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The 13th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health
Building capacity for a tobacco-free world
July 12-15, 2006, Washington, DC, USA
Objective: To explore RJ Reynolds' novel promotional strategy for Eclipse cigarettes.
Methods: Analysis of previously secret tobacco industry documents.
Results: The failure of RJ Reynolds' (RJR) 1988 “smokeless” cigarette, Premier, was in part due to widespread bad word-of-mouth about the product's flavor, quality, and difficulty of use. In 1994 RJR introduced an updated version of Premier, the “potentially reduced exposure product” Eclipse. RJR attempted to create positive word of mouth for Eclipse by hosting Tupperware-like parties, where attendees would view video-taped introductions to Eclipse, participate in demonstrations of how to use the product, and discuss its purported benefits. Participants would then be asked to advocate for the product in their social circles. Along with the Eclipse website, this form of viral marketing “narrowcasted” (rather than broadcasted) Eclipse to the likeliest adopters, taught users how to use the product, recruited informal representatives of the product who were not affiliated with RJR, and controlled the information spread about the product.
Conclusions: “Tupperware-like” parties were more effective than mass media to promote Eclipse. They allowed RJR to cultivate a targeted group of enthusiasts, avoiding the mass rejection that could follow mass promotion. Eclipse parties were designed to convince smokers that the product was better for their health and motivate them to deliver this message to others. RJR avoided liability for health claims smokers made to each other. Cigarette manufacturers must be held accountable for making health claims through all promotional activities.