Juul, the massive electronic cigarette corporation, is under high scrutiny of dubious marketing tactics that may target youth and minors. Juul now finds itself defending class action and personal injury suits, in part alleging fraudulent marketing to minors.
The company has repeatedly stood by their brand mission, which they state to be “to improve the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers.” The Juul device has been branded as the safer alternative to smoking.
While the mission tells one story, new analysis of Juul’s early advertising campaigns seem to reveal a whole other story — one that is not catered towards adult smokers, but instead towards a much younger population. This speculation may explain the coincidence of Juul’s explosion on the market with the surge of teenage vaping. Juul was purchased by Altria Group, formerly known as the notorious Phillip Morris Company who developed marketing techniques to minors.
The Juul device itself has been designed to look sleek, attractive, small, and easily portable.
“Pods,” which contain the e-liquid that fuels the device, is inserted into the end of the Juul. These pods come in various different colors and flavors, from mint and mango to creme brûlée and tobacco. These flavors have been speculated to be an enticing marketing technique to youth, rather than to adults who are trying to quit smoking.
Using methods of youth appeal and pop culture references, Juul has been said to have been catering towards young populations from the start. Juul’s product launch in the summer of 2015 traversed major US cities, and the company hired attractive and young individuals to distribute free Juuls at movie and music events, hot spots for younger crowds where employees could allegedly popularize the device amongst their peers.
Juul not only used young models for their advertising campaigns, but also brought these ads to where most American youth reside: Social media. Social media influencers and hashtags assisted this venture.
The only population that was absent from these advertisements seemed to be adult smokers — the population that Juul’s mission statement was formed around.
Since its early beginnings, Juul has been under increasing public scrutiny over its intended target audience, and has started to shift its advertising campaigns toward the more mature and conservative end of the spectrum.
However, whether or not these efforts have come too late is still an ongoing discussion.