Are people less attracted to smoking simply because the packs are devoid of any and all branding?

Cigarette advertising has come a long way. As has cigarette packaging. I ran a small agency called Neon Pigeon in the mid 1990s, and we developed the ad campaign that launched the new health warnings on cigarette packs (SMOKING KILLS). At that time it was a health warning label stuck onto the fully branded cigarette pack.

In December 2012 plain packaging was introduced, with even a not a hint of branding – no logo, no typeface, no colours, no design elements. Cigarette packs are all a single colour – ‘Pantone 448 C opaque couché’ (apparently the world’s ugliest colour) – the brand names are written in a standard font, size and location, and the health warnings cover 60% of the pack.

And so the million dollar question is, “Has this worked? Are people less attracted to smoking simply because the packs are devoid of any and all branding?”

It seems the proof is in the packaging. New figures, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), show that there was a general decrease in the smoking rate following the introduction of the plain packaging laws. The results from the survey demonstrate a drop from 15.1 per cent in 2010 to 12.8 per cent in 2013. Tobacco sales are at their lowest in history at $3.405 billion.

Of course the steep rises in tobacco taxes have contributed to the marked drop in the smoking rate. But it appears that the drop in smoking popularity is heavily attributed to a loss of brand identity and positive brand affinity.

When I took up smoking in the South African Defence Force at the age of 19 (2 years compulsory National Service), my brand of choice was Camel. Looking back I guess I must have identified pretty strongly with the “Camel man”. I wonder today if I would have smoked Camel is the packaging had no branding at all.

Richard Sauerman
Richard Sauerman
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