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Packaging & design

Objects of desire – the latest in cigarette packaging

11 May 2007. With the sophistication of packaging increasing every day in other areas of product manufacture, less closely regulated than the tobacco industry, cigarette packets are not being left behind. Innovation in design helps rejuvenate old brands and provides an edge to new ones.


The cigarette carton has always had a definite form, shape and size – probably to some extent because of the point-of-sale displays (kiosk displays have a definite dimension and capacity and cigarette dispensing machines are designed for packets of a specific dimension) and this has stifled design change. Pack manufacturers’ machines are tooled for standard hard flip top cartons in 10 and 20 piece derivations and soft packs in the same popular 20-piece size and these form the majority of the cigarette products sold. But why should this change? The answer is simple – the brand consumer is becoming much more sophisticated and eager to try new things. Brands may become staid and need a re-launch or boost and in some ways given the regulations regarding graphics, a radical change in the design of the packaging may be the easiest and cheapest way to make a significant impact in the marketplace. The cigarette product is ultimately the same but by repackaging in a newer style of carton the perception of the brand can change and this can have a major effect on the sales.
An example of this is the ‘Silver slide’ pack of Benson & Hedges Silver introduced by Gallaher in April/May 2006 as a limited edition. This pack has the exact same design as the Alphabet H/R/C packs designed by Naoki Sato and introduced by Japan Tobacco (JT) into the Japanese market in 2005/06. The launch of ‘Silver slide’ helped to raise the market share of B&H Silver (previously in a flip top carton) by 25 per cent. Jeremy Blackburn, Gallaher’s communications manager, said: “The Silver slide pack demonstrates our commitment to keeping the tobacco market vibrant by offering choice and innovation in this very competitive sector… Consumer research has shown that B&H Silver is the [leading] brand for offering something different.” Indeed the sales of the brand were so exemplary that by December 2006 the B&H Silver brand was again available in the slide pack and Blackburn was exuberantly quoted as saying, “We are confident the Slide pack will be in significant demand in December and I recommend retailers stock up to make the most of this profit opportunity.”
Possibly there had been an exchange of marketing intelligence between JT and Gallaher prior to JT’s takeover due to take place in April 2007. Of course Gallaher followed up the success of Silver slide by launching Black slide as well but so far they have resisted changing their stalwart B&H Gold brand to the slide configuration.
Let’s examine the dynamics of the Benson & Hedges Silver slide special edition pack. The pack is designed with the understanding that quite a large component of smoking cigarettes in a social setting involves sharing and gifting them to other people. Silver slide develops a story around that potent experience hook. Offering the cigarette, overlooked usually but now prominent because of novelty, becomes part of the experience. Finally, when the smoker slides open the pack, there’s a space to write messages on the inner draw. The pack contributes not only the novelty of something new, but also possesses a useful purpose pertaining to its dual function and ultimate retention.

Camel still has a kick

Selling cigarettes is not only about clever packaging; one of the strongest weapons in the marketing executive’s arsenal is the successful global brand, which can be extended to market a new product. JT acquired the rights to the Camel brand outside of the US, through the acquisition of RJ Reynolds International in 1999. Since then, Japan Tobacco International (JTI) has expended wide-range efforts to strengthen the Camel brand equity. These efforts have included rejuvenation of the brand with a new, globally consistent taste and packaging design in 2002. An example of the way the Camel brand has been used to develop new products is the new Camel menthol brand launched in March 2007 nationwide in Japan by Japan Tobacco Inc. The ‘Camel Menthol Box’ has been in the test-marketing phase since October 2006 and is now being extended to nationwide coverage in response to increased consumer demand. The product was developed based on JT’s extensive knowledge of the Japanese market, while preserving the brand’s distinct and traditional characteristics. Menthol and flavoured cigarettes are more popular in Japan than any other country and so to switch a well-established normal brand into menthol makes good marketing sense. But the development of the Camel brand has not stopped there; RJ Reynolds in the US recently introduced a feminised version of the Camel cigarette called Camel No. 9.

