Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Smoking and advertising - some hints why plain packs won't cut smoking rates


For many years I've been carefully pointing out to people that advertising for cigarettes doesn't work the way they think it works. The "they wouldn't do it if it didn't work" argument is entirely true. It's just that what you think "works" means in this context isn't the same as what us marketers mean by "works".

The truth is that there's almost no relationship between the amount of advertising and marketing spend on cigarettes and the quantity sold. The advertising is targeted at the smoker not the non-smoker and aims to get that smoker to prefer one brand over another. This preference allows for the marketer to get a bigger margin because the consumer's choice set is limited by that advertising. Incidentally the same goes for soap powder, dog food and lemonade.

By way of proving this, here's US ad spend on cigarettes set against cigarette sales:

As you can see here there isn't any connection at all between advertising spend and cigarette sales - the advertising bans and restrictions have all been "shoot the messenger" campaigns made worse by the fact that the messenger wasn't talking to children or indeed any non-smoker but to smokers.

These facts suggest to me that introducing plain packaging for cigarettes will be just as pointless, just as ineffective. Inconvenience, annoyance and the further ostracising of the smoker will result but it won't make a jot of difference to either take up or consumption of cigarettes.


1 comment:

Curmudgeon said...

It's recognised that one of the key purposes of advertising is to make people feel good about the products they have already bought.

And the same applies with knobs on to alcohol promotion and advertising.