From Bourbon Street to Broadway, B&W is reaching out to consumers with narrowly targeted localized promotions. For Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the marketer is creating a specially decorated pack promotion for Kool cigarettes featuring traditional symbols of the celebration.
In New York, it has activated a Lucky Strike Force that surprises smokers outside buildings in chilly temperatures with free hot coffee. And in Chicago, the Strike Patrol offered smokers outside O'Hare Airport during the Thanksgiving holiday free use of a cell phone to call relatives and update them on travel delays.
"It's all about getting closer to the consumer," said Susan Ivey, VP-marketing at B&W, who is working on account-specific promotions designed for local retailers.
"It's not just about [honing in on] one city," she said. "It's about finding your prime prospects."
Since the tobacco industry's agreement with state attorneys general precludes outdoor advertising and allows only limited print, B&W -- with 13.6% of the U.S. tobacco market -- has made increasing use of other options. Ms. Ivey said the use of alternative newspapers has been stepped up, as have bar promotions and direct mail.
B&W also has two custom publications, The Art of Simple Living and Flair, supporting its female-skewed brands, Capri, Misty and Carlton, and The Real Edge carrying ads for Lucky Strike and Kool. Each now has a circulation of more than 1 million.
The settlement has forced B&W, like its competitors, to put a more creative spin on promotion.
"In all honesty, I think the industry has been sort of boring" in its approach to promotion, said Ms. Ivey, who until recently has worked mainly outside the U.S. for B&W parent B.A.T. She assumed her current post in July.
In the search to become more cutting edge, B&W earlier this year launched a much-talked about promotion for Lucky Strike centered on its 1-880-LSTRIKE phone number. The tongue-in-cheek recording -- of a man telling callers B&W "is in love with you" and that "you make us feel like a little kitten" while other tobacco companies "think you're ugly" -- was designed "to give callers more entertainment" while waiting on the phone, said Ms. Ivey. "It was not developed as an advertisement but a corporate message."
OUT OF THE PAST
However, the tone fits with Lucky Strike, she said, "which has a history of doing the unexpected." In the 1920s, for example, the brand used skywriting to get its ad message across, she noted.
The rollout of the brand's "American Original" ad campaign from Bates USA, New York, has given Luckies a slight lift, raising its share to 2.5%, up 0.04 percentage points, Ms. Ivey said. Less successful has been Carlton's new campaign and repackaging (AA, March 1), resulting in a share decline of 0.04 percentage points, to a 1.06% share.
While B&W trails Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in total domestic market share, the company -- buoyed by its U.K. parent -- is actually much larger on an international scale. Ms. Ivey said B.A.T is within one-half of a share point of tying Philip Morris' share globally, with a 16.5% share vs. 17%.