185088 From Timberline to Camel Snus: RJ Reynolds' smokeless tobacco marketing strategies

Tuesday, October 28, 2008: 8:35 AM

Adrienne Mejia, MPH , Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Pamela Ling, MD, MPH , Division of General Internal Medicine, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Background: In 2006 R.J. Reynolds (RJR) acquired Conwood Company and introduced Camel Snus. However, RJR previously developed spit tobacco products in the 1980s.

Objective: Describe the history of RJR's spit tobacco product development, consumer research and marketing strategies to understand their current spit tobacco marketing strategies.

Methods: Analysis of previously secret tobacco industry documents.

Results: RJR has invested in spit tobacco research, development, and marketing since at least 1972, and developed new spit tobacco products to compete directly with leading brands Skoal and Copenhagen in the 1980s. Consumer research indicated most spit tobacco users were low-income, rural, and less educated, and the company targeted them using product distribution, sampling, and sport sponsorship such as fishing tournaments, rodeos, college sports, and baseball games. Advertising portraying the user as “in control” or “hard working” was felt to be particularly effective for this group, along with wintergreen flavors to “keep you going” or for “refreshment”. RJR also hoped to attract more urban users and women to smokeless products.

Discussion: The Camel Snus campaign departs from historic plans targeting rural low-income males. Recent strategies including consumer interaction programs, technologically-advanced display units, and websites appear to appeal more to the urban, social, and female users RJR long desired. Enticing smokers to adopt smokeless to deal with smoking restrictions appears to be a new objective. These efforts have the potential to expand the overall tobacco market, undermine smoking cessation, and to recruit new users to spit tobacco products. Counter-marketing campaigns need to address these new targets.

Learning Objectives:
1. Compare historic, targeted marketing messages used by RJ Reynolds to current advertising messages for the new Camel snus product and other Conwood smokeless brands. 2. Understand the role of tobacco industry consumer-based research in product planning and marketing strategies. 3. Describe how the target user for smokeless tobacco products has changed between the 1980s and the present day.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I will submit 2 first-author papers on smokeless tobacco for publication, with Dr. Pamela Ling, as a research specialist at UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. I will also submit a first-author publication on an innovative approach to harm reduction with Dr. Stanton Glantz and Dr. Pamela Ling.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.