You might not believe, but there was a time when cigarettes were considered to be women’s prerogative, while the real tough guys preferred to smoke cigars, pipe tobacco and roll-your-own smokes. Yet, “nicotine cancer sticks” appeared to be very comfy in production and consumption, so the owners of major tobacco companies started looking for strategies that could help to increase cigarette sales among male smokers. And the so-needed image was soon found. It was based on those eternal men’s values – passion for freedom and adventures, dignity and courage. Today the majority of tobacco brands use this theme. But Camel was the pioneer in that field.
It all began in 1913. It was the time of multiple experiments in tobacco industry, since smoking was becoming a trendy habit, and the manufacturers were trying to create new way of consuming tobacco. Among other new tobacco products, there were some tiny cylinder-shaped things in white paper, which were becoming more and more popular among smokers. These cylinders were called cigarettes. And namely these cigarettes became the focus of attention of Richard Reynolds, the founder and owner of RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company.
Being recognized as one of the leading producers of pipe tobacco and using that experience, Reynolds zealously got to the business. The company acquired Red Camel brand, and reduced the brand name to Camel. Some say Reynolds selected the brand image thanks to the passion for Middle East that was popular in the United States in the 1920s. It will remain a mystery whether the Arab tales were the source of inspiration for Richard Reynolds, but the way he run the marketing campaign was really fairy-tale.
Doctors prefer Camels? OMG that is an outrageous sin! Today marketing managers have more than a hundred of strategies to promote a product, including the interest build up.
But in the beginning of 20th century, it was truly a revelation. Having the decided the Camel symbol is not only a vivid image, but also a powerful marketing device, RJ Reynolds launched several mysterious ads in newspapers several days before the national introduction of Camel cigarettes.
“Camels”- stated one of those ads. While the people were trying to understand what does that mean, another advert was launched. “Camels are coming”! Whereas the people were considering the options in dealing with the camels, next ad hit them – “Tomorrow there will be more Camels in the city than in Asia and Africa combined!” Those, who managed to keep sound mind due to the potential Camel invasion, finally discovered the truth next morning. “Camel cigarettes are here now! – stated the final advert. Well, with such marketing experiments, it’s not surprising that a Camel-smoking trend started.
Image from Futurama animated series. Symbol of Camel cigarettes, Joe the Camel, managed to become a legend in American culture.
From the very first days after its launch, this tobacco brand efficiently used the spirit of freedom and passion for adventures. Besides the images showing African and slogans like “It’s a whole new world”, the man-oriented image of Camels is confirmed by the fact that Camel cigarettes were distributed among soldiers going to the World War II. Soldier or sailor smoking a Camel cigarettes was one of the most popular Hollywood images.
However, RJ Reynolds wasn’t the only tobacco company to focus on eternal men’s values. In 1954 its future major rival Marlboro was launched. Their famous cowboy appealed not only to the spirit of adventures, but to the whole essence (even if it was mythologized) of American men. And it was not surprising that Camel smokers began turning to the iconic red-and-white packs. Trying to retain its customers owners of Camel brand organized the world-famous Camel Trophy – a showdown of will power, adventures and nature for tough men.
However, despite all the efforts, Camel didn’t manage to overcome the rivals. In the beginning of the 21st Century the men were no more attracted by the image of unshaved and sweaty conqueror of the nature. They tended to have comfort and refinement. In addition, Camel was not able to take the lead in growing markets of China and Russia, because smokers preferred Marlboro, not due to the taste, but because Marlboro was now the symbol of forbidden American dream. And the forbidden fruit is always sweeter.
In 1999 RJ Reynolds sold Camel brand (outside of the U.S.) to Japan Tobacco International. The Japanese tobacco giant understood that Camel could be saved only by urgent and thorough re-branding. So, they ended with Camel Trophy, and focused on the taste refinement and rich heritage of Camel cigarettes. They also changed the pack design to ravishing and exclusive one, in an attempt to become an elite premium brand again. Who knows, maybe they will succeed one day…