The name, according to the marketers, is supposed to evoke ‘cloud nine’ or being ‘dressed to the nines’. The company is reaching out to women with a hot pink and teal package adorned with flowers and slogans such as ‘light and luscious’. It remains to be seen whether this marketing tactic based on the Camel brand and a US$25 million campaign will make the new Camels popular (the graphics may be seen as tacky by some). In May 2006 the Camel brand was also the subject of a campaign in Europe by Gallaher with the introduction of new limited edition Camel Art packs featuring an eye-catching art deco design aimed at illustrating the style and quality of the brand by using high quality graphics. Gallaher in the UK also introduced in January 2007 their new Camel Subtle 14s. The 14 pack has been launched to fulfil the lifestyle requirements of modern young adult smokers. Camel is the fifth-largest cigarette brand in the world and performs particularly well in urban areas in the UK. Year-on-year sales have seen Camel Subtle grow 11 per cent in the valuable premium sector. The new pack size has been designed to meet what is perceived as the average consumption (14 cigarettes per day) and aims to increase the likelihood of daily purchase (retail prices will be attractively placed between a 10 and 20 pack). Perhaps in a twist, this could also persuade smokers to cut down consumption; on a psychological basis a 20-a-day smoker can now buy a 14 pack and thus limit themselves to six cigarettes a day less than before.


Packaging for practicality

In another sphere to packaging innovations are also afoot to make cigarette packets more convenient to use, to keep the product fresher and to give graphics a chance over and above the mandatory health warnings. Tobacco Journal International recently talked to a cigarette packaging expert in India, Madan Mohan Manocha, who has proposed new cigarette packets containing between 2 and 20 cigarette pieces, along with a small quantity of safety matches and a striker. Apparently, this innovation is patented and may be introduced to the tobacco market in India. The 2-cigarette derivation will be provided with 4 matches and the 20 pack would be provided with 30 matches. Madan has found difficulty getting packaging companies interested because the vast difference in this concept would require a great deal of retooling. But finally in early 2007 he is in negotiation with a tobacco packaging company for the new cigarette packet design. These may soon be hitting the shelves in India and would seem to express a sense of convenience and practicality rather than elegance. But in India where the cigarette market is not yet mature it may be the boost required for cigarettes to make inroads into the bidi market.
In the Middle East, where the climate is hot and keeping cigarette products fresh is a problem (i.e., the packs should not be allowed to dry out), British American Tobacco (BAT) are introducing a new Freshness seal or care seal pack for their well-known international brand, Dunhill. The pack which was first introduced into Saudi Arabia (test market) in 2005 allows the first cigarette to be as good as the last. Instead of the foil covering the cigarettes in the pack, there is a freshness seal covering to keep the cigarettes fresh. The response from consumers has been very positive, nearly doubling sales volume over a 12-month period. The pack is still in the testing stage currently and it is possible it will be rolled out to other markets in the future.
The Dunhill brand is also 100 years old in 2007 and as this is the centenary anniversary BAT, the makers of Dunhill, will be launching a special series of anniversary blends based upon original Dunhill mixtures tending towards the more sophisticated and expensive end of the market. There will also be a new Dunhill tribute pack for the centenary (Dunhill 100th Anniversary Limited Edition), which has an innovative contemporary spring box packaging format (the pack is very modern, simple and convenient). The new packs will initially only be available from Duty Free outlets (Global Travel Retail) and selected airlines at 65 selected airports worldwide. The new pack has been designed to make a statement and reinforce the luxury brand image. Over 1,000 personnel have been trained in trade teams to promote the Dunhill Centenary products to consumers at the selected Duty Free outlets. The Dunhill limited editions will be available in three blends in three different coloured packs (pink, green and light brown variant), Marcio Selgado, the Dunhill brand manager at BAT, said: “Dunhill has a history and a certain credibility… the introduction of the new pack has nearly doubled the sales volumes… Dunhill is a massive brand and it is growing like crazy and is exceeding our expectations.”

Outer wrapping problems

From a regulatory point of view, there is a greater movement towards graphic health warnings being required on the outer wrapping of the 200 packs of cigarettes as well as on the individual cartons. This is proving to be expensive for many printers as they have to increase the number of colours, which adds to the complexity and results in a higher carton price. For some of the packs, 12-colour presses are now required, even though the production run might be quite short. Marden Edwards, a well-known tobacco packaging equipment provider, has come up with a solution saying that one way of saving money is to dispense with the outer carton on a pack of 200 and to collate and wrap the cartons in plastic film instead. The films can either take the form of fully opaque films (which can be pre-printed if graphics are required) or clear, un-printed film so that the health warnings on individual packs are clearly visible and a small black panel can be used to obscure the individual bar codes, with the multipack barcode being printed on-line as the collations are produced.

Dr Huw Kidwell