Thursday, July 17, 2014

VUSE fires up electronic cigarette event marketing

I’ve been waiting for years to see a decent electronic cigarette marketing display. Well, I finally saw one on a recent trip to the Summerfest music festival in Milwaukee.

The VUSE e-cig display from RJR Reynolds and BFG Marketing included a high tech trailer and displays, modern design and signage, and also had a prime waterfront location on the festival grounds.

About a dozen workers were on hand at the display to present the features and benefits of the VUSE products. Some of those highlights included a quick connect easy pop-off filter, light weight design and authentic taste (more on this later). The staffer who helped me was engaged, knowledgeable and upbeat.

The display’s crowds were somewhat limited, but that was partially intentional. To their credit, VUSE staff security limited access to those over age 21 with verified identification and to current e-cig or tobacco consumers (they had to take your word for that).

This somewhat conflicting strategy of actually limiting e-cig marketing accessibility is smart public relations for VUSE. E-cig opponents are comparing current marketing to that of traditional tobacco companies in the past where aggressive product giveaways were used to attract new smokers.

In fact, my wife was denied access to the display when she told the VUSE security staff that she was “only an occasional cigarette smoker.” So, clearly VUSE was not promoting their products to anyone other than tobacco or e-cig consumers. Other e-cig brands should take notice of this tactic as a self-regulatory best practice.

Having worked at a number of major consumer events and trade shows in my career, I was expecting to see a display of this kind at some point. While there may be others out there already, the VUSE e-cig display was the first I have seen, and I was impressed.

Of course, with VUSE being the e-cig brand of tobacco giant RJR Reynolds, you would expect a top level presentation.  The display was very open and inviting with plenty of tables, cabinets and a trailer showing various e-cig products.

I expect to see more of these marketing displays from VUSE and other bigger e-cig brands like Lorillard’s Blu, Altria’s recent acquisition of Green Smoke, or NJOY.

Other possible events besides music festivals and concerts could include state and county fairs, auto or motorcycle races or other sporting events. While some might not want to be associated with electronic cigarette marketing, this VUSE Summerfest example shows some venues are more open-minded to e-cigs than tobacco.

I have seen smaller e-cig brands with displays at some events. It’s kind of like the difference between the big beer brands like MillerCoors or Anheuser-Busch and micro brands like Sam Adams, Red Hook or New Belgium. Nothing against the smaller brands out there, but there is a difference between a couple tables under a tent and a major display like VUSE.

From an overall marketing perspective, the main goal of these kinds of displays is to generate precious “leads” or potential customer contacts and gather research, while also creating awareness or “buzz.”

Getting back to the products themselves, VUSE e-cigs have a lot to offer.  The original flavor sample tasted fresh and realistic. You would expect no less from a company like RJR.

The biggest and best innovation in the VUSE e-cigs is the QuickConnect easy interface between the battery and cartridge. Having a snap-on and off instead of a screw-on and off thread system seems like an easier function.

Other features include powerful and consistent performance, a unique vapor light and logo, and effective and recognizable package. VUSE also offers a recycling program, which is smart marketing in this “sustainable” marketplace.

The complimentary VUSE start kit that I received sells for about $10 in retail outlets and includes a battery, USB charger and two cartridges in either original or menthol flavor.

While I was obviously impressed with the VUSE display at Summerfest in Milwaukee, it will be interesting to see where other e-cig brands take event marketing in the future.





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