers manage to purchase their cigarettes from week), with a further 6% smoking occasionally, and 11% are independent retailers, mostly newsagents, despite being ex-smokers.30 People who start smoking when they are under the legal smoking age of 16.43 The Centre for Tobacco young smoke for an average of 25 years,31 so each new starter Control Research tobacco activity audit20 has illustrated that is worth around £36 000 to the tobacco industry. With such advertising is heavily used at the point-of-sale to attract this rewards at stake, the tobacco industry cannot afford to lose group; almost every conceivable space in shops from floors, this type of customer (figure 2). The tobacco manufacturer lighting, clocks, open and closed signs, and even the staff RJ Reynolds has discussed how important this group is: “If themselves are used to promote popular brands. younger adults turn away from smoking, the industry will The use of attractive imagery is also essential for cigarette decline, just as a population which does not give birth will promotions to younger smokers.44,45 The behaviour of eventually dwindle.”32 smokers aged 15 and 16 years is associated with their When they first start smoking, young people react to awareness of, and involvement with, a number of very different messages than adult long-term smokers. promotional devices.46 Advertising in traditional media, eg, Starter smokers use cigarettes to help express their self-image billboards, newspapers, and magazines, is one of the most and identity, to show solidarity with their peers, and to make successful and wide-reaching techniques.20 Subtle and them feel adult and sociable by association with a product complex ideas, humour, and puzzles, are used on that is dangerous.33,34 They tend to have anxieties about their advertisements to make brand images stick in the mind of identity and how they are perceived by others, and thus use potential customers. smoking as a way of addressing this worry; it can also help them to project a consolidated identity. These conclusions Low-income smokers as a target market are supported by academic studies and research from the Smokers on low incomes are a major source of income for tobacco industry. Qualitative investigations commissioned tobacco companies and are a loyal and reliable customer by tobacco manufacturers have explored some of the reasons base. Analysis of the smoking population reveals that there that prompt young adults to smoke. They conclude that are important differences in smoking prevalence and young adult smokers are also searching for an identity and cessation between different socioeconomic groups. speculate that cigarettes are an ever-present statement of Individuals with lower incomes are most likely to smoke47,48 identity, and therefore are perceived to have a social benefit and in the most deprived areas of the UK, smoking by many young people.35 Another study states that new prevalence is nearly double the national average.48 smokers use cigarettes like a badge—“as a sign of maturity, Research has shown that cigarettes are an essential and discernment, and independence.”36 protected purchase for people on low income, even when THE LANCET Oncology Vol 3 August 2002 http://oncology.thelancet.com 483For personal use. Only reproduce with permission from The Lancet Publishing Group. View slide
  • Review Tobacco marketing funds are severely limited.47 By the beginning of 1999, the Building long-term relationships with customers low-price sector was the largest market area in the UK50,51 Ultimately, the purpose of all these marketing activities is to and, as a consequence, low-income smokers are now the real build positive and enduring relationships with customers; source of competition between tobacco companies. Despite brand recognition is of vital importance in this process as the cost disadvantages, low-income smokers, particularly smokers tend to form strong and long-term attachments to those who are younger and do not have dependants, are their product of choice. Forming associations between remarkably loyal to specific brands. For these individuals, brands and evocative and symbolic images helps customers the black market is the only long-term way of mitigating the to differentiate between similar products and has been cost of smoking, without compromising the brand.52 described by a tobacco industry representative as being “not However, loyalty is vulnerable to fluctuations in income: just important, but essential”.55 lower cost brands or roll-ups are cheaper and often better However, brand building takes a long time. Marketing value. But many smokers are hesitant about switching and strategies are carefully managed to create the most some believe that it causes short-term health effects such as competitive and profitable brand. Testament to these efforts, sore throats.51 is the fact that smokers habitually refer to cigarettes by their Low-income smokers are sensitive to the social stigma brand names and not by the name of the company behind associated with smoking very cheap products. Industry them; indeed, many smokers are completely unaware of research confirms that this group are “uncomfortable” which company manufactures their brand. The most when smoking economy brands and feel like they are successful products can trigger recognition by simple visual receiving “repeated reminders that [they are] smoking a clues—the colour purple, for example, is enough to make cheap cigarette”.53 According to studies, almost all low- consumers think of Silk Cut. income smokers would prefer to smoke premium brands, Long-established and familiar brands provide a platform so