Did Juul Lure Teenagers and obtain ‘Customers for Life’?
SAN FRANCISCO — The leaders of a little start-up, PAX Labs, gathered at a committee meeting in early 2015 to review the marketing strategy for its sleek new electronic cigarette, called Juul.
They watched video clips of hip children, posed flirtatiously holding Juuls. and that they talked about the name of the gadget, meant to suggest an object of beauty and to catch on as a verb — as in “to Juul.”
While the campaign wasn’t targeted specifically at teenagers, a former senior manager said that he et al. within the company were cognizant it could appeal to them.
After Juuls went on sale in June 2015, he said, the corporate quickly realized that teenagers were, in fact, using them because they posted images of themselves vaping Juul on social media.
The former manager said the corporate was careful to form sure the models in its original campaign where a minimum of 21, but it wasn’t until late 2016 or January 2017 that the corporate said it decided the models altogether Juul ads should be over age 35 — to be “better aligned” with a mission of that specialize in adult smokers.
Only in June of this year did the corporate again change its policy, this point to using only real people that had switched from cigarettes to Juul.
The company recently modified the names of its flavors — using creme rather than custard and cucumber rather than the cool cucumber.
Juul said it “heard the criticism” that teenagers could be interested in the flavors and “responded by simplifying the names and losing the descriptors.”
The sales campaigns for Juuls — now hugely fashionable teenagers across the state — are at the guts of a federal investigation into whether the corporate intentionally marketed its devices to youth.
The attorney general of Massachusetts, also investigating the corporate contends that Juul has been luring teenagers to undertake the merchandise and has introduced many to nicotine.
Her investigation will examine Juul’s efforts to audit its own website and other online retailers that sell its products to ascertain how effective they're at preventing minors from accessing Juul or Juul-compatible products.
(Federal law prohibits sales of e-cigarettes to anyone under 18.)
“From our perspective, this is often not about getting adults to prevent smoking,” the Massachusetts attorney general, Maura Healey, said in an interview.
“This is about getting kids to start out vaping, and make money and have them as customers for all times .”
And Cult Collective, the marketing company that created the 2015 campaign, “Vaporized,” claims on its website that the work “created ridiculous enthusiasm” for the campaign the hashtag, a part of a bigger advertising effort that included music event sponsorships and retail marketing.
A spokesman for Cult Collective declined to comment.
Examples of Juul’s advertising from 2015. The company’s current marketing is way more sober-looking, with a less colorful, more adult design.
The company, now called Juul Labs, denies that it ever sought to draw in teenagers.
James Monsees, one among the company’s co-founders, said selling Juuls to youth was “antithetical to the company’s mission.”
The original advertising campaign was aimed toward persuading adult smokers in their 20s and The 30s to undertake an alternate to cigarettes, but it “failed to realize traction on social media and did not gain sales” and was abandoned after five months, within the fall of 2015, said a corporation spokesman, Matt David.
Mr. David said sales didn’t begin until 2017, after Juul had improved its sales and distribution expertise, and, by then, had a more sober online marketing campaign.
The former Juul manager, who spoke to The NY Times on the condition that his name not be used, saying he worried about facing the ire of the corporate, said that within months of Juul’s 2015 introduction, it became evident that teenagers were either buying Juuls online or finding others who made the purchases for them.
Some people bought more Juul kits on the company’s website than they might individually use — sometimes 10 or more devices.
“First, they only knew it had been being bought for resale,” said the previous senior manager, who was briefed on the company’s business strategy?
“Then, once they saw the social media, in the fall and winter of 2015, they suspected it had been teens.”
The Food and Drug The administration announced it had been investigating Juul’s marketing efforts in April.
Juuls and other e-cigarettes are regulated by the F.D.A. as tobacco products because nicotine derives from tobacco leaves.
E-cigarette users inhale far fewer toxins than do smokers of traditional cigarettes.
The nicotine inhaled while vaping is a smaller amount a priority for adults than these toxins, but it remains a significant health issue for teenagers, whose brains are still developing.
The Juul story highlights a central dilemma of public health.
Cigarettes remain the leading explanation of preventable death within us, killing quite 480,000 people a year. But will it's possible to urge people that are hooked on cigarettes to modify to e-cigarettes, which are less harmful, without enticing a replacement generation or non-smokers to undertake them?
The F.D.A. commissioned research, published in January, that found “limited evidence” that e-cigarettes lead smokers to quit.
And a few evidence now suggests that children who use e-cigarettes are more likely to undertake cigarettes.
Juul, during a letter responding to the F.D.A.’s demand for documents said it had converted a million smokers to Juul, but the corporate data is drawn from self-reported surveys on its website and is unverifiable.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who heads the F.D.A., declined to discuss the agency’s investigation of Juul.
But he has long been hopeful that e-cigarettes or other similar devices, properly regulated, will prove a safer alternative to smoking and help people quit the deadly habit.
Before becoming F.D.A. commissioner, he served on the board of directors of Kure, a retailer that sells e-cigarette products.