Nick & Johnny East and Nick & Johnny West
As a market leader, Swedish Match has the ambition to pursue development within the category of snus. In some respects, this is the development of new flavors of existing and already well-established brands. In other cases, the desired major step is in new brand development.
With products East and West under the brand Nick & Johnny, Swedish Match had the ambition to create unique packaging for a new and modern snus brand. The products and the packaging were developed with large consumer involvement at all stages. Despite this, the products Nick & Johnny East and Nick & Johnny West have been unable to reach the expected consumer interest and thus failed to achieve the expected sales volumes.
Swedish Match has already made the decision that effective May 1, 2009, these two products will be removed from the market.
Swedish Match today does not know exactly what the reason for the weakness of consumer interest is rooted in. In order to create better conditions for future innovations however, Swedish Match in the near future plans to vigorously investigate the reasons for this unfortunate outcome.
Fortunately for Swedish Match, I can tell them exactly why Nick and Johnny East and West both failed and save them the valuable time and expense of a lengthy investigation. It boils down to mouth-feel, taste, packaging, and perceived value for the money.
When I tried both the East and the West, the first thing that hit me was how small they felt in my mouth. They both reminded me of Mocca Anis and Pall Mall White; not in taste, but in that they felt smaller in my mouth. The East and the West were the first two SM snus's I'm aware of in recent history to contain 20 grams of snus instead of 24 grams. This explains my harking back to the Mocca and Pall Mall as they both only contain 20 grams also.
But unlike especially the Mocca Anis White and the Pall Mall White, taste became an issue with both the East and the West. The East was a new taste creation for Swedish Match. It quickly became know as a "love it or hate it" tasting snus. I was one of those on the "hate it" side and I was far from alone. The best description of the taste of East I ever saw was in a forum post I stumbled across: "Nick and Johnny East tastes like the inside of your grandmother's purse smells."
In the case of the West which is billed as a Strong White Portion with 11mg/g of nicotine, it stuck out like a sore thumb at 20 grams of snus against all the strong snus's in or around its price-range which all contained 24 grams of snus and were more flavorful. At half a dollar less that Generals premier Strong White Portion: General Onyx, and costing half a dollar more than competing Skruf Strong White Portion which also contains more nicotine, the West simply was outclassed.
Add in all the new and fantastic tasting Strong and Extra Strong portion snus's which seem to last longer than their predecessors, the West fell by the wayside very quickly. Ironically, Swedish Match was probably their own worst enemy with Grovsnus Svart, Claq Qui, and my personal favorite along with V2's Thunder Snus, the breath-taking General Ekstra Sterk (not to be confused with the extremely disappointing General Sterk).
Swedish Match has introduced Ekstra Sterk as a Loose Snus which tastes just as good as the Ekstra Sterk portion. If they want to dominate the White Snus vertical, they should produce an Ekstra Sterk White of equal quality.In addition, as part of their newly announced Joint Venture with PMI, Swedish Match is taking over production of the Philip Morris 1847 and 1847 White; both outstanding snus's in their own right but with 8mg/g of nicotine.
My additional unsolicited advice is PLEASE don't change the 1847 recipe; just make it to GothiaTek standards and get production out of the old Rocker factory . While you're at it, a Stark or Extra Stark version of each would be powerful contenders in the high nicotine wars. The key there is not to change the base taste. I would much rather have a Stark 1847 with 11mg/g of nicotine that preserved the 1847's wonderful taste than an 14-17mg/g version which overshadowed the 1847 taste. Also, Original and White portion versions of both, please!
The final nail in the coffin for Nick and Johnny East and West was the packaging. The labels were very nice and contemporary. The problem was the cheap looking plastic....coffins; there's really no other way to describe the containers. It wasn't as much the shape; long-time snus users may have been taken aback, but it was the material used.
Camel SNUS pulled off the oblong shape because they were made out of aluminum. Not nearly as attractive as the 1847, but an unknowing (and unfortunate) American not knowing any better PERCEIVED they were getting a quality product because the container was substantial.
We all know packaging won't make you successful in the long run if you have a grossly inferior product: Camel SNUS in Texas has dropped from $5.50 a tin to $4.29. In some markets, Reynolds is giving away a can of Camel SNUS with the purchase of a pack of Camel cigarettes.
A number of readers have also emailed me that in some markets, convenience store retailers are giving away TEN cans of Camel SNUS with or without a cigarette purchase! More than a few also stated that the free Camel SNUS came from boxes under the counter; not from the famed Camel SNUS refrigerators. I fear for their health as well as their taste buds.
Yet others wrote of receiving numerous coupons in the mail for free Camel SNUS almost weekly. Good packaging can help an inferior product sell in the short-term, but bad packaging will sink a new product of better quality before it can even get off the ground.
From a packaging standpoint, (except for the Onyx Carbon Edition, of course), the physical containers Swedish Match uses were never an issue because they were covered in labels with very well designed graphics. The problem with East and West is that the containers; not the labels, are the focal point. The demographic East and West were designed for simply wasn't comfortable going clubbing or to a party leaving the incredibly cheesy plastic coffins on the bar for all to see. Not exactly the way to impress the opposite sex. More the equivalent of using a chewed-on $.59 cent pen at an important business meeting instead of a Mont Blanc. Or having your wireless phone ring and pulling out a cheap "free" phone instead of an iPhone or a high end HTC or Blackberry.
One of the top five rules of marketing success is that "Perception is Reality". The East and West containers didn't look like premium snus containers: quite the contrary. Taste killed the East and good taste but not enough of it hurt the West. Factor in the very premium price for both, and the overall perception was they just weren't good values for the money.
Swedish Match didn't understand why East and West failed, but they did come to the realization that they had. Instead of giving them both away to consumers in a vain attempt to keep them alive on life support (as Reynolds is with Camel SNUS), Swedish Match wisely decided to pull the plug and protect the image of their other brands. May Nick and Johnny East and West rest in peace. My condolences to the family.
The Snus Guru
Reporting From SnusCENTRAL.org