Smoking alternatives are the centerpiece of what we talk about here, so much so that it seems to be second nature. We mostly talk about electronic cigarettes, which are really a type of many smokeless cigarettes, but also we touch on products such as nicotine gum and the patch. In addition, we make sure to follow other movements, like the heat-not-burn technology that is being developed fast and furious by Philip Morris International among others. We’ve seen that type of technology come to market through Revo, produced by RJ Reynolds, and we have also seen it fail. Even with the incredible gains that ecigarettes have made on the smoking population, we’re still seeing there are barriers for some.
This has become very clear in some areas where smokers are just not buying into their other options, like smokeless cigarettes and others. The recent failure of Revo has shown a bright light on the parts of the smoking alternatives industry that don’t make it, the parts that fail. We are so accustomed to success because of the huge boom of electronic cigarettes that we have been a part of that we tend to gloss over the failures. But there are some, and Revo has most definitely made itself out to be a failure.
RJ Reynolds decision to stop marketing Revo means the tobacco giant has not been able to make inroads with smokers on the highly touted heat-not-burn product. Even though chief executive and president Susan Cameron was supremely confident and explained at its launch that the technology “finally finds its time” after a previous failure, consumer simply didn’t take to it. In her admission of the failure in marketing the product Cameron explained, “Revo has seen consumer interest and trial, but actual adoption rates of the product have not met our expectations,”
Perhaps this is just a setback and the future is bright for either Revo or other heat-not-burn products from competitors, but now and with this product it didn’t work. Cameron is still a believer, saying that she and RJ Reynolds “remain optimistic in the long-term potential for heat-not-burn, and we continue to work to improve the technology.” Analysts have said they could see this coming, despite the initial excitement. We have to admit that in an environment where smoking alternatives via ecigs is prospering, it made sense that other smokeless cigarettes would too.
Smoking Alternatives Option #1 Is Ecigs
That wasn’t the case, however. It shows just how much these devices we call ecigs hit the mark. While millions of smokers have looked for smoking alternatives over the years, most products have not come close to satisfying them. Companies will keep trying, especially now due to the astounding success of ecigs online and in vape shops, but it clearly takes a certain formula to sell them to smokers and have them stick with the product. Roger Beahm, director of the Center for Retail Innovation for Wake Forest School of Business, explains that product innovation, “has to be deemed relevant, important and of benefit to the targeted consumer, or you won’t be able to persuade them to go beyond trying.”
This has proven to be tricky. Beahm put the number at 5 to 10 percent of product innovations catching on, and that even that number includes products that have had a great deal of brand backing to begin with. One example would be Camel Snus, wich partners the strong Camel cigarettes name with the smokeless tobacco product that is snus. With electronic cigarettes not having that advantage, and even having to fight the resistance of Big Tobacco when they first entered the game, what has grown in the field of vapor cigarettes is impressive.
If you talk to Pat Shehan, the owner of the Tarheel Tobacco retail chain, he’ll tell you the same thing. “It is very difficult to get smokers to change to other products,” says Shehan. “Camel Snus has had tons of money invested in marketing and sells well, but has not gained traction with some smokers even though it was developed for occasional usage by smokers,” that being for places where people can’t smoke traditional tobacco cigarettes. “Many smokers have switched to e-liquid because they can still go through the motion of smoking,” Shehan surmised. “If Revo will not work with Reynolds’ money behind it, it shows how tough it is to convert smokers.”
Revo & Others Fail, Ecigs Succeed
That’s really the lesson here, as we see another Big Tobacco brand of smoking alternatives essentially hit the dust. This peculiar invention called the electronic cigarette is the definition of a game changer. It has hit the mark with smokers who wanted their nicotine hit, good taste, but a different experience. They wanted to be able to physically smoke something, in this case its just vapor of course, and feel good about it. They didn’t want the smell, the ash, and all of the other bad things that come with smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes, but they wanted the satisfaction.
Early on everyone that was involved with the electronic cigarette revolution knew they had something special, but I doubt if people understood the ramifications of it. Only when you see so many products fail where vaping has succeeded do you get an idea of the scope of this thing. Taking tobacco cigarettes away from smokers has always been a terribly difficult thing to do, and offering them a viable alternative was as hard a sell as you could make. But ecigarettes have done just that. Now there are several quality brands that can offer smokers what they have always been yearning for, that experience they get when they smoke but without everything else that they don’t want.
For smokers everywhere, they are lucky to live in an age of smokeless cigarettes that are more than an attempt by Big Tobacco to get more of their money. This product has captivated millions, and there is still much more and a long way to go. The race is on for the hearts and wallets of smokers and while electronic cigarettes are clearly winning it now, it will be interesting to see how each company develops and tries to one-up each other. In the end it will be good for all of us and we’ll be happy to have insisted on that hard sell, on that truly enjoyable experience. That’s the power of consumers and it will continue to be as long as we keep using it.