The Australian experience following plain packaging: the impact on tobacco branding: The Australian experience following plain packaging

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Abstract

Aims

Brands are critical to tobacco marketing. Industry stakeholders predicted that plain packaging, by removing key tangible branding dimensions, would restrict new products and brand differentiation. However, manufacturers respond innovatively to limit regulatory impact. This study investigates brand strategy following plain packaging's introduction to Australia.

Methods

Brand portfolios were determined using 2006–15 tobacco ingredient reports. These detail the brand and variant names sold and are provided annually as part of a voluntary agreement between the Australian Government and leading manufacturers. Post-plain packaging brand ranges were verified using retail price lists and a supermarket retail audit using a method used previously to verify a period of pre-plain packaging data.

Results

The verification process identified some data inaccuracies from one manufacturer which resulted in the issuing of corrected data. After plain packaging the leading manufacturers continued with extensive brand ranges differentiated by price. All launched new products. While total brand numbers fell from 29 to 24, the mean number of variants for the leading 12 brands grew from 8.9 to 9.7. Substantial variant name modifications occurred with 50 new or modified names in 2012–13. Among leading brands, the incidence of variant colour names increased from 49.5 to 79.3%.

Conclusions

New brands and variants were not inhibited by the introduction of plain packaging in Australia. After plain packaging, leading brand variant numbers expanded by 9 to 116 and colour variant names increased by 73.6% and became the norm—lighter colours (blue, gold and silver) dominated, perpetuating notions of less harmful cigarettes. [Correction added on 09 September 2016, after first online publication: The figures in the last sentence of the Abstract are now corrected from ‘expanded by 116’ to ‘expanded by 9 to 116’.]

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