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The Public Ineffectual

For entertainment purposes only.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Regarding Cigarette Brand Preference...

Photo Courtesy of Sniffles
Originally uploaded by Oblivia.

Smoking is a habit, nicotine the addiction. I would define cigarettes loosely to be a commodity if you look at them outside of a pack. Gather a number of domestically produced cigarettes without their pack and they all look roughly the same, smell roughly the same and when smoked, taste roughly the same. Could I distinguish one from another in a blind test? With the exception of a Marlboro or a Gauloise perhaps, probably not. I attribute this in part to a kind of willful ignorance on par with my stupiditude regarding wine. More sensitive conoisseurs might disagree.

I would like to hear from you what you believe to drive brand preference in cigarettes. Price drove my preference for Gauloises in the late nineties because they were pretty much the cheapest you could get - $3.85 per pack! (Cue: Those were the days, my friend, we thought they'd never end...

Distribution to my local pushers also drove my preference. B & H was my routine buy. They're available in King Size or Regular in denominations of 20 or 25 in any depanneur *.

But these Davidoffs were my favourite all-time brand of cigarettes. I discovered them in Havana, Cuba, of all places at the "dollar store". This store is nothing like the cheapo-peddling dollar stores in Montreal but rather is where almost anything could be bought in this tightly controlled market for US dollars. Naturally, it was located in the embassy district.

More recently, I would only get them duty free because to get them domestically might just be impossible (though I have to admit I never tried) and inconvenient to my habit, driven more by need than brand preference.

Just look at that elegant box. I love the font of the brand and the beveled edges. I love the pearly cardboard. The interior foil is white and shiny gold reminiscent of a chocolate box. I fairly screams luxury on every count. And they're not bad smokes either.

But for quotiden smokes, what drives preference? Is it aesthetic? A hang over from long gone advertising like the Marlboro Man or the "You've Come a Long Way, Baby" of Virginia Slims. Joe Camel always looked fun to hang out with admittedly...

Smoking update: successful in NOT smoking; lungs purging daily; cardio fitness improving; patch is keeping me awake and sometimes making me feel queasy...gonna go lie down for a bit.

* Quebecois word for "convenience store".


At 9:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to hear the smokelessness is going well.

I think the biggest thing that influences people smoking is really just other people. Sometimes you hear that some Rock Star smokes Silk Cuts so you try them. Most often it's really because you want to hang out with the cool kids / lose weight.

Brand preference studies show that people pick their favourites rather early and so pretty much half the game of advertising for commodity products like cigarettes, soap, and toilet paper is getting people to try it or to switch.

Sometimes it is price, for those on a budget. Sometimes it really just is the packaging -- after Polaroid redid their packaging to that trademark rainbow, one little old lady in upstate NY actually bought the film, sent it back and kept the box because she liked it so much.

Maybe some of it is trying to tap into childhood sense memories -- what did grandpa smoke (Old Ports, those weird cigarillos that every dep has but you never see anyone buy), what did grandma keep in the kitchen cupboard (Kellogg's Product 19, which you can't get anymore), what brand did your parents buy when grocery shopping.

I mean, I keep my kitchen cabinets organized the way my parents do, mostly. You have no idea how many conflicts this generates in relationships, when other people's parents obviously don't know how to organize things...

At 11:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahhh.....I remember you buying those there! Along with some "interesting" people looking in certain windows, a person nicknamed after an amorous skunk, and a desire to visit the north korean embassy. Our crazy days, eh? :)

That was 8 years ago, can you believe it?!?!?!?!


At 11:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 2:05 AM, Blogger Oblivia said...

Anonymous: Here is a little confession for you. I used to smoke Marlboro Lights 100's because I saw Kate Moss smoking them once in a see-through silver, bias-cut Vivienne Westwood dress (she had a g-string on) and I thought she looked cool. *cringe*

You're totally on the money as for your analysis on brand loyalty. It is said that Joe Camel is used to try and lure younger smokers to the fray. And they say that starting people younger makes it more difficult for them to quit. But would a camel make a teenager want to smoke? Anthropomorphism isn't grown up!!!

MD: Those were strange days indeed. I also remember your reservations about me visiting the North Korean Embassy (across from Dona Maricela's) for fear of kidnapping. And I was so ignorant that of the situation that all I could say was, "What?" *cringe*

Ah, yes, the skunk man. There is a post about the cartoon forthcoming that only you will truly understand.

At 2:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looking forward to the skunky post! :)


At 2:22 AM, Blogger Vila H. said...

Ah, yes... After briefly experimenting with my father's Rothman's (blue, not red), I adopted the brand I still smoke today: Du Maurier Special Mild.

