Daniel Bonnemaison, Marketing Manager of the cigarette division of Seita, glanced from the window of his office near the quai d'Orsay in Paris as the lights of the "Bateaux Mouches" navigating the Seine caught his eye. There were only three months left to prepare the April 1, 1985 launch in Switzerland of Seita's new cigarette, "Gauloises Blondes". Back in September, 1984, six months before the launch, he had been faced with a startling but challenging realization: in spite of the highly successful introduction of the brand in France, i.e. 4% market share in less than one year, a major element of his marketing mix, the French advertising campaign, did not seem to he appropriate for the international market in addition to Switzerland. Seita was investigating the possibility of introducing its new cigarette in Belgium/Luxembourg, West Germany and Italy. The date scheduled for the Swiss launch could not be changed since media space (newspapers, magazines, billboards and cinemas) had been reserved so Bonnemaison had staged a stiff competition between four advertising agencies, for campaign proposals from which the final advertising theme would be developed.
The Tobacco Industry
In 1984 the world tobacco industry, 90% of which consisted of cigarettes, was estimated at 4.5 trillion units, twice the volume reported in 1964. 62% of sales, i.e. 2.8 trillion units, occurred in the western world and 38% in the Communist bloc countries. The four major tobacco producing countries were China (900 billion units), the United States (694 billion), the Soviet Union (375 billion) and Japan (309 billion). France ranked fifteenth with annual production of 65.5 billion units. The penetration rate of foreign products on the four major markets was less than 1%. The world tobacco industry included free markets (e.g. West Germany, Belgium/Luxembourg, the Netherlands, England, some developing countries), state monopolies (the socialist countries, Japan, Austria, Spain, etc.) and officially free markets where customs or administrative regulations however limited access to foreign products (United States, Canada, Switzerland, France, South Africa, etc.). The international market had gradually become an oligopoly consisting of six major Anglo-Saxon companies representing 80% of total free market sales volume. Under external pressure from over a decade of anti-smoking campaigns and internal pressure to expand, the six major multinational tobacco companies had become increasingly diversified, moving into paper, food and beverages, cosmetics, packaging, financial services, etc. Seita was subjected to the same pressures but French legislation had not allowed it to expand into non-tobacco activities.
Cigarette markets, particularly in Europe. Africa and North America, were characterized by the growth of bright, flue-cured tobacco products and the decline of the dark tobacco sector. Traditionally, 99.9% of cigarettes sold in the United States were of the blond tobacco variety. Europe could be broken down into two groups: countries where the percentage of blond cigarettes ranged from 70% to 99.8% and countries where" the" percentage of blond cigarettes had increased U>30% since 1976 but was still under 50% in 1983, bution by these firms depended on the terms of their contracts with Seita, as well as local customs.
Development of the Gauloises Blondes Concept
Back in 1981, considering the shrinking world consumption of dark tobacco and the trend toward blond cigarettes. Rene Bornstein. Seita Cigarette Division Manager, and Daniel Boimemaison came to the conclusion that if Seita was to maintain or strengthen its international position, it had to launch a new blond cigarette. At the time, Seita marketed four major blond cigarette brands: Royale, launched in 1956 and redesigned in 1978: Fine, launched in 1981 and geared specifically to the African market: News, launched in France in 1980 with the concept of the international reporter: Fall Mall under manufacturing license from American Tobacco, a division of American Brands Inc. The major Seita blond tobacco products marketed in 1984, connoted ruggedness, an older France ("It's Dad's cigarette"), a world of passive, dutiful and solitary manual workers, e.g. street sweepers, miners. The universe of the Gauloises smoker was perceived as being sad, dirty, cold, boring and poor: "It's the cigarette for those who can't afford blond cigarettes". Those with the strongest feelings against the dark Gauloises product considered it malodorous and too strong to smoke. Blond cigarettes however, were associated with sophistication, refinement (e.g. Dunhill) and adventure, escape (e.g. Marlboro, Camel, in spite of all these positive connotations however, the blond cigarettes generated a certain uneasiness since due to their attractiveness, the smokers felt they could be more easily seduced. Blond cigarettes were therefore perceived as more harmful. The young French smokers felt strongly attached to Gauloises and the values the brand represented, i.e. roots, family and tradition. The brand was considered natural, authentic, virile and a symbol of the "forbidden fruit" since it represented the adult world. Its tobacco, package and image however, did not correspond to their more modern values and lifestyles. The young French smoker had therefore no choice but to escape to the worlds of the imported blond cigarettes.
Seita management then concluded that there was a niche for a new Gauloises that would both speak the language of young smokers and represent their values. The new cigarette, called "Gauloises Blondes", was launched in France on April 1, 1984 as a long, filtered, blond cigarette with a strong rich aroma, in a hard pack. In opposition to traditional blond cigarette color codes, i.e. red and white like Marlboro and Winston, or black with white and gold like John Player Specials, the color blue, which was the predominant color code of Seita dark tobacco brands was retained along with the popular "Gauloises" (Gallic) helmet, the international symbol for the Gauloises brand and France. A variety of advertising ideas emphasizing escape, contemporary city life, the avant-garde, the future, and the sun were considered before the "Carrement insense!" campaign was selected to convince young blond tobacco smokers that the new brand had been developed specifically for them and that the old Gauloises brand was "moving up to the present".
