Teen Vaping: Was Juul Marketing Toward Children?
In recent years, Juul has been on the news and involved in lawsuits. Many people claim that Juul made their success by targeting teens and children in their advertising for their nicotine-based smoking devices. Juul came out in 2015 and claimed the product was a “safer smoking alternative to cigarettes”. With a sleek design and fruity flavors, they became one of the most popular e-cigarettes on the market. Unfortunately, they became most popular with a specific age group, teens. Teen vaping figures have had a 14% increase in just the past 3 years. Many people claim Juul is the main culprit of that rise. There are many videos all over the internet showing children and teens using the Juul inside of schools. Many allege that the reason teens started using Juul is because of their fun flavors. However, there have been many accusations of Juul marketing toward children through various ad campaigns and other forms of marketing between 2016-2018.
Back to School, Don’t Forget Your Juul
Juul ran multiple ad campaigns, many featuring young, trendy people having fun while using their device. While the models used in the ads may be of legal age to use Juul, the style of their photos was alleged to target those who are younger than legal age.
As seen above, the resemblance between the back to school ad on the left and Juul’s ad on the right is uncanny. They both feature similarly aged young adults with trendy clothing of the same fashion.
Back to school ads usually target different age groups with the use of differently aged models. Companies blast these advertisements all over television, websites, print, and more. They all have a similar look with attractive people wearing outfits that meet the current fashion. The Juul ads draw attention to the use of the Juul by young trendy adults. The desire to resemble the models with their fashion and accessories through the advertisements.
Above are side by side photos showing the similarities between a big box retailer back to school ad targeting high school students and Juul’s ad. Juul’s ad campaign could potentially be sending the wrong message to teens that they need a Juul to go back to school. Due to advertisements of this nature by Juul between 2016-2018, there are multiple lawsuits alleging that Juul was marketing towards children.
Additionally, it was also found that Juul purchased ad space on many educational websites that were primarily used by high school and middle school students. Research conducted states that Juul purchased banner and video ads on the following websites:
These websites are used in school, as well as at home, for homework by underage children.
Catch us on Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon
Juul allegedly used multiple tactics to market towards children and teens. But, the most shocking way was where they bought ad space. As it turns out, Juul was found to have purchased ad space on popular children and teen television sites, Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network. These ads included video ads and banner ads that appeared on their sites and sites related to them including nick.com, cartoonnetwork.com, and nickjr.com. All these sites are specifically marketed towards children that have television shows and games for children on their websites. Juul’s vaping ads could be seen by numerous children of all ages and possibly influenced them to purchase the Juul device.
In addition to Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, Juul also allegedly bought ad space from other gaming websites whose main demographic is children and teens. These sites include:
Because of this, the possibility that Juul was marketing towards children becomes more apparent.
“The Trending Technology of The Future”
Juul uses various forms of advertising their product, other than using youthful, trendy models. One of the ways is promoting the modern, tech aspect of the product. The design of the Juul is more attractive than other vapes because it is sleek, angular, and doesn’t look like a traditional cigarette. The flavor pods came in various colors and flavors adding a fun modern twist on an electronic cigarette. However, many have found that Juul also marketed its product as a new and ‘tech’ tool. They created many print ads showcasing how Juul is “futuristic” and “modern”.
Above you will see popular print ads Juul used in their marketing campaigns. They display an old video game device as well as an old cell phone with the words “Everything changes, eventually” and “The evolution of smoking”. The message they are potentially sending is that their vape is “new technology or the technology of the future”. Most people know that younger generations, specifically generation Z, respond well to high tech products. The Juul has also the nickname “The iPhone of Vaping” because of its tech image. It is sleek, customizable, and colorful appealing, to teens and young adults.
If you look above you will see a side by side comparison of Juul’s Vaporized campaign and Apple’s iPod campaign. Both show young people having fun with similar bright colored backgrounds. Juul allegedly used similar marketing tactics to trigger familiarity with a high-tech, fun product for a younger audience.
Juul Ad Campaigns Vs. Other E-cigarette Companies
The typical e-cigarette came out long before Juul did. Electronic cigarettes first came out and starting to become popular in 2006. Various brands started making their own e-cigarettes and marketing them as a new way to beat smoking traditional cigarettes. But most e-cigarette companies market their products far differently from the way Juul marketed theirs.
