Line Extensions: RJR rolls out Camel Turkish Royal

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R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. is adding a crown to its jewels, launching Camel Turkish Royal, the third sibling in the cigarette brand's Turkish family that also includes Turkish Gold and Turkish Jade (AA, June 17).

"We recognize there is power in marketing these styles as a family," said Scott Rhodes, Camel VP-marketing. The three smokes-medium Royal, light Gold and menthol Jade-will be displayed and promoted together but not be sold as a three-pack. Communications for the new style will carry the "Pleasure to burn" umbrella theme created for all Camel brands by agency of record Mezzina, Brown & Partners, New York, but Mr. Rhodes would not reveal specific marketing plans. Gyro Worldwide, Philadelphia, handles point-of-sale materials.

"We've been very pleased with the way `Pleasure to burn' has played out in the marketplace and what it has done for us," Mr. Rhodes said. "It allows us to tie the whole heritage of the brand together" with a contemporary spin. He added, "We think it's a big reason why we're growing like we are."

Although RJR would not specify how much of Camel's overall market share-or gain-is attributable to the Turkish styles. But Mr. Rhodes said "they have accounted for a significant portion of Camel's growth over the last three years." (See chart below).

momentum

"We've seen Camel have good momentum, and part of the reason is that they don't stand still with the brand," said Rob Campagnino, an analyst at Prudential Securities.

Standing still was nearly impossible following the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between tobacco companies and the states attorneys general that banned the use of cartoon characters in cigarette advertising, among other marketing restrictions.

The MSA forced RJR to rethink its longstanding and extremely successful Joe Camel effort. "They had something that was immensely successful, and [all of a sudden] they weren't able to use it anymore," Mr. Campagnino said, adding the line extensions and new positioning have been a good transition from the swanky, animated beast.

RJR introduced "Pleasure to burn" in 1999 with the launch of Camel Exotic Blends, uniquely flavored styles like citrus and mint.

The Turkish family was born a year later with the launch of Turkish Gold, a smoke that enabled RJR to leverage Camel's longstanding heritage as the first U.S. cigarette-launched in 1913-made from a Turkish-American tobacco blend. Menthol Turkish Jade launched last year.

The Turkish family "is designed to gain competitive share and reinforce this slightly exotic, fun image of the brand," Mr. Rhodes said. "We have found on both Turkish Gold and Turkish Jade that the majority of the people that smoke those products are competitive smokers," he said, "and we believe we'll be gaining more competitive smokers [with Turkish Royal] than we will franchise smokers."

Yet one cigarette distributor said the Turkish smokes are still niche brands. "They do okay, but they're not lighting the world on fire," said Doug Burke of Spokane, Wash.-based Burke's Distributing.

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