Gauloises Blondes' International Potential
When Gauloises Blondes broke cigarette launch records and brought the company's blond tobacco cigarette market share in France up from 13.6% in 1983 to 17.6% in 1984. Seita management knew it was time to go international. Michel Katlama. International Marketing Manager, planned to full, surprising, humoristic, gay and aesthetic facets. It was described as "inspiring exploration" which might explain the strong associations with the Marlboro and Camel worlds. The picture of the upsidedown pyramids spontaneously created the idea that Gauloises were made of blond tobacco. The tones of the picture, i.e. yellow on a background of sky blue, were a good match with the golden color of the cigarettes and the blue of the package. , Although this ad created the intended shock, it was not as obvious a representation of the Gauloises Blondes smoker's values and lifestyle as the Marlboro cowboy or the Camel explorer. The "Drive-in" visual failed to convey the message "Carrement Insense" since the consumers' attention was drawn predominantly to the couple kissing on the screen. The love scene was considered "retro", shallow and affected. Those who noticed that the drive-in was on the water found the idea pleasant, but too extravagant, ostentatious and inconsistent with their image of the product.
Gauloises was known both in Dutch-speaking and French-speaking Belgium as a strong, virile, dark cigarette, strongly anchored in its image of hard work and history like the Belgian national cigarettes St. Michel and Belga. Both for the Walloons and the Flemish, blond tobacco cigarettes were synonymous with mild, young and more sophisticated brands. The Gauloises Blondes concept developed from these two contradictory poles was perceived as both a new variety of Gauloises and a "'nonsensical" blond cigarette, more astonishing, new and less virile than Marlboro. The Flemish did not associate the term blond with a kind of tobacco but with "an image "of feminine and natural blondness. For the Walloons, the association with a mild cigarette was very strong. The package was considered attractive and unusual (blue packs were rare). It reinforced the idea of a Gauloises that was unexpected but that did not deny its dark tobacco origins.
In French-speaking Switzerland the image of Gauloises was ambivalent. It was that of a dark tobacco cigarette, associated with the image of an artistic and intellectual France but it was also that of a harsh cigarette associated with a commonplace, rigid and old-fashioned country. The same ambivalence could be found in connection with Gauloises Blondes: it was both a new blond tobacco cigarette, relaxed and fashionable but some also perceived it as a compromise or a fake. The class and aesthetic strength of the pack were considered attractive, and the taste light in German-speaking zonality and lifestyle. In Italy, it was more a show of power, the assertion of belonging to an elite or an imposition of virility. Motivations associated with Gauloises Blondes in Switzerland differed: for the German-speaking Swiss, a Gauloises Blondes smoker was driven by a superiority complex whereas the French-speaking Swiss saw in Gauloises Blondes the possibility of enjoying a refined or relaxed lifestyle.
Selecting an Agency and International Advertising Theme
In October, 1984, considering both the results of these studies and the rapidly approaching deadline for submission of an international campaign to Seita's partner firms handling the launch in their respective countries, Bonnemaison called a meeting with his international and French marketing managers, Michel Katlama and Pierre Bruneau. The three decided to request proposals from four different French advertising agencies that would be informed they were competing with each other. They developed a brief geared specifically to the international launch of Gauloises Blondes. In addition to the general context of the situation and Gauloises Blondes international advertising objectives, it provided concise summaries of the four tabacco markets concerned, i.e. Belgium/Luxemburg, Italy, Switzerland and West Germany. The agencies contacted were Dupuy Saatchi & Saatchi Compton. the agency that created the French "Carrement Insense" campaign, two others, CFRP and Alice, that worked regularly with Seita and one outsider, Publicis. Twenty different campaigns were submitted. These were analyzed in depth by a team combining the Seita International Marketing group, the European Zone branch of Seita's Foreign Markets Department and the French Marketing group, and consisting of all the managers involved in the marketing of Gauloises either in France or abroad. By November, 1984. 15 of the 20 campaigns submitted had been eliminated.
The astronaut theme was developed and presented by the agency Alice, as a strong, myth, capable of competing with Marlboro's cowboy and Camel's explorer. The agency felt it could be perpetuated and probably used throughout the world.
Key Marketing Facts
The major European and African markets are rapidly shifting from dark to blond tobacco. Gauloises, a brand that developed in the dark tobacco sector, mainly in its filterless version, has decided to concentrate on blond tobacco. Its mix both respects traditional blond codes and conserves the attributes of the original product. Gauloises Blondes has been launched successfully in France and will be launched on major European markets in 1985.
Problem To Be Solved By Advertising
Gauloises is well known outside France but the brand's image is strongly associated with a French dark tobacco product.
French product; unlike many luxury French products exported, the Gauloises product is less international than typical or even exotic.
Dark tobacco product: the taste for it is not easily acquired. It is considered strong and good by those who like it but malodorous and unsmokable by those who don't blond tobacco smokers in particular.
The advertising campaign must make the new Gauloise Blonde accessible to blond tobacco smokers, i.e. emphasize the international aspect over exoticism, prestige over low-class, the new blond taste over the old dark connotations.
The advertising objective is to make consumers perceive Gauloises Blondes as an alternative to the leading blond tobacco cigarettes on the market by asserting its status and individuality as a major brand.
Product Personality And Background ("Star Strategy")
Gauloises Blondes is a French, blond tobacco, filtered cigarette with a distinctive taste, a moderate price, and a pack that sets it apart from other cigarettes. The pack adopts traditional blond codes, i.e. hard pack but resembles the original Gauloises brand in appearance: blue - helmet. The blue color code of the dark Gauloises product has been kept but its shade and underlying darkness imply the brand's "qualitative leap". The helmet has also been kept but bears an additional warm note of color. As another indication of the change in Gauloises, the brand's styling has been simplified, making it more legible and sophisticated.
Independent, strong-willed, free, sociable,: genuine (does not copy or imitate), different.
January 2, 1985