tobacco companies are pushed into emphasising quality for companies to move from one-off transactions with their when promoting low-priced products in order to retain the customers to building relationships with them. From this loyalty of this group.53 These individuals generally choose basis, other incentives such as loyalty schemes and new brands that will satisfy their need for nicotine, contain technology are used to increase customer retention. medium tar, and are reasonably priced. Mid-price cigarettes As well as encouraging repeat sales, loyalty schemes have been aggressively promoted in recent years to counter enable companies to collect data on their customers and the perception that they are of lesser quality than higher build profiles of those who participate in the scheme— priced brands. Other strategies for enticing low-budget Gallaher Ltd claim to hold more than 7 million names on smokers have been investigated. These include the their database.56 Information such as demographics, ‘Concept’ rolling device, whereby the customer is supplied geography, brand choice, and lifestyle can be extrapolated with tobacco, cigarette papers, and filters, as they would from the data. Direct marketing activities, ie, personal need for normal rolling tobacco, but they are also given a mailings, are subsequently planned according to the device that rolls cigarettes that look identical to customer information.57 Technological advances have greatly manufactured cigarettes. The smokers thus get the look and improved the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of direct feel of a ready-made cigarette, but do not have to pay as marketing and the tobacco-activity audit20 has confirmed the much. most common types as: money off vouchers and gift Many of the same communication devices—eg, catalogues for the loyalty schemes; competitions; overseas advertising, sponsorship, and point-of-sale promotions— promotions; personal letters about company business are used to reach low income smokers as ‘starter’ smokers. developments; free gifts (Lambert & Butler distributed large However, the advertising messages tend to focus more on golfing umbrellas to named individuals); and free samples of low price and high quality, than image and lifestyle new products (Richmond distributed a free 10 pack of aspirations, in an attempt to challenge the negative view cigarettes as part of a direct mailing when the new brand was commonly associated with cheaper brands. first launched). Another key promotional device for low-income Tobacco companies have been quick to take advantage of smokers is the coupon or loyalty scheme. Smokers are technology in the promotion of their products. The internet encouraged to collect coupons, pack fronts, and tail slips is widely used for marketing purposes, for example, Rizla from packs of cigarettes and exchange them for products sells a range of clothing through its website and many such as household or electrical goods. The loyalty scheme internet sites deal in online cigarettes sales.20 Marlboro has rewards customers for repeat purchasing and creates positive even produced a copy of their logo which can be associations with particular brands. Low-income smokers downloaded onto mobile phone (cell phone) displays. appreciate loyalty schemes as they believe they are getting better value by sticking to one brand and this approach can Addressing the business context help to counter the effects of price increases by rewarding The resources devoted by tobacco companies to building smokers for their loyalty.54 relationships with their customers are matched by their The black market is an important distribution channel activities in other areas. In forming comprehensive for low-income smokers. Research has shown that the wide marketing strategies, tobacco companies consider factors availability of smuggled tobacco perpetuates smoking and other than their customers that may influence the market. makes it increasingly difficult for smokers to quit.52 They actively seek to build relationships and forge links with 484 THE LANCET Oncology Vol 3 August 2002 http://oncology.thelancet.comFor personal use. Only reproduce with permission from The Lancet Publishing Group. View slide
  • Tobacco marketing Review third parties including retailers, policy makers, and Search strategy and selection criteria organisations that have influence over public opinion. References for this review include published literature about tobacco industry techniques retrieved from searches of Retailers literature databases including Medline, PubMed, INFOTRAK, As the main suppliers of cigarettes to customers, retailers are SSI, IBSS, and Emerald. Only articles written in English were the target of significant investment from tobacco companies included and those published in peer-reviewed academic that want to build strong distribution chains. Extensive journals since 1990 were given priority. Combinations of the research into communicating with independent retailers is following search terms were used: “tobacco”, “cigarette”, done in order to “aid the optimisation of these “smoking”, “marketing”, “advertising”, “promotion”, “young communications” and help “maximise selling through the people”, “branding”, “product design”, “packaging”, “sponsor- independent sector”.58 ship”, and “price”. Documents from the tobacco industry Retailers participating in the tobacco activity audit20 have documents that were released as a result of the Health Select contributed to a greater understanding of the relationship Committee’s investigation of the UK tobacco industry were also included. As were internal communications and