Above are the comparisons between Juul and another popular e-cigarette company, Blu. On the left, Blu has a specific target market they are going after based on their ad. It shows an adult male between the ages 30-40, in mature professional clothing. The ad uses dark colors and tones. On the right shows the ad promoting Juul, which shows a young and trendy female in a youthful dress, with bright fun colors. In marketing, color choice plays a bigger role in targeting certain demographics than you might think.
According to studies, targeting more mature generations, you must use more classic colors like dark blue, maroon, and shades of grey. On the contrary, the same study says bright contrasting colors like green, pink, orange, and purples attract the Gen Z group, which is the younger generation with people born between 1996-2015.
“Smoking Evolved”…Or Has it?
The Cigarette Smoking Act of 1969 banned all cigarette advertisements on TV and radio. The ban also requires for any print advertisement to have clearly visible health labels on the ad. Before, they could use words like ‘best’ and phrases like ‘you’re so smart to smoke’ as can be seen on the right in above. As shown in the above images, Juul’s advertising campaigns as compared to older, traditional cigarette ad campaigns from before the marketing ban in 1971 appear similar. In older cigarette ads, they promoted cigarettes as something “elegant and sophisticated that every woman should have”. Today, cigarette companies are not allowed to advertise their products in a way that is “cool”, athletic, or targeted towards a specific gender. While those restrictions have been around for many years, Juul’s ads look strikingly similar to pre-ban ads.
Many say Juul promotes a “cool and fun” lifestyle when someone uses their products. Based on their ads, Juul promotes the “simple, smart, & satisfying” feeling when using their product, much like how old cigarette companies used to market their cigarettes. In this instance, Juul could be marketing towards children by putting forth the idea that “Juuling” is cool.
Many companies use hashtags to promote their companies. In the current age of social media, hashtags can be a very effective marketing tool. People and businesses use hashtags to start trends that other people pick up. Evidently, Juul took part in this marketing tactic as well. Juul was found to create, and follow, many hashtags on their social media sites to promote their product. Unfortunately, many underage teens use social media sites, like Twitter and Instagram. Therefore, minors can be exposed to these advertisements. Juul used hashtags like #juul, #juulvapor, #vaporized, #juulallnight, #juullife, #lightscameravapor, #juulmoment, #juulsquad, #juulnation, #juulgang, and many others. Subsequently, many children and teens that used Juul would post on social media using these hashtags for everyone to see.
The top two images show Juul’s official social media accounts using those hashtags to create a “vapor lifestyle”. Phrases like “share a Juul moment”, “Vapor love”, “lights camera vapor”, and “vaporized” promote a trendy and fun lifestyle and something that is socially “cool”. The hashtag, #juul, has almost 700k posts on Instagram, with many by underage users.
Additionally, if you look at the bottom picture shown above, it shows a group of very young people smoking a Juul posted by a social media user. The social media post contains many of the same hashtags Juul uses as stated above. Juul recognizes this post and goes as far as to comment “squad” on the photo, which is a slang term for “group of friends” among younger generations. Juul allegedly was aware that teens and young adults were using the product. This is just another way Juul could potentially be marketing toward children. Moreover, Juul continued to follow their tactics on social media, but still to engaged the same way between 2016-2018.
We Want YOU to Be an Influencer
Many companies that market their products primarily on social media use celebrities or social media influencers to promote their products. These products typically target younger generations that are heavy into social media networks. Companies will do this by either offering a free product to the influencer in exchange for promotion and advertising or as an exchange for payment to promote their product on their (the influencers) social media. But when it comes to choosing which influencer to use to market your product, companies usually choose people whose social media following is their target market.
Juul purportedly targeted influencers with a large, underage, social media following. According to a legal document, Juul targeted big celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Cara Delevingne by offering them free Juuls to promote their product. They also reportedly targeted other social media influencers who had young followers like fashion bloggers, stylists, and other actresses. In this case, Juul wasn’t directly marketing toward children but hiring other people who could potentially.