Lucky Strike takes an original ad turn

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Lucky Strike means follow through.

That's what Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. thinks is necessary to boost sales of its 130-year-old cigarette brand. That commitment is evident in increased marketing and "free-thinking" promotions, such as its "Lucky Strike Band to Band" effort beginning next month. The event allows attendees at Lucky Strike-sponsored events to vote for the band they think is best. Venues include bars and clubs where aspiring local music groups compete.

Adults who fill out data-collection cards get a free CD with songs from the participating bands. The initial group of 45 competitors will be narrowed to 15 finalists, which will compete in regional events.

Promotional ads from Bates USA, New York, will run in local alternative papers, and ads congratulating the winning band will run in national music magazines such as Rolling Stone and Spin.

The band promotion leverages Lucky Strike's "An American original" tagline.

"If we're 'An American original' brand, we can support American original music," said Brand Director Susan Smith.

"Band to Band" also dovetails with B&W's current "L.S./M.F.T." sweepstakes, which invites consumers to alter the brand's 80-year-old "Lucky Strike means fine tobacco" slogan by replacing "fine tobacco" with the name of their dream prize.

DIFFERENT SWEEPSTAKES

"If Lucky Strike is a brand that does things differently, maybe we should do a sweepstakes a little differently" by letting people choose their own prize, Ms. Smith said.

A print ad, from Bates, appears in April and May issues of consumer magazines such as In Style, Maxim, Premiere and Rolling Stone. The contest runs through Aug. 15.

Ms. Smith said building on the brand's history can help fuel sales today. "It is an old brand, but it has a lot of heritage," she said. "We understand [a turnaround] isn't going to happen overnight."

Although Lucky Strike had only a 0.3% share of market in the U.S. in 1999, according to The Maxwell Report, Ms. Smith said it is a strategic global brand for B&W's parent, British American Tobacco. Globally, Lucky Strike has a 0.4% market share.

Roy Burry, an analyst at Brown Brothers Harriman, said Lucky Strike suffers from a demographic skew towards older consumers who are "dying or [who] stop smoking."

"It's a brand that will take a major investment and repositioning to do well," he said.

"It's not your mainstream brand," Ms. Smith said.

Copyright May 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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