Cigarette brand variant portfolio strategy and the use of colour in a darkening market

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Objectives: To evaluate cigarette branding strategies used to segment a market with some of the toughest tobacco controls. To document brand variant and packaging portfolios and assess the role played by colour before plain packaging, as well as consider the threat that recently implemented legislation poses for tobacco manufacturers.

Data sources: Brand variant and packaging details were extracted from manufacturer ingredient reports, as well as a retail audit of Australian supermarkets. Details were also collected for other product categories to provide perspective on cigarette portfolios.

Methods: Secondary and primary data sources were analysed to evaluate variant and packaging portfolio strategy.

Results: In Australia, 12 leading cigarette brands supported 120 brand variants. Of these 61 had names with a specific colour and a further 26 had names with colour connotation. There were 338 corresponding packaging configurations, with most variants available in the primary cigarette distribution channel in four pack size options.

Conclusions: Tobacco companies microsegment Australian consumers with highly differentiated product offerings and a family branding strategy that helps ameliorate the effects of marketing restrictions. To date, tobacco controls have had little negative impact upon variant and packaging portfolios, which have continued to expand. Colour has become a key visual signifier differentiating one variant from the next, and colour names are used to extend brand lines. However, the role of colour, as a heuristic to simplify consumer decisionmaking processes, becomes largely redundant with plain packaging. Plain packaging’s impact upon manufacturers’ branding strategies is therefore likely to be significant.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e65-e71
Number of pages7
JournalTobacco Control
Issue numberE1
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


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