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Point-of-sale marketing is among the most widespread and effective forms of tobacco marketing, particularly in countries such as Canada where other forms of tobacco advertising are prohibited. It is therefore not surprising that tobacco companies continue to search for ways to increase the salience of package displays and other forms of point-of-sale marketing.
Imperial Tobacco Canada, a wholly owned subsidiary of BAT and the largest tobacco manufacturer in Canada, has recently added a new twist to retail displays. It has begun marketing du Maurier, one of Canada’s leading brands, in octagon-shaped packages, with angled edges on the front and back of the package face. After a limited release in the province of Ontario in June 2005, the new packs are now being introduced across the country.
Jeff Guiler, vice-president of marketing for Imperial Tobacco, explained that the new shape was a way to attract consumer attention in a market with limited opportunities for advertising and promotion. In particular, it was a way to reinforce the “prestige” of the du Maurier brand and to distinguish it from the growing number of discount brands in Canada. Guiler explained the implications of the new packages for the point-of-sale environment: “We decided that in order to leverage the full impact of the Signature Pack and overcome the fact that we are not allowed to do any kind of advertising, we needed to also redesign and refit our in-store displays to mirror the look of the pack.”
The design also decreases the prominence of the health warnings. The brand information is positioned on the flat surface of the pack, whereas a significant portion of the warning appears on the angled sections that are less visible, particularly when viewed on a retail display.
Overall, the move underscores the importance of the package as a cornerstone of industry marketing and the need for more comprehensive restrictions on point-of-sale displays. To date, two provinces in Canada (Saskatchewan and Manitoba) and one territory (Nunavut) have introduced comprehensive bans on retail displays of cigarette packages, with bans in Canada’s two most populous provinces, Ontario and Quebec, due to follow in 2008. Meanwhile, last September, Thailand joined Iceland as the only countries in the world to introduce national bans on cigarette displays. These measures are critical to ensuring that new packaging and other point-of-sale initiatives do not undermine comprehensive advertising restrictions.
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