• About Tom Dougherty

    Tom Dougherty CEO, Stealing Share

    Tom Dougherty is the President and CEO of Stealing Share, Inc., and has helped national and global brands such as Lexus, IKEA and Tide steal market share over his 25-year career.

    An often-quoted source on business and brands, he has been featured recently by the New York Times and CNN, discussing topics ranging from television to Apple to airlines.

    Tom also regularly speaks at conferences as a keynote and break-out speaker. To find out more on inviting him to your speaking engagement and view a video of him speaking, click here.

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RJR e-cigarettes to market methadone to the masses?

RJR e-cigarettes (RJR Reynolds) isn’t really marketing methadone to the masses but it might as well be because it is selling drug substitutes right now. If you have seen the commercial for Vuse e-cigarettes, you know exactly what I mean. Boy, times have changed.

I live in a relatively sleepy North Carolina city. Rush hour is from 5 to 5:07 pm, and the locals are known to complain about that inconvenience. The main artery in and out of Greensboro is Battleground Avenue, named after a famous and important battle between General Greene and General Cornwallis during the American Revolutionary War. It is a pretty dismal road. Lots of chain restaurants, fast food joints, gas stations and strip malls. One car dealership has managed to sandwich itself between mattress stores engaged in mattress wars that are, as we all know, raging all the time.

Not a lot changes on Battleground Ave beyond a bit of new construction making the strip malls bigger and even more unwelcoming. Starbucks has two locations along the five-mile strip.

The only thing that has changed in the last year is the proliferation of vapor stores, e-cigarette outlets and hookah hangouts, There are a slew of these and, based upon the build out, I would assume they are successful. One that I chuckle at is a divided shop. Two stores sharing a single door and, believe it or not, one half is a vapor store and the other half refills printer ink cartridges. I think there might be room for a battery or light bulb store in the back, as I think about it.

Like head shops, these are a little bit in the shadows. They have gaudy signage and plenty of parking but their advertising seems confined to a billboard announcing a new branch (yup, a few are building new locations such on the campus of the University of North Carolina Greensboro).

Then, I happened to notice during my channel surfing at home a commercial for e-cigarettes by RJ Reynolds. I thought the company was forbidden to sell cigarettes on TV? Oops. My mistake. It CAN sell e-cigarettes, just not the kind that contains real tobacco. In other words, RJR CAN sell a drug delivery device and the requisite drug itself (nicotine).

It has carefully sidestepped the main issues like claiming it is for current smokers. But you only have to look at the commercial for about 15 seconds to recognize that it is the iPhone equivalent of a cigarette. It’s about technology, engineering and COOL. When the vapor shops open on college campuses, it is clear the market is not trolling for current smokers but engaging in what the market has always been about… addiction and the foolishness of kids.

I smoke an occasional cigar and I can tell you plainly that the appeal is the process. Lighting the burning puro and enjoying the smell and the smoke is what gets me. In many ways, the more smoke the better. I smoke cigars so infrequently that I get a nicotine high every time I enjoy one.

I have to think that the process of smoking is similar for cigarette smokers. They must be emotionally addicted to the process as well as physically addicted to the drug. They might smoke an e-cigarette for the drug, but I’ll bet they also smoke the real thing quite often too. After all, cigarettes are cheaper.

So let’s call a spade a spade and recognize that RJR is engaged in its normal way of doing business…entrapment of the foolish for a lifetime of addiction, poor health and emptier pockets. Make no mistake about it, this campaign is intended to influence the young and entrap them in a dirty habit that sucks the life out of their lungs and health.

What’s next? Methadone marketing? Why not? Companies like RJR are selling a pure drug substitute that does very little to end addiction. All it does is postpone the inevitable — tobacco dependence. Go figure. A tobacco company doing that?

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