The big naming and branding news of the day seems to be the grisly, graphic health warnings that will be required on cigarette packs starting in September 2012.
This marks the first change to the warnings in 25 years. The warnings the FDA will require include nine different text warnings and color graphics.
These graphics include, "a man smoking through a tracheotomy hole in his throat, a horribly diseased lung, mottled teeth and gums, a man breathing with an oxygen mask and a man's body with a large scar running down the chest."
The warnings will cover the top 50% of the front and rear panels of the package. They will also appear on cigarette ads, covering at least 20% of the ad's area.
Studies have shown that graphic ads are more effective than print ads (duh) and they are more persuasive in encouraging people to quit. But this does not mean they will actually do so - it seems that raising the costs of the packs or imposing draconian workplace rules is more effective.
Tobacco companies have threatened lawsuits, arguing that this is a violation of their free speech rights and, importantly, makes the actual brand name on the box "difficult, if not impossible to see." The images also "demonize" a legitimate product by eliciting "loathing, disgust, and repulsion."
The interesting thing to note is that serious smokers still buy packs with graphic images to get their "fix," but the graphics have a marked effect on those considering taking up the habit. This, in turn, offers us an interesting case study on how consumers react to naming and branding and associated imagery.
The fact that companies see the images as a threat to their brand name is understandable. Most of the equity on the package lies there, and whatever image is tagged across it diminishes that.
I am certain this will cause a decline in the number of cigarettes bought by first time smokers, but I also have to wonder if being tied to an ugly image will bring down the equity of some of the biggest brands.
There is no other industry that faces quite the same challenge, as cigarette companies try to highlight the brand name on the packs to make it is as attractive as possible.
Now, it seems to me there will be no way to promote the name without customers seeing images of dying babies or cadavers.
Surely this will change how we perceive these brand names? As of next year, The Marlboro Man will now have to share ad space with "fat naked post-op scar guy." Ouch.
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