Cool New Device or Schizoid Cigarette?
Two words sum up what these cigarettes are all about: choice
and novelty. They're the perfect brand for an airhead like myself;
one who knows not what he wants from one
moment to the next.
As a smoke, the flavor is that of a full-flavor Camel filter cigarette —
however, implanted in the filter is a capsule of menthol liquid. Pinch the
capsule between two fingers and "snap!" the filter is saturated with the menthol
liquid and the cigarette is converted into a menthol filter cigarette.
Essentially the idea of a "convertible" cigarette enables the smoker to have
two kinds of cigarettes in one pack (as well as two kinds of smoke in one
smoking experience). For this writer, the menthol burst makes the last few drags
on the cigarette, the harshest ones, go down smoothly.
History and Market Acceptance
The concept of a menthol capsule was first tested in Japan. Kool
cigarettes featured the device in "Kool Boost" cigarettes, wherein the capsule
was essentially a menthol "super-charger". Cigarette manufacturer R.J. Reynolds decided that they'd then add the capsule
to Camels, in preparation for the device's U.S. roll-out. The first
"convertible" cigarette was born.
A market research website points out that a product roll-out in Japan yields
far more valuable market research than in the U.S., because U.S. smokers tend to
be more brand-loyal, even to the point of 'looking a gift horse in the mouth'
("Back in the U.S., people will actually ask someone for a cigarette and then
decline it when it’s the wrong brand"). Japanese tend to be brand-fickle,
however, and were taken hook, line and sinker by the novelty of the convertible
cigarettes with their novel flavor-change ability and distinctive "snap"
capsule, as well as the two-for-one pack offers made with the roll-out.
The Japanese product test took place in 2008. As of this writing (Spring,
2009) Camel Crush is available throughout the United States.
The Internet website YouTube features videos of numerous tricks performed
with the cigarettes, many recommending crushing the capsule and inhaling
simultaneously to achieve a menthol "blast" while inhaling. A lot of emphasis is
put on hearing the "click" sound of the capsule as it breaks.
Camel's marketing slogan, "Squeeze, click, change" echoed President Barack Obama's platform of change during his '08 run for office. R.J.
Reynolds distributed buttons with the three-word slogan as part of the marketing
If the Internet buzz is any barometer of the acceptance of Camel Crush by
the U.S. market, then the brand has obviously gained a good foothold therein.
The YouTube folks filmed themselves taking the cigarettes apart and examining
the bright aqua-colored menthol capsule. They've filmed themselves performing
tricks with the cigarettes. A website dedicated to smoking marijuana features
a thread which asks (and answers) the question, "what if I put the menthol
capsule in my bowl?" (You don't want to; the capsule's made of plastic,
and we don't want to ignite plastic, now do we?)
The Word "Crush" as a Powerful Marketing Tool
As a lifelong student of marketing and its role in popular culture, I was
fascinated by the value of the word "crush" as a powerful attraction to
potential buyers. The successful brand that first came to mind is Orange Crush
brand soda. The word could be construed as evoking refreshing taste (yeah, I'd
have a field day with this in focus groups).
The second, more subliminal use of the word "crush" would be the kind of
crush one has on a person. Whether it's a schoolyard crush or a mature
unrequited love, a crush can be a powerful emotional condition. Call me crazy
but I think those tobacco folks were crazy like foxes when they agreed to call
these cigarettes by this name.
Finally, in the event one really wants to change one's mind about the cigarette yet again, you can indeed change back to non-mentholated flavor. The filter has a perforation in the paper just forward of where the capsule lies. It's possible to tear off that portion of the filter that has the menthol in it and therefore 'convert' the cigarette back to a regular full-flavor cigarette. Now excuse me, I'm off to see my analyst.