Juul’s Communications Tries to ...


I don’t smoke.

My one and only experience with cigarettes was sneaking some coins into a vending machine when I around 14 to buy a pack of Marlboros. I don’t think I got past the first puff before I concluded coughing wasn’t fun.

Still, the professional side of me has paid attention to Juul’s communications as it plays dodgeball with the FDA.



Imagine if every time you communicated to the outside world you had to include the disclaimer that your product or service comes with baggage. If you want to win, you’d better be clever and disciplined and relentless.

Matt David, the company’s chief communications officer, and his team operate with such a handicap in the form of a warning in every missive that nicotine is an addictive chemical. In fact, this warning appears on every page — and when I say every, I mean “every” — on the company’s website.



So what are they doing to try to win over the public?

They keep their message simple. They humanize the product. You see this come out in print advertising, which again includes that pesky warning just addressed.



We don’t need data scientists to build an algorithm to figure out the message. Cigarettes are the enemy. Juul offers an alternative to cigarettes.

Yes, Juul wants to communicate the goodness of its product, but equally important, it wants to remind the public that cigarettes are the bad guys. With this in mind, Juul doesn’t refer to the category as cigarettes. It characterizes the category as “combustible cigarettes,” as if they’re going to blow up in your face like a gag cigar.

I just watched the HBO movie, “Brexit,” where the leave-Brexit campaign came up with the slogan “take control” which then morphed into “take back control.” One word can make a difference.

Keeping with this theme that cigarettes are the bad guys, Juul communicates various data points that correlate the decline in cigarette consumption to the rise of Juul’s product sales.

The company also plays the innovation card, that there’s real science behind its products. The website features five channels and devotes one piece of this valuable real estate to technology.



Last, it’s rare to find big consumer brands pay much attention to optimizing their site for search. Yet, a look at the source code at Juul’s site reveals professionals have been at work. The perfect example of this is the calculation page where consumers can plug in their cigarette habit and figure out how much money they would save by switching to Juul.



Typically, the title tag for this page would simply use the headline as the default, “Juul Savings Calculator.” Instead, the title tag anticipates what the target audience will plug into Google.



With so much money at stake — Juul’s revenue is around $2B, and the global e-cigarette market rings in at around $45B — it makes sense that Juul’s communications and brand-building would put professionals at the helm.


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