Now, this is an exciting topic. I randomly came across the discussion on Reddit (I think), and as a smoker myself, I started wondering.
It is a well-known fact that cigarette smokers are very loyal to the brand they consume. You will rarely see a change, and if the change happens, we are practically looking at exchanging the loyalty for one brand for the loyalty for another brand.
A Little Background
I do not remember exactly what I was smoking when I started, but I did quit for around one year. After that year, when I started smoking again, the brand was Malboro. Always the same type for about three months.
I was in New York back then, and after three months, I went to another country. There, I tried to smoke the same cigarettes. They were the same brand, but the taste was different. This made me move to Lucky Strike. Why? Because my girlfriend was smoking them, I tried, and I found them better than the Malboros.
So, I kept smoking that. Then, I broke up with her, and I actually changed cigarettes. This time Davidoff black. This went on for a long time, but then, I changed countries again, moving to Italy this time. There, I started smoking Camels because Davidoff was harder to find in the suburb I was living in.
This went on for another year.
I then moved back, and Camels had a different taste. So, I think I started smoking Kent something.
I can go like this forever, and now I mainly smoke a specific brand of Pall Mall cigarettes and another brand that I do not want to mention because a friend of mine brings me those from another country at a cheaper price (wink, wink).
I changed cigarettes much more often than the average smoker. But even from the few instances mentioned above, it is clear to notice some reasons why I made changes. I will take this as a starting point for why cigarette smokers have this strong brand loyalty because we need to understand why people stop smoking a specific brand first. I think we should take it backwards a little.
Why Do Smokers Change Brands?
The first question we have to ask is not “why are smokers so brand-loyal”. The first question is why they change brands because we already know they are brand-loyal.
Just based on my example alone, and you will find several such examples if you look on Reddit, Quora and various social networks, some reasons can be noticed.
For starters, the most common reason I notice is taste. If a cigarette brand changes a recipe, there is always a risk that some buyers will be lost. Also, because of local laws, recipes are different in different countries. This is something many do not know.
When you move to another country, you naturally want to try the same cigarettes you are used to. If the brand needs to use more local tobacco, you might not like the taste there.
A recent example of this affected me. I used to smoke menthols, but the European Union banned menthol cigarettes. All the big brands realized this would be a problem, so they heavily promoted alternatives even before the ban was in effect. Those alternatives were not good for me, so I changed the brand.
Price influences buying decisions. This is why we rarely see price changes for cigarettes. Usually, the local government dictates the price change, not the tobacco company, and it influences ALL cigarettes.
But, price only makes you quit a brand when you are faced with a situation in which the price becomes too much for you to pay, as is the case when your income is lower and you move to another country or lose income. If you can afford to pay the price, the great choice would be to quit, but since this rarely happens, the second next thing is changing brands.
Every smoker knows that countless promotional deals appear from time to time. One of the prevalent ones is a 2 for one sale, usually promoted through some beautiful women that present the deal in bars, supermarkets, or similar locations.
If your brand loyalty is not that high, you are tempted to make the purchase. Then, maybe you like the new brand more, and you move to it.
So Why Are Smokers Loyal To A Brand?
Now that we talked about why people change cigarette brands let’s think about why they do not. Just based on what we discussed before, there is one thing that instantly stands out:
For me, and I know many like me, it is not the price, the deal, or the taste that keeps me smoking. It is a habit. I got into a routine that involves hand gestures and specific times when I smoke.
Smoking is a habit. A part of this habit is doing many things in the same way, over and over. This does include going to one store and buying the exact same brand. You know where you find the pack, who to ask for it, and how much you pay for it.
This involves taste, smell, and similar things. Most people quickly get used to a specific taste, and they stand by it, they like it. They might get a cigarette from a friend from time to time, but they will still get back because they like the taste.
Nobody likes the smell, but even that becomes a part of the equation and familiarity.
This is a massive part of it all. Cigarettes are addictions, even if we love lying to ourselves that this is not the case. Hell, we might even change to a smaller cigarette size with the same name simply because it makes us feel that it is healthier when we do know it is not.
I am going to call it that, although the term is not correct. However, the idea is that you often remain loyal to what other people expect you to be loyal too. If most of your friends smoke a specific brand, there is a good possibility you will end up smoking the same thing.
The good news is this “social pressure” thing is not as severe now as it used to be years ago. When I first started smoking, I remember how everyone smoked the same brand, when in a specific group. It was similar to beer and many other things. Fortunately though, this is no longer so common.
Getting Used To A New Brand
Here’s one thing that few people know or realize. For the smoker, it takes some time to get used to any new brand. This is because we feel that the new taste is wrong. It is quite rare that we try a new cigarette and we say it is excellent. Our taste buds have to adjust, or we want to get back to the old brand.
At the end of the day, as a smoker myself, I feel that one of the most important questions to ask is why we smoke in the first place. This is an addiction, and there are no health benefits. Zero. Nada.
From my point of view, the biggest reason why cigarette smokers are so brand-loyal is simply habit. This is why cigarette companies work hard not to change anything, not to introduce simple packages that always look the same, and any price change.
If you feel differently, please feel free to mention it. This is a fascinating topic for me, and I would love to hear more, especially from smokers.