The relaunch of the ultralow-tar brand represents the first major marketing initiative since the $206 billion agreement was reached late last year. The most obvious difference between this and a previous cigarette campaign: the absence of outdoor advertising, now banned.
"The settlement forces you to do things differently," said Bob Bexon, senior VP-marketing at B&W.
There are other more subtle changes. The redesigned cigarette pack, for example, is being used to deliver a message that would usually have been relegated to advertising.
THREE CUSTOM MAGS PLANNED
Also, media vehicles are more targeted. Direct mail is more prominently featured; the magazine buy is more tightly focused on the target audience; and the brand will be featured in new B&W custom-publishing projects, a company first.
A direct-mail continuity program, the "Carlton Collection," will aim at keeping loyal Carlton smokers in the fold, similar to earlier such efforts by Philip Morris USA for Marlboro and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. for Camel.
Perhaps the biggest departure from an ad campaign before the settlement will be the crucial in-store marketing component. In-store ads and product placement will vary by outlet, as B&W strives to isolate smokers matching the brand's target demographic.
"You can't afford to be sloppy," Mr. Bexon said.
Of the post-settlement environment, he added: "Increasingly, the store will be treated not just as an outlet for volume but as a targeted communication channel."
As for the Carlton pack, gone is its traditional red, a bold color that led to an inevitable comparison with full-tar Marlboro. Instead, helping to telegraph Carlton's positioning as an "ultra ultralight," will be the new, cream-color pack with a raised, "stubbled" surface.
A distinctive "1 milligram" stamp is part of the box design, carrying a product message that previously would have only been an element of the ads.
"It's [now] difficult to communicate" product attributes, said Karen Brotzge, director-market strategy and development at B&W. "The packaging needs to carry more of that."
Although Carlton is one of a very few brands with 1 milligram of tar, other brands with up to 6 milligrams of tar label themselves "ultra." Among them: Marlboro Ultra Lights and Winston Ultra Lights with 6 milligrams; and Camel Ultra Lights, Merit Ultra Lights and Vantage Ultra Lights with 5 milligrams.
ALL ULTRAS AREN'T EQUAL
"We want [smokers] to see that all ultras aren't created equal," Ms. Brotzge said.
By positioning itself as the "ultra ultra," Carlton narrows its competitive set to mainly RJR's Now and Philip Morris' Merit Ultima and Cambridge Lowest. All have less than 1 milligram of tar and nicotine.
Within that smaller subsegment, Carlton has a 78% share, she said.
Of all cigarette sales, Davenport & Co. analyst Jack Maxwell says Carlton had a 1.1% market share for the first nine months of 1998, down from 1.2% for all of 1997. Its zenith was 2.6% in 1981.
The creative from Grey Advertising, New York, for Carlton won't be comparative. Instead, the new tagline features a double entendre playing off the tar and nicotine level and health concerns: "Isn't it time you started thinking about Number One?"
Since B&W's goal is to attract 35-to-50-year-old smokers, much lower than Carlton's current median age of 55, the settlement restriction to use only magazines that reach the 21-plus age group wasn't a factor in the relaunch.
Anxious to finely dice its demographic target, the company opted for high-income titles, such as Boating, Bon Appetit and Golf Magazine.
But another vehicle will be custom publishing. Following the lead of Philip Morris, B&W is jumping into three projects.
The first, with EMAP Petersen, bows in March and will aim at 21-to-30-year-old males. The name used in test, The Edge, will be changed due to copyright problems, Mr. Bexon said.
The second title, now in test, is called Moment. It's done in conjunction with Hearst Corp., aimed at females ages 30 to 50 and is scheduled for full-scale launch in the second quarter.
The last publication is still in the planning stages, but will be aimed at a rural, lower-income demographic.
The magazines will carry ads from other marketers.
"It's an excellent media buy," Mr. Bexon said. "It's hard to think of another magazine buy where you reach 1.3 million [young adult] male smokers."
MARLBORO THE ONE BRIGHT SPOT
Many smokers, however, appear to have been quitting rather than trading down to lower tar. B&W said the ultralow-tar segment has been trending downward, possibly because there has been so little advertising supporting the segment.
The bright spot has been Marlboro Ultra Lights, launched in January 1998, which quickly found itself a 2.5% share of market.
Having an aging brand profile that includes Viceroy, Pall Mall and Belair, B&W didn't have the luxury of a brand strong enough to carry on an ultralow-tar extension and that's why it is relying on freestanding Carlton.
"Carlton may not be the prettiest girl at the dance, but it's the one we brought," Mr. Bexon said.
Similarly, B&W isn't expecting miracles for Carlton.
"We're always going to be a niche brand," Mr. Bexon said. "We'll be happy