Nicorette helps smokers kick the butt

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising
Last updated : February 04, 2011
The 'Stop Smoking Gum' was launched in time to help smokers abide by their New Year resolution to quit smoking. It has since made significant headway in the Indian market.

BBDO India, the creative agency that urged men to shave more often last year with its WALS (Women Against Lazy Stubble) ad campaign for Gillette rolled out a mass message urging smokers to kick the butt this year with Johnson & Johnson's Nicorette. OMD is the media agency involved; it has been working on J&J brands since 2007.

Though it condemns smoking, Nicorette contains therapeutic nicotine. As per ASCI's (Advertising Standards Council of India) Cable TV Network Rules, Sec 7.2.A, any advertisement that promotes (directly, or indirectly) the production, sale or consumption of cigarettes or tobacco is not permitted. Since Nicorette claims to encourage smokers to quit smoking, it is in the clear.

Though there are several products in the same category such as Cipla's Nicotex, Pfizer's Champix and Birlaveda's Quitobac doing the rounds of the Indian market, Nicorette seems to be most talked about. This has a lot to do with the manner in which media channels have been utilised to spread the brand message.

Potent media mix

The agency's two-phased campaign for the brand, complete with the whole teaser and revealer play, was launched around the turn of the calendar year. The teaser chapter, that was quite the talking point, rode on TV, radio, print and digital media avenues, while the brand announcer segment exploited the outdoor space with bus shelter branding (non-lit and backlit) in Mumbai, and through radio cab and metro train branding in Delhi. Hoardings were put up in both cities. The outdoor branding was limited to Mumbai and Delhi only.

A brand website,, was launched on January 1.

Nicorette and The Times Group recently joined hands to address the issue of smoking. A press campaign aptly called 'The Quit India Movement' was launched on Republic Day. It has made significant progress in educating and supporting smokers in their efforts to get rid of the vice.

Positioned as a sympathetic pal

Nicorette gum already exists overseas, and is now available in India as both an OTC (over-the-counter) item, as well as a prescription-based product. Specifically, the two mg offering (in packs of four and ten) is available over the counter, while the four mg offering (a pack of ten) is prescription-based. The latter gives the impression of Nicorette being a medicine.

However, the agency has steered clear of the 'cure positioning' card. Nor has it been positioned as a product that makes a lifestyle statement for its patrons. Rather, Nicorette is positioned as a trusted ally and confidant of smokers who want to quit, as something that promises to see them through their efforts like a reliable aide.

Gautam Suri, general marketing manager, OTC, Consumer Products Division, Johnson & Johnson, underscores the point that Nicorette is not being positioned as a 'cigarette substitute' and that it is something that helps smokers quit cigarettes. "Nicorette is a tobacco cessation product," he tells afaqs!. He goes on to remind us that as per the The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), India is the second largest consumer of tobacco.

Who is Nicorette addressing?

The brand is talking to smokers belonging to SEC A and B. It is specifically meant for those who have either tried to quit or want to quit. The focus is on those above the age of 25 who are concerned about their health. Besides smokers, influencers such as friends and family are also being targetted. In the initial phase of the campaign, the marketing efforts have been designed such that they target urban smokers in the top 35 cities across the country.

Insights and Challenges

One of the main hurdles that stared marketers in the face while launching the product in India was related to sheer ignorance of the TG (target group). The lay consumer is not aware of the existence of the NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) category, which is laden with products which can provide solutions to smokers. To understand the consumer's requirement, even though the consumer may be ignorant of it, posed a challenge.

"The second challenge was to be careful in the positioning of the product," shares Nagessh Pannaswami, head, BBDO Mumbai. "The willpower of the consumer is extremely crucial when it comes to quitting the habit. We had to be cautious in how we positioned Nicorette. It is thus positioned as an aide to strengthen the smoker's willpower," adds Pannaswami.

Smokers don't like to tell others (including family members) that they are trying to quit, for fear of losing face in the event of failure. "The fear of losing is daunting for most," says Pannaswami. Another insight that influenced the campaign was that having willpower alone is not sufficient to quit smoking. External help, in some form or the other, is required as well.

The ad film portrays a simple situation that reinforces a smoker's resolve to quit when he sees his son mimic the action of smoking. The television commercial focusses not only on the physical harm caused to the smoker, but also on the emotional damage done to the family. Says Suri, "This is a new take on the whole 'motivation to quit' bit after years of using graphic health-based imagery that the market was increasingly getting immune to."

Extensive qualitative research was conducted prior to the product launch. The research took into account various demographic specifications of smokers across the country in order to understand the mindset of smokers and quitters.

Impact Quotient

It grabbed eyeballs at the surface level, but how much of a real impact has the communication made?

R Sridhar, innovation coach, IDEAS-RS, tells us how the general premise, when it comes to products like these, is that the substitute is never as effective as the original. "Besides, since smoking gratifies social and psychological needs, the campaign may not work with those who've taken to the habit for a specific purpose," says Sridhar. Regarding the positioning of Nicorette, he says, it appears like a 'do-good' product. He feels that more consumer-created content (such as user testimonials) that gives a more holistic angle to the campaign might help in driving the message home more effectively. "The more positive the positioning, the better it is," says Sridhar.

His namesake and communication consultant has a different take. R Sridhar, founder, brand-comm tells afaqs! that an aggressive campaign like this works well as quitting is perpetually postponed, especially for the educated ones who are well aware of the health hazards involved. "The campaign has succeeded in grabbing a lot of attention; early bird advertising always comes with the disproportionate advantages of having spoken first," he says.

According to him, Nicorette has given the nagging friends and families of smokers a prop to help the erring relative or friend to quit smoking. "The campaign is both functional as well as topical. It works brilliantly," says R Sridhar.

First Published : February 04, 2011
Search Tags

© 2011 afaqs!