A Review of Cigarette Marketing in Canada -- 4th Edition -- Winter 2003

Too Kool.

In the fall of 2002, British American Tobacco's Canadian subsidiary, Imperial Tobacco, re-launched the KOOL brand in Canada. 

The promotional campaign used to re-launch the brand showed how permeable regulatory controls on tobacco promotion can be in the face of a marketing onslaught. 

The launch of KOOL cigarettes showed at least FIVE ways in which BAT's Canadian subsidiary slipped through restrictions on promotion to launch this brand.

BAT used the internet to reach young Canadians.

KOOL cigarettes were launched by Imperial Tobacco with a website (www.theicebox.ca, now defunct) promoting nightclub events and a contest (for smokers only) to attend the events.

(click to enlarge the snapshot of the ICEBOX web-site)

BAT used a brand name which is heavily promoted through imported advertising.

KOOL cigarettes are a flagship brand for BATís U.S. subsidiary, Brown and Williamson. KOOL is one of the more heavily advertised youth brands in the United States and is heavily promoted in popular youth magazines Ė like Rolling Stone, Maxim and Sports Illustrated.

The Canadian cigarette is made from different tobacco and has a different taste, but BAT is able to use the same name and marketing.

Kool Summer 2003 Ad | Photo by Scott Harding

(click to enlarge the snapshot of foreign KOOL promotions that may appear in Canada)

Retail displays put the new brand before the nose of virtually every Canadian (eye-level for children).

Although the Tobacco Act allows the government to restrict the number or size of tobacco displays, no regulations have been developed in this area.  Some provinces (like New Brunswick) have banned counter-top displays, and Saskatchewan and Manitoba have legislated bans on retail displays.  Ironically, this last measure was struck down in a Saskatchewan court because it was considered to infringe on federal authority.

(click to enlarge the snapshot of  KOOL retail displays )

Bar events were used to create lifestyle imagery -- which was subsequently promoted through web-sites.

BAT was able to create lifestyle imagery for this brand through through the staging of nightclub events, and by circulating images of the event. Pictures mounted on the web-site show that the KOOL logo, colours and imagery is displayed without any indication that these cigarettes are both lethal and addictive.

(click to enlarge this picture from a KOOL ICEBOX event)

BAT invented new words to continue suggesting that some of its brands were less dangerous than others. 

Canadians waited for the government to make good on its plan to ban misleading descriptors such as 'light' and 'mild.  Meanwhile  Imperial Tobacco has introduced a new descriptor, 'Frost'.


(click to enlarge this picture of the KOOL FROST package)

KOOL continues to be marketed in Canada, but after the initial launch, Imperial Tobacco pulled back on its marketing investment.  The web-site was pulled, and the counter-top displays have been replaced by displays for other brands, such as du Maurier, Players, Matinee and Avanti.

International "Kool"
Nightclub promotions
Bathroom KOOL

Canadian marketing firm "the Studio Upstairs" developed Nbox promotions for KOOL in bathrooms.  These  DVD quality audio and video flat-screen monitors are placed in washrooms in the United States (and Canada?.  As a customer approaches, they begin playing a high-energy rave-style promotion for KOOL cigarettes. 


Jamaica Olympic KOOL

BAT's Jamaican subsidiary Cigarette Company of Jamaica's, or CCJ, recently launched KOOL cigarettes in Kingston Jamaica using similarly styled parties.

The Jamaican Observer reported that the night-club launch attracted Olympic athletes Sandy Richards (right) and Juliet Cuthbert (second left) - pictured here with Kool Menthol green-clad CCJ executive David Magnus (second right).

KOOL Research



University of Regina marketing researcher, professor Anne Lavack, reported on tobacco industry use of nightclub events to reach  young audiences.

See: Tobacco related bar promotions: insights from tobacco industry documents


KOOL Sales

Kool cigarettes were regularly sold in Canada from before 1976 until 1994, when they were withdrawn following slumping sales. 


ITL took advantage of the year-of-no-restrictions-on-advertising to try (unsuccessfully) to re-launch the brand in 1996.


Six years later they again gave it the good old college try. Monthly sales in the 2002-2003 period suggest that this attempt was no more successful.


BAT has other international brands which are not yet sold in Canada.   We will have to wait to see whether this experience will cause them to, um, kool their heels before introducing brands like Lucky Strike intro Canada.


Kool Sales 1976 - 2002

Kool Sales by Month, 2002 - 2003

data courtesy of Health Canada Tobacco Control Program -- thanks!

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