JUUL’s PR Crisis: Can Different Messaging End an Epidemic?

Since 2015 the e-cigarette, JUUL, has become extremely popular among middle schoolers and high schoolers. This was not the audience the Company claimed they intended to reach. The JUUL was created as an alternative to smoking — as a healthier way for smokers to feed their nicotine addiction. Yet surprisingly, the majority of JUUL’s consumers are underageImage result for juul epidemic

The original advertising for JUUL was bright and colorful and depicted young, attractive people holding the flash drive-shaped e-cigarette. This messaging appealed to children in middle school and high school and may have kicked off what is now being called a national epidemic. According to the New York Times, 11% of twelfth graders, 8.2% of tenth graders, and 3.5% of eighth graders had used a vaping device containing nicotine in the previous 30 days. JUUL is under fire from parents, teachers, and the FDA to address the nicotine addiction they have created among teenagers. The JUUL company has decided to begin fixing this issue with the use of different messaging.

Rather than using the bright, colorful, and youthful advertising it started with, JUUL will begin airing different types of advertisements on television this year. These advertisements will be aired after ten o’clock at night, targeting an audience of people that are thirty-five and older. These 60-second ads will feature smokers, between the ages of thirty-seven and fifty-four, that switch to the JUUL as a smoking alternative. It is estimated that JUUL will be spending $10 million on this campaign, according to CNBC. This is the beginning of a long road for JUUL, one where it must convince regulators that the e-cigarette is being used by adult smokers, not middle schoolers and high schoolers.

According to its website, JUUL has also “pledged $30 million over the next three years to independent research, youth and parent education and community engagement.” The company is working hard to get the right message out: this is a product for adult smokers and children should not be using it. Its social media has turned to showing benefits of the device for smokers and providing visitors with youth prevention education.

The question is, can JUUL really recover from their current PR crisis with different messaging, a new advertising campaign, and youth prevention efforts? Only time will tell. If teenage use decreases, which is unlikely given the addiction to nicotine that has been created in this population, then regulators may let JUUL continue the way they are. If not, it is likely that we will see stronger regulations imposed upon the company in order to rein in this national epidemic.

JUUL’s PR crisis is a tough one and at Kovak Likly Communications we know how to deal with situations like these. To learn more about what we can do for your organization please call (203) 762-8833.

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