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Export “A” ads are extremely expert, eh?
  1. Faculty of Commerce
  2. University of British Columbia
  3. Vancouver, British Columbia
  4. Canada

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    The RJ Reynolds-Macdonald advertising campaign for Export “A” in Canada features solo athletes from various extreme sporting events that they sponsor with the slogan “Go your own way” (fig 1). These ads contain almost all of the elements that its competitors, its US parent, RJ Reynolds, and other transnational firms have found to be so vital and necessary to the commercial success of cigarette brands and industry. Despite the fact that these are sponsorship ads, rather than direct merchandising ads which display the product, they none-the-less dramatically promote brands which are well known to Canadians as cigarettes, and only cigarettes.

    Figure 1

    Taking risks in the wild water.

    The extreme importance of starters

    Cigarette brands enjoy a phenomenally high rate of brand loyalty, consistent with their addictiveness. This brand loyalty is higher than that seen with any other consumer goods. Annual brand switching rates are very low. Those that do switch are not only few in number, but often the most anxious about health risks, and also demonstrably fickle. These traits make switchers a mostunattractive type of customer. In contrast, because of the high brand loyalty (year to year retention of customers), starters are highly attractive, as capturing starters builds a solid franchise base that is enjoyed for years. The firms that succeed in capturing starters come to dominate the industry, as best evidenced by Marlboro's history. Put most simply: “To succeed in Marlboro Country, you got to corral 'em while they're young and brand 'em while they're young.”

    The Canadian tobacco industry has long understood this fact of their commercial life, with internal documents saying: “Young smokers represent the major opportunity group for the cigarette industry.” Imperial Tobacco, British American Tobacco's Canadian operation, stated in 1988 that: “If the last 10 years have taught us anything, it is that the industry is dominated by …

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