Recently, during a visit to the JUUL factory in the documentary Vaporized: America’s E-Cigarette Addiction produced by CNBC, JUUL CEO Kevin Burns publicly apologized to all parents of minor consumers who used JUUL products. “First of all, I want to say to parents that I am sorry that your children use our electronic cigarette products. This is not the intention of JUUL electronic cigarette. As the father of a 16-year-old child, I can feel all the challenges and difficulties they have experienced.”
The electronic cigarette fever has attracted more and more artillery fire on JUUL in recent years, , and its biggest crime is to attract minors and adolesents to touch tobacco products containing nicotine. No matter how JUUL clarifies that its products are specifically made for adults, pods with a variety of fruit flavors, and social media known as “Hashtag Marketing” have to make the US e-cigarette giant the first to become the focus of public opinion.
A new study of Juul’s posts on Instagram has tightened regulation of e-cigarette marketing. The study was published in the BMJ Journal of the Tobacco Control Column.
The study found that from March to May 2018, more than a third of the posts related to Juul on insatgram were marketing-related, such as links to websites that allow users to buy at one click; more than half of the posts were related to “youth culture-lifestyle”. Researchers say this is very interesting because the tobacco industry has historically attracted consumers by promoting “lifestyle” and “social acceptance”. And for young consumers, this marketing method has been tried again and again.
More than 99.999% of social media content related to JUUL products was generated by platform users during the study period, Juul spokesman Ted Kwong said in a statement on Tuesday. He hoped that readers would not confuse JUUL’s official posts with third-party content, and that JUUL would also sue for inappropriate posts and unauthorized online activities.
JUUL’s marketing department said that since research institutes began collecting relevant data, JUUL has withdrawn from most social media in the United States and reduced the use of Twitter and YouTube after closing Facebook and Instagram accounts in November last year. Within the brand, there are teams that report inappropriate content to major social media companies, such as third-party accounts that sell products to minor users under Juul’s brand name.
Kwong said: “We know that the hidden dangers of such content are getting worse and worse, which is why JUUL hires a social media monitoring team to check inappropriate content on social media and ask authors to delete it. The team has deleted 3,1889 social media lists, including 25,405 personal Instagram posts and 1,251 Instagram accounts.
Dr. Robert Jackler, founder of Stanford Tobacco Advertising Research Center, told CNN that it was good for Juul to cut down on his social media, but it was too late. Jackler said he believed that JUUL did not necessarily target minors, but that early advertising did attract teenagers, and that JUUL did not take measures before it became a topic.
“JUUL claims they don’t know that their product attracts a lot of teenagers to electronic cigarettes,” Jackler said. But I don’t believe it at all. Because JUUL is a company with strong data analysis ability. They always know their market and what they are doing.
Juul Labs’AO Ashley Gould told CNN last year that the JUUL team itself had not expected such high popularity of the product among young people.
According to previous research records, the number of JUUL-related Twitters exploded in 2017, 17 times the number in 2016, and 25% of the users involved in forwarding were under 18 years old. And in 2017, one in six high school students used electronic cigarettes, three times the number of high school students who smoked traditional cigarettes. Although it is difficult to say precisely that this growth trend originates from JUUL, JUUL is indeed the first to be defined by the FDA as a “juvenile epidemic”
In terms of paid advertising, Instagram and Facebook’s policies stipulate that advertising content should not involve the sale and use of tobacco products and related appliances. Twitter’s advertising policy also prohibits the promotion of any tobacco content worldwide. However, even though JUUL now strictly adheres to the rules of every platform, can “epidemics” be cured?
Matthew L. Myers, president of the Smoke-Free Children’s Campaign, told CNN that JUUL’s early social media chain reaction would not be interrupted. Because once teenagers are successfully attracted, they will automatically bring sustained economic benefits to the brand. Jackler agrees with this statement, saying that JUUL’s early social media phenomenon will never disappear, and even if there are no marketing measures in the latter stage, it will not really prevent teenagers from accessing it – “Juul will last forever”.
Authorities have apparently focused their attention on the trend of e-cigarette brands in social media.
The FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced last month that they were looking for companies to promote their products through influencers and that they had issued warnings against violations to four companies. JUUL was not one of them. Even so, JUUL has been the target of investigations by U.S. senators, representatives and lawyers.
A CNN survey last December revealed JUUL’s social media promotion plan and targeted several influencer users who participated. At that time, a spokesman for Juul said that they eventually abandoned the plan because of their small influence. JUUL said it had been taking positive action to prevent products from falling into the hands of minors.
This point can be seen from the apology of JUUL CEO to the parents. In fact, it is still not fully achieved.
However, do China brands of electronic cigarettes have JUUL problems?
1. Everyone praises it as “stop teenagers from smoking electronic cigarettes”, but online shopping malls need to choose their age when they first enter (but they don’t need actual identity verification). Buying an electronic cigarette is as simple as buying all fast-food products.
2. Flavor diversification. There are as many as 14 kinds of e-liquids for a well-known electronic cigarette brand in China, 6 kinds more than JUUL.
3. JUUL has been criticized for its “cool appearance”, “compact and light” appearance, which is also reflected in domestic cigarettes with serious homogenization.
4. Online marketing platforms such as Wechat programe, Wechat accounts, microblogs, etc. are as popular as Instagram and Facebook outside the walls.
5. Off-line promotion also covers music festivals with a large proportion of young people, IP joint names, flash stores and other trendy ways.