Radio promotion aims to give Kool younger profile

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Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. will try a new promotion to make a 67-year-old brand with an aging franchise seem Kool again.

The marketer this week will begin giving away a miniradio with special packs of Kool, in an effort to attract smokers aged 21 to 30.

The 4 million cigarette/radio packages, which hit retail outlets nationwide July 5, supplement the company's new ads touting: "We built the House of Menthol." Bates USA, New York, handles.

"We are driving a component to revitalize Kool," said Susan Ivey, senior VP-marketing at Brown & Williamson, which considers two of its older brands, Kool and Lucky Strike, to be its primary growth vehicles. Kool had a 3.22% share in 1999, a 0.2 percentage point drop from 1998, an analysis of company reports from Sanford C. Bernstein Co. showed. Lorillard's Newport leads the menthol category with 7.5%.

COMPETITION INTENSIFIES

Brown & Williamson aims to regain a portion of the menthol market, in which "the competitive intensity is heating up," Ms. Ivey said. "Marlboro menthols have made a thrust into the category, and Newport has long dominated."

In May, Philip Morris USA nationally rolled out Marlboro Milds, the fourth offering in its menthol line. Print ads from Leo Burnett USA., Chicago, with the tagline, "A new menthol," supported the launch.

Brown & Williamson -- the No. 3 tobacco company in the U.S. with a 13.4% share, behind Philip Morris with 49.6% and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. with 23%, according to The Maxwell Report -- believes innovative marketing techniques like the radio giveaway are critical to increasing its share. "Using gifts with purchase is a slightly different tactic" from the more standard buy one pack, get one free, Ms. Ivey said.

`STRIKE FORCE' HITS NEW YORK

The radio promotion fits with Brown & Williamson's larger strategy to focus heavily on one-to-one marketing, with programs like "Strike Force," a group of Brown & Williamson representatives who hit the streets last year to promote Lucky Strike by offering free hot coffee to smokers outside buildings. The Force ramps up this week in New York with "Project Independence Day," inviting people smoking outside buildings to watch the July 4 fireworks display from a boat in New York Harbor.

"We're changing the way we combat in the industry [by using] guerrilla warfare out there on the street," Ms. Ivey said. "Playing by the rules of the game is not a successful strategy. Running around behind Philip Morris is not a strategy for Brown & Williamson."

Ms. Ivey said the new print campaign also demonstrates the company's unique marketing approach. The double-page versions of the four executions appear on the front and back of a single page, with the back page as a mirror image of the front, with all the writing and images backwards. "It's a unique campaign in the context that not every [ad] is identical," Ms. Ivey said. "It's a little more interesting than people sitting around smoking."

The first phase of the campaign was to establish the "House of Menthol" umbrella theme, she said. The next six print ads this fall will focus on Kool's brand variance and use different language and phrases, she said. The fall push will highlight the "different characteristics of our product vs. some of our competitors," such as the balance of menthol and tobacco that keeps Kool from being overly sweet, said Bates Exec VP Richard Newman. "The way consumers talk about that [taste] is what's important in the next phase," he said.

Brown & Williamson will also support Kool with "Kool Mix Nights," a competition of local radio disc jockeys in bars and nightclubs in 10 urban markets, "to establish relevance in younger smokers' lives," Mr. Newman said.

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