‘Branding does not work so why ban it?’ says Tobacco Industry
— August 10, 2012
I was listening to a strong debate on BBC Radio 4 this morning between the Democracy Institute and ASH this morning over the forthcoming end to the Government’s consultation on point-of-sale (POS) plain cigarette packaging. The conversation at times asked one to suspend belief in some statements made.
How does this link to London’s businesses and new clients?
The implication of the Tobacco industry case against branding bans for London’s businesses is about demonstrating how effective branding in advertising and POS really by looking at a rare opportunity of what happens if you remove it.
Branding is about communication
Branding is about communication, communication is about trying to get an outcome, i.e., to initially attract, build recall, simplify re-purchasing. Advertising gets the interest, point-of-sale promotion gets the sale.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley would like to see the tobacco industry out of business in the UK. The industry sees things differently of course, and wishes the government not to proceed.
Reducing the attraction
At stake, in my view, is the approximately 150,000 possible new smokers in the UK in 2013, made up mainly of ages between 9 to 24 (yes, 9). Back of a cigarette packet calculations suggest that is worth £180m per year in a full year, and once a smoker is addicted, they likely remain so for a very long time.
After the Brand Advertising ban had resulted in a proven material reduction on new smoker rates in the UK, at the heart of this consultation is whether the current highly branded cigarette packets on POS retail stands should be replaced by olive green undifferentiated packets to reduce the attraction to young people to buy and starting smoking.
The argument put forward by ASH (Members include BMA, British Heart Foundation, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Chartered Inst of Env Health, and personal volunteer support), is by replacing the branded cigarette packets with the olive green ones, will stifle the packets ability to communicate attraction, i.e., make it less likely for new smokers to start. 37 academic peer-reviewed studies conducted suggested new take up would be cut.
The Democracy Institute (declined to state sponsors, citing “not important”, but pro-tobacco Adam Smith Institute was interviewed in February 2012, and confirmed 3% of funding from tobacco) argued all 37 were wrong. The claim was there was a problem in the survey processes employed by the academics.
Instead their claim was empirical studies showed that changing the level of brand advertising had little effect on overall consumption. They also claimed that adverts to discourage smoking were ineffective, and sometimes were counter-productive.
Peer review of these results indicate both claims were valid. But what was also noticed by reviewers, and glossed over totally by the industry, was when variations of adverts meant that they disappeared completely in some locales, there was a reduction in new smokers. The inference was clear. Cut brand communications, cut new customers too.
The debate in a nutshell
So therefore, the current arguments between the two sides is the anti-smoking organisations argues branding in advertising and POS both attract new smokers, this is clearly demonstrable, and they want to stop it. The tobacco industry argues that cutting brand advertising and POS advertising will have no effect, so it should be freely unrestricted as it doesn’t work.
Tests mean our deaths
At the same time, responding to a firmly put BBC question, the industry argues strongly against putting any of this to a test (Adam Smith Institute Feb 2012 BBC Radio 4), saying there’s no point as it doesn’t work.
At this point the Tobacco industry is now bringing in it’s strongest lobbyists worldwide to argue the ‘no effect, therefore no ban’ line against regulators demanding olive green branding only, and if that doesn’t work, they are then funding a hugely expensive legal challenge in Australia, the filing runs to over 100 pages), and this is likely to widen quickly.
So why spend tens of millions to sue to protect branding that is claimed not to work???
In short, in contradiction to the Tobacco industry claim, it is because high quality branding is highly effective at attracting new clients in the first place. The earlier advertising bans showed new customers dropped, by removing the POS branding, new customers will fall faster and further.
Quality Branding works. Does yours?
So if your business is undecided about whether a rebrand will bring you new clients, consider the huge importance the tobacco industry has put on it for winning new customers, and get in touch soon to win more for yourself.
The Sales Builder’s Chris Clark is Managing Director of London based Clark Marketing, and a Fellow of the Institute of Digital & Direct Marketing. Clark Marketing provides services to help clients win worthwhile sales enquiries for their business. And we always measure your results.
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