As any experienced vapor retailer can attest, the easiest way to bring cigarette smokers into the vaping fold is to educate them on vapor products. Vape shops, many owned by former smokers with a passion for vaping, excelled at this. Staffed by vaping enthusiasts informed about the latest products and trends and eager to share their expertise, these stores taught legions of newbies about the category over recent years.
Still, there are some 42 million smokers in the U.S., many of whom have yet to try vaping or, worse yet, tried an early-generation vapor product and found it a poor substitute for cigarettes. Converting those consumers of combustible cigarettes into vapers represents a huge, albeit elusive, opportunity. But how to realize it?
Enter E-Alternative Solutions (EAS), the recently formed affiliate of Swisher International, which took the novel approach of investing in an infomercial campaign aimed at educating smokers about both vaping and the company’s Cue Vaping System. The resulting 29-minute infomercial introduces “real people” who share their stories about how vaping has changed their lives, says Jacopo D’Alessandris, president and chief executive officer of Darien, Connecticut-based E-Alternative Solutions.
“No other brand in this space has ever made this type of investment in a mass media television infomercial, not even Big Tobacco,” says D’Alessandris, who explains that the campaign was inspired in part by the vapor store channel of retail.
“We took inspiration from the success that vapor stores have had in educating customers about vapor—not only by showing the product, but by telling them how to use it and how it can change their lives. We took inspiration from that and asked ourselves, ‘How can we do that on a mass scale?’”
Launched on Feb. 27, 2017, the commercial introduces viewers to several former smokers who benefited from the switch to vaping, including a driver of a popular online ride sharing service who had been getting panned by customers because his car smelled like smoke, and a young woman who was a lot more interested in kissing her boyfriend because he traded in his cigarettes. In addition to promoting vaping in general through such stories, the infomercial showcases the convenience of the low-maintenance Cue system, which uses a cartridge technology to avoid the mess and hassle of open-system vaping devices. “The key message is that Cue is vaping made simple,” explains D’Alessandris, who notes that his company did a great deal of market research before choosing to partner with Digirettes, the creators of the Cue Vaping System.
Slow and Steady to Win the Race
In that vein, EAS has been an anomaly in the catch-as-catch-can world of the U.S. vapor market, where companies new and old raced to compete for a foothold since the fast-growing category first emerged on the smoking scene. Rather than joining the contenders, EAS chose to study the market and bide its time while the technology and the regulatory climate around the sector evolved. “For the first year and a half, we culled the market looking at everything being done,” explains D’Alessandris. “We talked to entrepreneurs and established companies seeking technologies that really stood out.”
Meanwhile, of course, the fuzzy picture of vapor product regulation was also coming into focus. In fact, EAS brought the Cue Vaping System to market in the second quarter of 2016, shortly after the FDA deeming regulations were finalized. In Cue, EAS sought to offer both convenience and quality in a device that would comply with FDA regulations.
“We saw that many smokers were intimidated by the vaping systems on the market and, at the same time, those who tried e-cigarettes weren’t satisfied with the experience,” explains D’Alessandris. “With Cue, people no longer have to mix vaping liquids—they can simply click the cartridge into the Cue and start vaping. And the amount of thick, warm, satisfying vapor that this product delivers is significantly better than what you get with an e-cigarette, so it satisfies both smokers looking for alternatives and also vapers looking for something simpler to use.”
In addition to Cue, EAS will continue to market its Liquid Soul e-liquid as it waits for the post-deeming regulation dust to settle. “What we see now is more and more discount tobacco outlets reconsidering their assortment,” says D’Alessandris, who says that he is confident about EAS’s prospects. “In a post-FDA deeming regulation world, there is a process which I call ‘cleaning’: retailers getting rid of the brands of companies who are not showing that they are invested in compliance, and moving to work with companies like us that have said from day one that we would work closely with FDA toward compliance. We are in a transition phase while people try to get rid of their old, non-complying inventory so they can take home compliant products.”
– Story by By Jennifer Gelfand
This story first appeared in the May/June 2017 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.