Of Marketing and Morals: Where Do You Draw The Line? 

UPDATE (23/9): According to this article by vapes.com, it seems that Poké Juice is from Malaysia. How embarrassing… 

Marketing eliquids sure ain’t easy.

It used to be, when the most important factors were the flavor of the juice, the quality of the nicotine and the throat hit that it delivered. If you got those three things tight, then chances are, your eliquid would sell itself.

These days however, all that has changed. Vaping had gone mainstream, and with it, a lot of the fundamentals that we old school vaper’s grew up with have seemingly vanished into thin air.  

These days it’s all about the packaging. If your liquid looks good, it’ll probably sell much better than the next bottle regardless of how it tastes.

When everyone and their mother is a brewer, competition can become a little tough. This gets even more competitive when your flavor tastes pretty much the same as what every other eliquid tastes like – sweet, uninspired, but cloudy. The perfect mainstream recipe.

So what do you fall back on? Fancy foil packaging, a pointless paper box and a healthy dose of hype riding of course. Having spent a number of years in the media and advertising industry, I can’t say that I’m surprised. This shit happens when markets get saturated, and naturally, if has bestowed the wonderful world of vaping.

Like every issue in the world, there are two sides to this conundrum.

Marketers don’t give a fuck. Their only mission is to ensure that a product sells, and of this is what the market wants then naturally this is what the market will get. In the grand scale of things, the new fangled obsession with fancy packaging doesn’t really affect the bottom line all that much –  sure, a foil print sticker will cost triple of what a 4C matte print would cost, but it’s still a relatively low investment when you put it into perspective of the overall profit margins.

After all, eliquids barely have any other avenues to market themselves. We can’t buy TV or radio ads, we can’t pump money into boosting FB posts, and we can’t get anything into print (in Malaysia at least) either.

So we pop open social media, look at what’s trending and try to incorporate that into our marketing plan. Alternatively, we look into the real world, pick out iconic visual styles, and improvise them to work for the product.

Brilliant.

Or is it?

On the other side of the fence, the mood isnt as optimistic. Sure, we get it. You’re just riding on what’s trending and making it work for your brand. You’re just doing what any good market would.

But whether or not your realize, by doing as all great marketers do, you’re also walking on a moral tight rope.

By putting cartoons and candy on your eliquid packaging, you risk raising the wrong kind of attention that could bring the entire industry to a halting screech.

  1. You are infringing on copyrights. Keep churning out Pokémon inspired eliquids and you’ll get lawyers knocking on your door in no time.
  2. You are kiddyfying the industry. Seriously. What the fuck? I wouldn’t touch a pack of cigarettes with a cartoon plastered all over the packaging, so what makes you think that I’d want a bottle of eliquid that looks more apt in a candy store than in a vape shop? Why would you do this when now more than ever, the vaping needs to be viewed as a legitimate and serious one?
  3. You are giving the naysayers just what they want –  a reason to degrade you, a fault to pick on, and a wedge in the serious work of campaigners who are fighting with governments  around the world to get vaping recognised as a serious and effective harm reduction alternative to smoking tobacco.

When I started smoking at 13, I can honestly say that it wasn’t because I was attracted to the packaging.

Sure, the the whole argument that kiddy labels attracts underaged kids to vaping is a weak one. When I started smoking at 13, I can honestly say that it wasn’t because I was attracted to the packaging. It was because I wasn’t stopped from trying.

Regulating sales of eliquids to minors isn’t something that we might need to do. It’s something that you should already be doing.

But say that you do successfully regulate the sale of every bottle that leaves  your store, and only sell to people of age. What happens when the 3-year old child of a customer sees an unattended bottle of Poké Juice on a table and takes a sip thinking that it’ll help their Pokémon  hunting?

What happens when that child dies of nicotine poisoning?

Will you run a solidarity sale and give back 10% of all store proceeds to the grieving family? Will you run a charity raffle to help with the funeral costs?

Or will you be out on your ass and sitting on the curb after the authorities use this case as the final nail on the coffin, and to shut you and the rest of the industry down?

Think about it.

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