Is Juul a socially conscious company whose goal has always been to help adult cigarette smokers switch to a less harmful product? Are they shocked—shocked!—that anyone thinks they might have actually been targeting the teen market all along? A new study of Juul’s marketing history from researchers at Stanford University cuts through the bullshit:
JUUL’s advertising imagery in its first 6 months on the market was patently youth oriented. For the next 2 ½ years it was more muted, but the company’s advertising was widely distributed on social media channels frequented by youth, was amplified by hashtag extensions, and catalyzed by compensated influencers and affiliates.
….During its meteoric growth, JUUL posted a prodigious volume of advertisements via social media, promoted them via paid influencers, and distributed its messages to a wide community via hashtags. The credibility of JUUL leadership denials of youth targeting is undermined by their diligent efforts to expunge their social media history.
And of course there were the cigarette-inspired “sampling events” that Juul sponsored in cities around the country. They were obviously not aimed at adult smokers:
The events were always free and featured popular bands such as CHAPMAN, illumanti AMS, Mary Kwok and others. Other events were movie nights held on rooftops. One Los Angeles event, managed by Cinespia, was an all night “slumber party” held in Hollywood’s Forever Cemetery featuring movies such as: Can’t Hardly Wait, SCREAM, and Cruel Intentions. JUUL events continued well beyond its first year on the market.
This is why I hate Juul. It has nothing to do with the recent spate of deaths and lung ailments associated with vaping. Until very recently, when the vaping backlash forced them to change, Juul was marketed almost exclusively toward teens using methods and sophistication straight out of the cigarette playbook. Their goal, quite obviously, was to create another generation of nicotine addicts who would provide a reliable stream of income for years to come. After all, why else would Juul’s pods have twice the nicotine content of most other vaping brands? Why else would the delivery device be designed to appeal to the young and marketed largely through social media channels unknown to most adults? And why else would a cigarette company be willing to value an otherwise uninteresting $2 billion hardware company at $38 billion? You think the maker of Marlboros doesn’t understand how the marketing of nicotine addiction works?