Monday, September 7, 2009

Turning Over a Bright Leaf

A couple of weeks ago, Marlboro launched Bright Leaf, a new mid-priced cigarette brand that for now is only available in the UK. Bright Leaf is 8% cheaper than Marlboro's other brands (that's a saving of about 70 cents on a pack of 20), and offers a different blend of tobacco "which has been specifically designed to address the taste dimensions of the British adult smoker" according to Zoe Smith, Marlboro's UK marketing manager.

Launching a new cigarette brand in the UK is exceptionally tough. British law requires 40% of all cigarette packaging to be taken up by health warnings, and has also eliminated all forms of cigarette advertising. The last straw will come in 2011, when retailers will no longer be able to display cigarettes and will have to keep them hidden under the counter.

With so many other marketing vehicles unavailable to them, it's not surprising that Marlboro has turned to packaging to generate buzz for Bright Leaf. The new packs will have a "tactile finish" and are side-hinged to open like a Zippo lighter unlike the standard flip-top design. According to Marketing Week magazine, "by introducing the new variant in unusual packs, Marlboro will harness the power of word of mouth marketing and the brand will sell itself."

So put on your branding hats and put aside your ethical concerns. Are cool packaging and lower prices sufficient to ensure the success of Marlboro Bright Leaf? What would you do differently if you were the brand manager? Do you think Bright Leaf has a future in the US market? If so, how would you ensure a successful launch?