doc- between manufacturer and retailer. This bond is enhanced umentation from advertising agencies with tobacco accounts. by the supply of trade promotions such as the display Finally, data from an observational audit of marketing activities gantries, which help attract customers and increase support in the UK were also used. for the brand. Tobacco sales agents collect information on the type and prices of brands stocked by different outlets; they supply this information to retailers along with Board of Directors could be viewed as an attempt to gain promotional material, information about new products, and political influence. free samples. Visits by company representatives are beneficial to retailers as they are made to feel that their co- Public opinion operation is valued by the tobacco company. The supply of Tobacco manufacturers are increasingly adopting a socially cigarette display cabinets and other shop-fittings such as responsible attitude to business, which has a direct effect on lighting and flooring, serves the dual purpose of keeping the public opinion. They have made considerable attempts to brand names of a particular manufacturer prominent in the publicise this business strategy to consumers, retailers, and mind of the consumer and keeping the retailer on favourable industry critics. Last year, one tobacco company invested terms. over £3 million in a UK university for the purpose of setting Retailers may also be involved in some kind of reward up a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility. This scheme, such as receiving bonuses for keeping an agreed approach is an innovative way of gaining respect for the display. These reward schemes are beneficial for retailers industry by association with academic establishments, and it personally and for their businesses, but can be viewed as helps to emphasise the change in corporate philosophy. The manufacturers attempting to ‘buy’ the retailer’s loyalty as tobacco industry as a whole is working hard to challenge well as space in their stores. Reward schemes are expected to their ailing public image by instituting youth smoking increase in importance after the forthcoming ban on tobacco prevention initiatives. This decision is in obvious advertising in the UK comes into effect and loyalty bonuses contradiction to commercial priorities and, unfortunately, are set to get bigger. The ban will mean a reduction in shop- the campaigns do not seem to be based on contemporary window advertising so the most important issue for tobacco health-communication expertise and are likely to be manufacturers will be ensuring that their products have a ineffectual.60 good position in shops, and research shows they are willing to pay for it.20 Conclusion Marketing is vital for maintaining the success of tobacco Bootleggers manufacturers; it is multifaceted and ubiquitous. The Rather than opposing black-market cigarette sales, many tobacco industry is moving its emphasis away from tobacco manufacturers use the illegal trade in smuggled maximising single sales, towards building long-term cigarettes as another avenue for promoting their products. relationships with customers and other key stakeholders in Documents discussing the development of the Amber Leaf the tobacco market. This policy promotes competitive roll-your-own brand describe the importance of establishing advantage and thereby boosts sales and profitability, but also a market presence through bootleggers, who account for up enables the tobacco companies to retain legitimacy. to 70% of sales in many areas. “Bootleggers only bother with Relationships are being built with policy makers, retailers, big brands [like] Old Holborn and Golden Virginia. We and the public as a whole to try to ensure that tobacco is seen need to . . . encourage a willingness among bootleggers to sell as an acceptable product in a free market economy. In this Amber Leaf.”59 way, tobacco manufacturers can ensure that their business activities can continue with a minimum of interference from Policy makers and politicians policy makers and the public. It remains to be seen whether Faced with increasing government regulation, tobacco the tobacco industry can continue to grow on the back of companies also seem to be building alliances with their marketing strategies as they have done in the past. politicians. British American Tobacco’s appointment of Conflict of interest former UK Finance Minister Kenneth Clarke to sit on the None declared. THE LANCET Oncology Vol 3 August 2002 http://oncology.thelancet.com 485For personal use. Only reproduce with permission from The Lancet Publishing Group.
  • Review Tobacco marketing Acknowledgements 27 Keynotes. Cigarettes and tobacco industry. London, 2000. The Centre for Tobacco Control Research is funded by Cancer 28 Bridgewood A, Lilly R, Thomas M, et al. Living in Britain: results Research UK. from the 1998 General Household Survey. London: Office for National Statistics, 2000. References 29 Royal College of Physicians. Smoking and the Young. London: Royal 1 Economics and operational research division. Effect of tobacco College of Physicians, 1992. advertising on tobacco sponsorship: a discussion document reviewing 30 Higgins V. Young teenagers and smoking in 1998. A report of the the evidence. The Smee Report. London: Economics and Operational findings from the teenage smoking attitudes survey carried out in Research Division, Department of Health, 1992. England in 1998. London: Office for National Statistics, 1999. 2 Feighery E, Borzekowski DL, Schoder C, Flora J. Seeing, wanting, 31 Pierce JP, Gillpin E. 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