An experiment in “un-branding” to promote community health
Beg to Differ noticed this morning that Australia is planning to ban all logos and distinctive design elements from cigarette packaging. The point: to make them less attractive to smokers. The question: will it work?
According to the UK Daily Mail, quoting the Australian newspaper:
The new laws, to be introduced in January 2012, will prohibit the use of tobacco industry logos, colours, brand imagery or promotional text on the packets. Brand names and product names will have to be displayed in a standard colour, font style and position under the new laws, says the paper.
And why? Here’s what one Australian researcher says:
Documents show that, especially in the context of tighter restrictions on conventional avenues for tobacco marketing, tobacco companies view cigarette packaging as an integral component of marketing strategy and a vehicle for (a) creating significant in-store presence at the point of purchase, and (b) communicating brand image. Market testing results indicate that such imagery is so strong as to influence smoker’s taste ratings of the same cigarettes when packaged differently. (2002 research review by Australian Anti-Cancer Council)
That’s all true. But is there any evidence that removing visible branding will reduce the sales of cigarettes?
Those of us in the branding industry would like to think so. After all, we tell clients all the time that consistently applying and reinforcing your brand elements (logos, names, messages, design motifs) over time will increase your sales. So shouldn’t the opposite be true?
I hope so – and not just as a branding guy, but as a human being who seen friends and family members struggle with cancer.
But don’t forget about filters!
We’re not talking about cigarette filters – although, ironically, the fact that they don’t work is one of the issues at play here. It’s HUMAN filters that are the biggest reason this effort may not perform as advertised.
“Filter Factors” to consider:
- The habit filter: physical addiction is powerful stuff.
- The social filter: but smoking is more than just a commercial or health phenomenon; it’s a cultural – or more to the point – counter cultural act. The more you crack down, the “cooler” it becomes in hard-core smoking circles.
- The neuromarketing filter: Roger Dooley discusses in this fascinating Neuromarketing blog post how a giant cancer warning on a box actually becomes an ad for smoking over time!
- The brand filter: the name is still a brand – and if that’s the only differentiator on the box, that’s what consumers will look for / form relationships with.
- The “quest” filter: by making something hard to get or find, you can actually increase people’s desire for it, or at least the “tribal” cachet of having it. The Gold Visa or the Costco card in your wallet are great examples. Why do you pay for them? Because you have to.