The ethics game paradox and investigating tobacco brand names after plain packaging

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Smoking is a key driver of the non-communicable disease epidemic and the leading cause of avoidable premature death. Accordingly, governments around the globe have imposed tough regulations on manufacturers’ marketing activities in order to reduce tobacco sales and the harmful effects of smoking. Despite these constraints tobacco companies continue to use the available elements of the marketing mix to promote their products, while also publically engaging in corporate social responsible activities that seek to offset the negative public perceptions of their products. The Australian tobacco market changed in December 2012 when plain packaging of cigarettes became law and this key avenue for branding cigarettes was closed.However, tobacco manufacturers continued to introduce new brand variants and segment themarket with highly differentiated offerings. A key dimension of the manufacturer response toplain packaging involved the brand name strategy. After plain packaging the brand namepresented the only means of differentiating tobacco offerings and the structure of these evolved to include an existing brand name and two or more descriptive words. Words used as descriptors are often colour words although more abstract words are also employed, for example Dunhill Infinite White or Winfield Optimum Crush Blue. Preliminary research suggests that these modified or tri-component brand names evoke positive connotations in consumers and reduce the negative perceptions regarding the harmful effects of smoking. This research explores consumers’ perceptions of these tri-component brand names, which is vital in understanding why this particular branding strategy has been adopted and appears to be successful. By understanding the tobacco company’s current brand naming strategy recommendations for further effective tobacco controls can be developed. This paper presents the methodology that will be employed to explore the new complex tobacco brand names. An interpretative approach is suggested in recognition that the construction of reality is an ongoing process conducted within a social context; and that how individuals interpret their world is refined by their interactions with others and within the context of their society. Specific projective and in-depth elicitation techniques are outlined that should facilitate understanding of the connotations that consumers attach to these new brand names and provide insight to consumers’ interpretation. This research contributes to the CSR literature by examining the strategy of an industry that claims to be socially responsible, yet markets products that kill its customers – such paradox has been noted previously in relation to tobacco and manufacturers of other harmful products. Thispaper explores the application and efficacy of various different projective techniques whenapplied to evaluate brand name meaning. The outcome of subsequent research findings will also contribute to the literature on evaluating brand names, specifically in the area of brand name structure and interpretation of word combinations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 15th International Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility and 6th Organisational Governance Conference
EditorsDavid Crowther, Shahla Seifi, Abdul Moyeen
Place of PublicationVictoria, Australia
PublisherFederation Press
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes
EventInternational Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility and 6th Organisational Governance Conference - Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 4 Sept 20166 Sept 2016


ConferenceInternational Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility and 6th Organisational Governance Conference


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