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Data Snack

Are Marketers Behind the Cigarette Boom of 2020?

September 6, 2022
December 14, 2021
Kelsey Donk

Cigarette sales have been declining steadily since the early aughts, but they perked up in 2020. Maybe that’s because cigarette marketers tried some new techniques.

Table of Contents

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Puff puff! In 2020, cigarette sales in the United States jumped for the first time since 2004, according to the Federal Trade Commission Cigarette Report.

Source: Federal Trade Commission Cigarette Report

Cigarette company’s marketing spend rose last year, too — but that wasn’t such a first. It had been up and down for years, and YoY upticks haven’t always boosted sales.

So why did 2020’s marketing spend increase work? It might be that cigarette companies invested in and divested from the right channels at the right time. 

📈 Where tobacco companies spent more in 2020

Tobacco companies spent their marketing dollars a little differently in 2020, and more YoY on:

  • Outdoor advertising: 28.6% growth — though overall US OOH ad spend dipped ~30% in 2020
  • Price discounts to retailers: 5.3% growth
  • Promotional allowances to retailers: 3.5% growth

📉 Where tobacco companies spent less in 2020

Tobacco companies also cut spend YoY in the following spots: 

  • Magazines: 50.6% decrease
  • Direct mail: 37.9% decrease
  • Point-of-sale materials (a.k.a ads inside retail stores): 25% decrease 

Our takeaway?

Cigarette promoters invested in OOH ads right when they were cheapest, and  turned declining sales around for the first time in 15 years. 

Of course, cigarettes had unusual tailwinds in 2020, too. People may have also smoked more out of '90s nostalgia … or to relieve pandemic stress.

Kelsey Donk
about the author

Kelsey Donk is a writer at MarketerHire. Before joining MarketerHire full-time, Kelsey was a freelance writer and loved working with small businesses to level up their content. When she isn't writing, Kelsey can be found gardening or walking her dogs all around Minneapolis.

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