Is graphic warning the last gasp for cigarette brands?

The news that the European Union is seeking to introduce graphic visual images on to cigarette packs to ‘shock’ smokers out of smoking isn’t really news at all for the tobacco industry – it’s a policy that’s been operating in Canada for many years.

The news that the European Union is seeking to introduce graphic visual images on to cigarette packs to ‘shock’ smokers out of smoking isn’t really news at all for the tobacco industry – it’s a policy that’s been operating in Canada for many years.

As many of your Vox Pop respondents pointed out (DW 4 November), people are inured to these messages; a switch to a visual image may have more impact, but with cigarette sales still high, it’s surely time to question the value of the on-pack messages and for governments to swallow the bitter pill (if they have the stomach for it) to ban.

Curiously, none of your designers gave a thought to an analysis of how the design of cigarette brands will need to work given ever-increasing on-pack burdens which will be in competition with the visual identity of the brand, preferring to take the (rather conceited) high ground of how they will save the world with anti-smoking shock tactics (while at least half of them sheepishly admitted to smoking themselves).

Food for thought for us was how cigarette brands will fare when competing on-pack with graphic images of heart surgery, fatty arteries, or some such. What is certain is that brands that lack a clear, strong visual identity will struggle to retain brand dominance, while those whose visual equities are stronger will be able to withstand on-pack shrinkage/ visual competition. I can imagine say, a Marlboro pack retaining its clearly branded character through its near-iconic identity; however there are at least a dozen other brands for whom this shift will be more damaging.

This is a textbook example of the strength of a brand’s visual foundation spelling life or death for the brand. And here’s hoping, life for those smokers who, just maybe, do take notice of the anti-smoking message.

Amy Bridgman

Creative Director

Pi global

London E2

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