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A Review of Cigarette Marketing in Canada - Premiere Edition - Autumn 1998

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Red Kamel in Kanada Winston's New Look Trademark Tracker Short Takes (News Briefs) Market Mania


Red Kamel Komes to Kanada.

And then goes away again.

Link to public radio
(KUOW) story on
Red Kamel promotion

(February 1997)

Canadian shipments
of Red Kamel Cigarettes September 1997
to October 1998
(millions of cigarettes)

Red Kamel shipments to Kanada


Last fall, RJR was looking-forward to a happy future for its look-back brand, Red Kamel Cigarettes.

RJ Reynolds first launched Red Kamel cigarettes in 1913 as an up-scale companion to the more plebian Camel.  Like many upwardly mobile products, Red Kamels did not survive the depression, and were dropped in 1936. 

It would be thirty years before Red Kamel came out of the wilderness. In 1996 they resurfaced not in corner stores or smoke-shops, but in the urban-chic watering holes of sophisticated cities.

Red Kamel was first launched through bars and clubs in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Dallas. A second wave brought it to bars and clubs in a dozen other North American cities, including Toronto.

Red Kamel's advertisers chose images well-suited to their target market of young urban sophisticates. The Red Kamel theme is neither completely retro, nor completely futuristic, but in the no-man's land of Generation X.

And the gathering-spots which were selected to push Red Kamel reflected that Generation X urban-chic.

The Red Kamel caravan stopped in Toronto bars like the Lava on College Street, the Queen Street West's Gypsy Co-op, the Fluid Lounge on Richmond and the Rivoli on Queen Street.

"Red Kamel Kocktail Klub events - fashion shows, lounge acts, performance artists and DJs, all paid for by the company - were regular features at a stable of clubs," reports Murray Whyte in the Globe and Mail (July 25, 1998).

"Weekly ads in Toronto alternative papers Now and Eye touted Red Kamel's brood of clubs and their schedule of events." 

Toronto comedian Joa Gamelin told the Globe reporter about her experience with Red Kamel. She said they sponsored every show she did and bank-rolled all her expenses.

"Promotional posters, theatre fees, sets and exclusive engraved invitations - all carrying the Red Kamel logo - were provided to her free of charge. In return, Kamel festooned clubs with promotional material of its own. There were mobiles of the pin-up girl riding a crescent moon and a real-life cigarette girl, complete with short skirt, brass buttoned jacket and tray of Kamel products."

Then, suddenly, the Red Kamel Club oasis dried up. RJR pulled out of all promotions.

It wasn't only the promotions that stopped. RJR-Macdonald also stopped shipping Red Kamel cigarettes into Canada. The last shipment, in April 1998, was only 100,000 cigarettes (500 cartons).

Curiously, Red Kamel do not appear to be an US-taste cigarette, but a Canadian blend of tobacco in a US package.

Was it the taste? Was it the marketing? Were there, as the Globe and Mail report hints at, legal problems?

Once again, RJR-Macdonald, isn't telling.

Rolling Stone ad 1
Rolling Stone Advertisement - 1997


Red Kamel ad 98
Rolling Stone Advertisement - 1998


Eye ad, 97
Toronto Entertainment weekly EYE,
November 27, 1997


Red Kamel package


Red Kamel package 2

Red Kamel packs purchased in rural Ontario, 1997


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