Camel explores exotic route in new campaign

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Camel cigarettes are going retro in a repositioning that taps its Turkish tobacco roots.

In stark contrast to the hip, swaggering Joe Camel and the surrealistic and brash "Mighty tasty!" campaigns of recent years, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. is now reaching back in its storied 86-year history. Central to the new marketing push is a quarterly publication called CML that includes articles on exotica as well as a "bazaar" of non-branded merchandise ranging from sleek cigarette lighters to Turkish coffee.

The magazine also offers-for the first time-specially blended Camel Exotic Blends, a series of four, mail-order-only smokes offered for the superpremium price of $6 per pack. Packaged in tins, with exotic-sounding names, the smokes include Twist, "tropical and luxuriant" with "a splash of citrus flavor"; and Camel Rare, "our special reserve."

Camel VP-Marketing Fran Creighton said CML, being mailed to "age-restricted smokers in 30 states," dovetails neatly with Camel's new advertising effort, themed "Pleasure to burn."

The print campaign uses images of a Sam Spade-like man and a pinup style woman, created by Camel agency Mezzina/Brown, New York. The ads for Exotic Blends were created by CML's custom publisher, Wink Media, London.

POST SETTLEMENT

Ms. Creighton said Camel's brand personality is carried through both vehicles.

"The advertising celebrates [Camel's] many decades of popularity in a contemporary way [that marries] the past and the present," she said, while CML captures "a broad array of lifestyles and interests and bring[s] them together under one vehicle."

Its most recent effort, "Mighty tasty!"-which was crammed with jarring images by photographer David La Chappelle-didn't translate in a "post-settlement environment," Ms. Creighton said, referring to the industry's agreement with the state attorneys general to strip outdoor and some print from tobacco's media roster.

"Taking `Mighty tasty!' out of print was very difficult," she said, noting that readers need to pore over the ad to get the whole picture.

CML aims to capture the brand essence with articles on topics such as the French Foreign Legion and a continuing serial soap opera called "Rebecca's Revenge." Ads within the magazine are confined to Camel, although Ms. Creighton said the marketer would entertain offers from products that fit the CML image.

The first issue also features recipes flagging branded packaged foods-oddly including Stove Top stuffing from Kraft Foods, a sister company of RJR's tobacco rival, Philip Morris USA.

Kraft executives couldn't be reached for comment on its inclusion at press time.

Analysts applauded Camel's relationship-marketing program.

"I think it's a good idea," said Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. analyst David Adelman.

He added that CML "allows RJR to communicate its products more broadly and gives it an opportunity to generate revenue with other advertisers."

"It's worth doing," said tobacco analyst Manny Goldman, of Merrill Lynch & Co.

NO STATUS QUO

Custom publications are far from new for tobacco marketers-evidence Philip Morris' Marlboro Unlimited-but the tactic is snowballing following the ad restrictions on the industry.

Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., for example, has stepped up its program. It launched its first title, Real Edge, last year, with Kool and Lucky Strike cigarettes advertised within its pages. This past spring, Flair was produced as a title for its Misty and Kool brands.

B&W is now pilot-testing a publication called The Art of Living, planned for January, for Kool and Carlton.

Although Camel's ad tack has shifted like desert sands in recent years-from the hide-and-seek "What you're looking for" to cavemen and shotgun-toting farmers-the brand's share has remained fairly stable.

As of the second quarter of '99, according to The Maxwell Report, Camel's share was 4.8%, down slightly from 4.9% in 1998.

Camel's market share has held steady since the heyday of the Joe Camel campaign in 1996.

"Camel is one of the healthier premium brands," Mr. Adelman said. "The status quo isn't there-status quo meaning market share erosion."

At least one brand consultant credits Camel's brand image for that.

"Camel never walked far away from that mystical, Turkish image," said John Grace, executive director of Interbrand. "It's returning to its brand soul."

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