Mad Men Rejoice: Plain Packaging For Cigarettes Will Increase Branding
AS you’ll know there’s a move to get to the plain packaging of cigarettes. This is the rather strange idea that if we can’t associate red with Marlboro and white with Silk Cut then we’ll smoke fewer cigarettes overall. Quite why is never really explained but we are assured that it will be true.
There’s something of a problem with the idea though. Which is that abolishing branding for legal cigarettes will probably lead to more branding by illegal ones. The reason is that a brand is an identification: it tells people something about the quality, and consistency of whatever the brand is associated with.
So prevalent have some lines of Cheap Whites become in parts of the UK where the majority of cigarette sales are now non-dutied through boot sales and under-counter trades that they are establishing brand loyalties; people like cigarette characteristics they are used to, in terms of taste, strength, throat-feel, acridity and so on, and when they find an illegal brand that mimics, say, Superkings will stick with it.
Which offers the intriguing possibility that with the government’s moves to introduce plain packaging for the legitimate TMA members already feeling the pinch, it’s unlikely the Cheap Whites will follow step; if anything, they will surely tend to improve their pack image.
As taxes on the legit fags get ever higher and the ability to tell brands of those legit fags gets ever harder, then the illegal folk will be trying to distinguish their own brands of those cheap whites ever the more. And this of course is how brands started in the first place: with producers trying to make sure they had repeat customers by being able to point people to the same as what they had before.
All of which leads to that interesting possibility: banning the use of brands in legit smokes is likely to increase the branding efforts in the other part of the market, the illegal side.