John Player Special King Size
Japanese Qualitative Study
Evaluations of JPS (John Player Special) King Size pack alternatives:
Soft pack and hinged lid cup
Although a few respondents mentioned that the hinged lid cup went better with the gold and black package design and same female respondents preferred it for the reason that fragments of tobacco leaves do not scatter in their handbags, the majority tended to prefer the soft pack as a "cigarette package".
Since there appeared to be no particular differences in respondent perceptions in the image between the two alternative packages, it seemed apparent that soft pack is a definitely better choice in the Japanese market unless the target is a very special, limited segment.
In conclusion, the gold and black package design appeared unlikely to succeed in the Japanese imported cigarette market. There are several reasons respondents either mentioned or indicated:
(1) Over-dignity and over-uniqueness:
Most respondents agreed that the gold and black logo and package' connoted "class" and "dignity". However, except for a few who seemed to really perceive class and dignity (and liked the design), it appeared to be a matter of degree for an overwhelming majority of the respondents, i.e. it was perceived to be "overdone" and tended to be evaluated negatively irrespective of age and sex.
In terms of "uniqueness", the test package was described to be very unique and outstanding even in the midst of an assortment of colorful imported cigarette packages such as Lark, Lark Milds, Dunhill, Parliament, etc. However, it should be .noted that the package was perceived as being so unique and outstanding that it was almost "peculiar". Therefore, respondents mentioned that they would hesitate to carry it and be seen smoking such a "peculiar" product by others.
It appeared to be an underlying feeling among the Japanese consumers that the cigarettes "should not speak too loud." In Japan, where it is considered very important to be moderate and well-balanced with one's peers in society, something that is overdone tends to give an opposite image.
In the case of the JPS (John Player Special) test package as well, most respondents tended to perceive that the cigarettes were suited for "overnight millinnaires", "gangsters", "bar hostesses, etc. who work in the night" because of use of gold and black.
(2) "Strong" connotation:
The package color also tended to connote a "strong" and "peculiar" product which was said to be unsuitable for "after sports occasions" or "at the office".
Since the majority of the respondents were regular smokers of Japanese mild charcoal-filtered brands, mainly Mild Seven and Seven Stars and purchased imported brands (mainly U.S. brands) on an occasional basis, it appeared that they were looking for products that have similar flavour to their regular brands.
The "strong" connotation seemed to lead respondents to perceive the product to have an "unhealthy image".
It is interesting that many respondents mentioned interest and preference for a "white-based package", having seen the black JPS logo on a white background. According to the respondents, white-based packages are the mainstream of recently-launched cigarettes and have an "contemporary" image connoting a "mild" product.
In this sense, as some respondents pointed out, the black package did not seem to suit a charcoal-filtered product.