Saturday, 3 November 2012 which we are reminded that plain packs won't stop people smoking


These proposals come from people who neither understand brands nor appreciate the point or purpose of marketing. As I wrote a while ago:

...brands do not act to recruit customers to a given product – we choose to buy the product and then we select the brand. Nobody starts buying bread because they saw a Warburton’s ad – they buy bread because, well, they want bread! What the brand provides is a heuristic – a short cut, if you will – allowing the consumer to make a choice quickly and confidently. What we do know is that it is the search for a benefit that makes consumers choose to buy a product rather than the shininess of the brand presentation.  Or is you prefer: we buy bread because we want to eat it not because the advert featured a brass band playing chunks from the New World Symphony!

So I was pleased -although not surprised - to see this view confirmed by a branding expert:

...the notion that selling cigarettes in logo-free dull green packages will deter smokers fails to take into account both human nature and the way brands work.
Advocate of plain packaging believe that smokers and aspiring smokers will be repelled by unattractive plain packages.  I doubt that this will have much effect. Nobody smokes because the packages are cool; people start smoking because smoking is cool – at least in their eyes.

You the problem is that the anti-tobacco lobby - rather like Naomi Klein - haven't the first idea about brands, advertising or the point of marketing. They - like most non-marketers - confuse 'marketing' and 'selling' assuming that the two words are interchangeable, that 'marketing' is merely a posh word for 'selling'. And they are wrong.

The result of this isn't better public health, it isn't the incipient collapse of the tobacco industry (perhaps the anti-smoking lot might care to visit Peru or Afghanistan to look at the growing of coca and opium poppies) - what we get is job losses, businesses closing, a new criminal class of smugglers and no further progress in reducing the harm caused by smoking. As Andrew Hennigan, who I quote above, concludes:

Reducing the number of people smoking and, most importantly, the number of young people starting is a key public health goal, but I fear that we need to find some other solution than plain packaging...

Perhaps shifting from denormalisation to harm reduction might be a start?


1 comment:

Pat Nurse MA said...

Simon - don't confuse non smokers with the phobic and spiteful anti-smokers whose salaries and jobs depend on the tobacco control industry.

Most non smokers are tolerant folk who despair as we do at the madness of infantile Govt regulation that panders to smokerphobics and no one else and will lead to higher tax on all products that non smokers buy too as the loss of revenue from smokers goes abroad in protest at the way we are being treated.

Sadly, the Tories will learn this to their cost. Pampering the tobacco control industry to the detriment of the electorate will ensure they lose the next election and they will never be voted into Govt again.

Are they really going to throw it all away because of supporting a minority of bigots?