I worked part-time at an IDA drugstore at the time, and devoted an excruciatingly slow evening shift to scanning the cigarettes display for the one that spoke to me. It really was that slow.

I think it was the silver package, which was much shinier than the other brands, and therefore, I thought, cooler. Also, they didn't look like old lady cigarettes (Benson & Hedges, or anything menthol), or truck driver cigarettes (the aforementioned Rothman's), or stoner cigarettes (Player's Light, anyone?).

They seem to be harder to come by in Montreal, but I stubbornly, petulantly, refuse to switch. Old habits die hard, eh?

Congrats on making it this far, and hopefully, even farther...

At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Woo, I recognise that photo! You're such a woman of style, Oblivia ;) Yeah, that box is so pretty that I stole the one you left behind at YULBlog, still haven't got a plant to grow in it.

I don't smoke, so I can't comment on brand - and I'll never smoke - it makes me very ill. Oddly enough, I don't mind the faint smell of cigarette fresh out of the packet, and I must confess that I'm slave to the aethestics surrounding smoking. I've photographed one too many ashtrays by now.

- sniffles/steph

At 2:27 PM, Blogger mtlanglo said...

Dunhills are my brand of choice- one of my teenage peers started me off on Camels with no filters for some sadistic reason and I have to say I prefer a strong smoke ever since.

Combine that with the fact Hunter S. Thompson smokes them- and you've got me.

For some reason they are impossible to get on the East Coast, though...

At 3:26 PM, Blogger AJ said...

psst. Anonymous was me.

Now I have an extra blog...hm, maybe I'll use it to publish a page a day out of that 1977 Montreal Star Restaurant Guide...truly hilarious.

At 3:50 PM, Blogger Oblivia said...

Sniffles: YOU are the stylish one. I didn't even have the presence of mind to take a photo myself of the pack and haven't even saved one! The smell of tobacco itself is not unpleasant.

One Christmas, in need of fast cash, I took a horrid job as a perfume spraying girl at David Jones and Grace Brothers for Aramis for a stinkwater called "Havana". It had a base note of cigar- no joke. I think its since been discontinued. What a horrible job that was.

MtlAnglo: Dunhills! They were my cigarettes for a while there too. I used to oscillate between Dunhill blue, Silk Cuts and Mild Seven (soft pack) until I settled for some time on the Marlboro Lights and then the aforementioned 100s. What is the deal with the soft pack, anyway? Why does anyone have a use for the soft pack unless they're going to roll them up in a t-shirt sleeve a la James Dean?

AJ: Of course! I was racking my brain trying to figure out who might have such a grasp of marketing and well organised cupboards. I thought it was MD until he posted!

At 7:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I should stop posting anonymously, eh?


At 8:32 PM, Blogger Oblivia said...

Well, I don't mind...just as long as you keep commenting. ;)

At 12:58 AM, Blogger boris said...

First off, congrats! Don't you EVER let me catch you smoking again. ;)

For me, it's taste. I've had favorite brands all of a sudden taste different to me and had to move on. When in Montreal, I'm on Gauloises Yellow now. Smooth and not so harsh. As you know I was obsessd with those japanese Mi-Ne but after my last carton I decided "never again".

Atthe moment, being in Tokyo, I have discovered an awesome little marvel of a brand... Almost totally generic packaging, made by JT (Japan Tabacco.. makers of Players, btw...), they are called, and I quote: "Alphabet Side Slidebox 'R' Regular Filter Cigarettes". The box slides out sideways. SO cool. ;)

But I ramble. Yeah those Davidoffs were tasty... and i won't tell you where you coulda gotten em .. on Ste-Catherine... cough cough... ;)

At 5:21 PM, Blogger Oblivia said...

Vila: I thought you smoked a different brand altogether? ACK! Menthol, I don't understand why they even exist - they're disgusting.

Boris: I have long since realised that not getting caught is the key to doing anything you please...but I won't because I would only be cheating myself.

I've had that same experience where a brand suddenly doesn't taste 'right' anymore and makes me wonder if it was just me getting grossed out at cigarettes entirely.

Your reaction to the sideways slide is much like my sister's reaction to our DuMaurier upwards slide: "Cool! I gotta take a pack home, my friends are never gonna believe this!"

Good work on ditching the Mi-Ne. They're really rough. And there is actually a Davidoff store in Montreal on Sherbrooke near Guy but I've never ventured in assuming they would be priced in the stratosphere.

How is the mascara shopping going?

At 10:39 AM, Blogger UltimateWeightLoss said...

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