Watching a category develop is a great learning experience ... starting from infancy with early adopters and then slowly growing as it builds awareness to then the early signs of hitting stride. Great fun.
That's exactly what I've been observing with the Electronic Cigarette category, purely from a marketing perspective.
I remember when I first heard of these little buggers on a trip to San Francisco. I hopped into a cab and the driver was smoking one. He told me every last detail about them. I wrote a blog post about it in Sept 2012.
As the category started to take shape over the last two years, we've seen the brands try to take their place and determine their messaging. A lot of it has been vague, probably purposefully as the FDA takes their place in the discussion as well.
We've also seen people struggle with the rules around e-cigs ... is it ok to smoke them at work, at a bar/restaurant, on a plane, or in someone's home ... places where regular cigarettes have basically been banned. We're going to have to make decisions on these rules of engagement if the category is going to stick around.
One brand has put a stake in the ground, right at the new year, with what seems like the most aggressive messaging to date in the category. It's from one of the emerging leadership brands, NJOY.
"Return the favor ... Friends Don't Let Friends Smoke." To my eye, the first brand to actually hint at a benefit. With a fascinating reference to an infamous campaign, "Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk."
Also, at the Golden Globes a couple weeks ago, we got a glimpse at what might be our first pop culture reference to e-cigs ... when Tina Fey and Amy Poehler did a stunt with Julia Louise-Dreyfus who was smoking one at her table. At her table!
We shall see where this category goes, fascinating to say the least!
What's your experience? JIM.
PS - Join us for #GrammyExp on Twitter this Sunday, 1/26, for live tweets about the marketing. We'll start out with the red carpet at 6:30pm EST.