E-cigarettes: Marketing Blu

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This page illustrates campaigns used by Imperial Brands (previously Imperial Tobacco) to promote its e-cigarettes, also known as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2016 and 2017.

For more recent examples of its marketing tactics see E-Cigarettes: Imperial Brands.

“Amnesty For Cigarettes” (January 2017)

On 1 January 2017, Imperial Brands (through its subsidiary Fontem Ventures) held a so-called ‘amnesty for cigarettes’ in the UK cities of Birmingham, London and Manchester.1

The campaign, hoping to capitalise on smokers’ New Year resolutions to quit smoking, saw young sales representatives (referred to as ‘brand ambassadors’) encourage smokers to publicly shred their cigarettes, sample a blu product, and in return, receive a discount on blu products (see images 1-4; all screengrabs taken from eventmagazine.co.uk in January 2017). The activities were supported by billboards with slogans like “Dump the things you hate about smoking”.

“Six Weeks To Fall In Love” (2016)

From 17 October to 13 November 2016, Imperial, through its wholly owned subsidiary Fontem Ventures, staged a “Six weeks to Fall in Love” campaign at a London shopping centre (images 5-9), developed by creative agency Momentum Worldwide and advertising firm Ocean. 23

The theme of this campaign, ‘dating’, arguably appealed to a younger audience. Young sales representatives invited shoppers into branded booths and try blu PLUS+ and its range of flavours. Shoppers were subsequently encouraged to sign up to a six-week blu trial, with a starter kit worth £56, heavily discounted to £8 (comparable to the price of a pack of cigarettes).4

“Just You and blu” (April 2016)

On 4 April 2016, the “Just You & blu” campaign was launched in the United States (US), UK, Italy and France in the shape of television and cinema commercials, printed advertisements, billboards and online promotion.567 The campaign used videos and black and white images to convey a youthful, adventurous lifestyle, and a strong statement of identify (see images 10-13). According to the people behind the campaign, it aimed to “celebrate the individualistic lifestyles of blu consumers”, and “each representing an independent spirit, carving their own paths in life and enjoying blu along the way”.

Some imagery showed a strong visual similarity between vaping and smoking, with a review from the MailOnline describing the campaign simply as “Marlboro Man 2016”.


For more background information on e-cigarette promotion and marketing, go to Marketing and Marketing Rules.


TobaccoTactics Resources

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  1. Blu Cigarette Amnesty, Why Not! Think People website, 2017, accessed April 2017
  2. , Blu gives shoppers Six Weeks to Fall in Love, Convenience Store, 21 October 2016, accessed November 2019
  3. Ocean, blu promotes ‘Six Weeks to Fall in Love’ with an exclusive interactive digital out of home campaign with Ocean, Ocean website, 25 October 2016, accessed November 2019
  4. H. Ellison, Blu stages date-themed activitation at Westfield shopping centre, Event Magazine, 20 October 2016, accessed November 2019
  5. Blu: Just You & blu by The Corner, The Drum, April 2016, accessed November 2019
  6. O. Oakes, Blu unveils ‘independent spirits’ in global campaign, Campaign Live, 4 April 2016, accessed November 2019
  7. PRNewswire, blu Unveils New Global Brand Campaign – ‘’JUST YOU & blu’’- Celebrating Freedom And Individuality, 4 April 2016, accessed November 2019