Marketers, in particular, can learn quite a bit from the mixed bag of success that vape companies, especially the dominant vape giant Juul, have had thus far. On one hand, their smashing business success has been extremely impacted by a successful marketing campaign. On the other hand, many of their marketing tactics effectively exchanged short-term success for scathing long-term criticism, leaving the future of the company’s successful streak in doubt.
Here are a few of the key takeaways that marketers, in particular, can benefit from by observing the vape giant Juul’s incredible rise to fame, fortune, and criticism in the public eye.
The Power of Social Media
Research indicates that the majority of Juul’s unprecedented level of success comes from one place: social media. The company stands out for their use of social media. Juul has used their social media accounts as a powerful arm of their energetic, clever approach to marketing throughout some of their most critical stages of growth.
Social media has been recognized for years now as an affordable yet powerful marketing option. Sites like Twitter and Facebook allow companies to enter conversations and establish their brand voice to a larger crowd within their niche. YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest all make for fantastic visual representations as well. No matter what platform a company uses, if marketers create content with an eye towards marrying its products to current trends, it will likely find itself in the limelight before long.
Juul took full advantage of that powerful marketing potential in order to foster and grow the trend of vaping ever since its conception in 2015. In addition to their own posts, Juul managed to create a massive buzz through both fans and other companies who willingly tweeted, posted, and talked about them on a regular basis.
However, it wasn’t just the social tools they used. Juul also capitalized on another classic element of marketing success: appealing to consumers’ emotions.
New Technology, the Same Humanity
As the vaping giant’s social media marketing success continued to mount over time, more and more people began to pay attention. The young company’s marketing initially focused heavily on things like relaxation and freedom, as well as social acceptance and sex appeal.
These elements made a huge difference by drawing in a younger crowd. Juul repeatedly tied its sales message to things like favorite foods or trendy clothing. It selected flavors that seemed deliberately aimed at younger consumers. The company showcased its products by using younger models in attractive poses and clothing styles. All of this helped to position e-cigarettes not just as something of general interest, but as a product that could fulfill genuine human needs and desires.
In short, their advertising didn’t present the product as an alternative to cigarettes — a claim that e-cig companies are famous for pushing. Instead, they went right after emotional marketing tactics that spoke to insecurities that are often present within young people.
Honesty Is the Best Policy
While Juul has always claimed that their products are meant for adults, it’s hard to look at the design of the products, the flavors being offered, and the style of their marketing content and not conclude that it’s purposefully aimed at a younger audience.
These marketing tactics have raised legitimate concerns. This is the sale of nicotine, an industry that is both age-old and extremely unpopular in the health-conscious community. Companies dealing in vaping products are already treading on thin ice when it comes to public opinion. Emotionally manipulating an audience that is too young to use the product itself, while bringing them dramatically increased profits in the short term, certainly didn’t set them up for long-term success.
This is the dark underbelly of Juul’s marketing efforts. As the number of young users has continued to grow, the outcry against their apparently unsavory marketing tactics has become deafening. That’s not to say that Juul hasn’t responded appropriately to all of the criticism. In fact, the runaway success of their marketing was so powerful that they have had to do more than simply stop doing it. They’ve had to actively work to undo it.
The company has repeatedly insisted that their focus is adult users, and they have made multiple statements, as well as taken action, to make their products less alluring to potential youth that may want to use them. They’ve changed enticing names, shut down their Facebook and Instagram pages in the U.S., and raised the minimum age of their models.
Learning From Juul’s Experience
Juul is a fascinating example of how volatile modern marketing can be. While their utilization of social media to facilitate emotional marketing messages was brilliant in its creation and execution, the company failed to take into account the social responsibility that consumers are impressing on modern companies in ever-increasing amounts in the modern era.
Marketers should take advantage of the modern technological tools at their disposal, but they should be equally aware of how their messages will be received. If they fail to take this into account, they could find themselves quickly in a similar position to Juul, striving to undo their own success in an effort to preserve their public image and reputation.
Frankie Wallace is a recent graduate from the University of Montana. Wallace currently resides in Boise, Idaho.