What’s in a name?

Cigarettes, not in plain packaging

The Scottish Government, along with its equivalents in Wales, Northern Ireland and .. um .. the rest of the United Kingdom are consulting on proposals to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes.

Standardised packaging is likely to mean no branding, a uniform colour, and standard font and text for any writing on the pack.  Together with prominent safety warnings, I presume.

There have already been questions raised about whether this infringes the tobacco companies’ right to property in terms of their intellectual property bound up in the brand.  Robert Buchan’s article in The Journal discusses these, and similar legislation already faces legal challenge in Australia.  No doubt, we are therefore only months away from another entertaining escapade wherein the cigarette pedlars bleat about their human rights all the way to the Supreme Court.

However, I am more intrigued by the marketing challenges and possibilities now facing the cigarette giants.  Sure, they’ve ploughed millions into a particular brand and no doubt paid large sums of cash to ad agencies to mull over the niceties of colouring, sizes, typeface etc.  But soon, the name – just the name – will be all that sets them apart from their competitors.  What is the approach?

Benson & Hedges may be well recognised, but to a potential new customer – in 16pt Arial – it might as well be a firm of solicitors.  I imagine that this may herald a return to 1950’s style of advertising and brands called “Smooth & Husky” “Old Gold” “Cheap Fags” and “Feed your Addiction”.

I predict the brand names “Death” and “Camel” will stick around though.

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