In this episode, the guys chat about how important it is to learn from the mistakes of past marketers and why it’s so tempting to engage in unethical marketing practices. Nico tells us the 6 things we can learn from history and Chad reads one of the sketchiest Instagram posts ever. 

It all starts with how JUUL, a very well known electronic cigarette brand, ignored all the mistakes their predecessors made and completely crashed and burned. They shamelessly marketed their products to teenagers and profited off products that killed people. Why would they ignore all warning signs and allow history to repeat itself?

In the summer of 2015 founders Adam Bowen and James Monsees launched the JUUL Electronic Cigarette. In fall 2017 the newly named JUUL Labs had 200 employees, by the end of the following year they had 1500 employees. The company was valued at 15 Billion dollars, following a $650 million investment round. That is explosive growth and a whole lot of success. 

So this sounds like another silicon valley success story, or even a company doing some good, reducing cigarette smoking? Well – there was a darker side. And one that would eventually come back to bite hard. 

To understand why, the guys take a look back in history and discuss how in 1997, the Federal Trade Commission filed suit against the RJ Reynolds company – the owners of Camel Cigarettes – for specifically marketing to children with the “Joe Camel” cartoon campaigns. The results of these and other lawsuits were significant prohibitions on the marketing of tobacco to minors. And as a result – teenage smoking had been on the decline for decades leading up to JUUL’s rise around 2015, 2016, and 2017.

So JUUL had an opportunity… grow into a healthy new market, and be a force for good – helping to reduce tobacco dependency, and position themselves in the market as an aid to smoking cessation… OR… take the other route.

The JUUL team was very successful at marketing their harmful products to teenagers. They actually made their device look like a flash drive so that parents wouldn’t even be aware that their kids were “JUUL’ing”.

The owners of JUUL weren’t aware of the risks of their product but they still spent thousands of dollars to market their products to children as young as 8 years old. Then the blowback happened. In 2017 the FDA announced it was taking steps to crack down on e-cigarette use among teens. Not only were government regulators and researchers on their case…parents started to get involved.

In response to the FDA crackdown, the company announced they would be using real customers who were using the product to switch from smoking instead of models.

In late 2018, Juul shut down their social media accounts, they also agreed to make changes to its youth advertising practices as part of a settlement with the Center for Environmental Health. Listen to the interview with JUUL CEO here

Nico and Chad end the episode by discussing why a big company like JUUL wouldn’t learn from the past and go on to make mistakes, knowing that it could kill their brand. The Influence of greed is strong in marketing and kids are especially susceptible. 

Enjoy the show!

We speak about:

  • [00:20] How can we learn from history?
  • [02:30] The history of how JUUL got started 
  • [06:20] Concerns about who was using their product
  • [09:40] Why were kids actively using the product?
  • [21:40] The blowback
  • [26:20] JUUL’s response
  • [30:40] Message from CEO
  • [37:40] What have we learned



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