Did Juul Use Young People To Create E-Cig Buzz On Social Media?

By David Konow 11/29/18

Stanford University researchers suggest that Juul used young social media influencers to market its products to teens.

Man juuling after using social media

The e-cigarette company Juul is receiving backlash for the amount of young people, who are under the smoking age, who have made "Juuling" popular.

The company insists that its vaping products are for adults who want to wean off cigarettes, but as Business Insider discovered, Juul has a large following on Twitter and Instagram with younger users. A new report suggests that this may be by design.

Stanford University researched how Juul marketed its product on social media, and they discovered that many of the company's images, videos and social media posts featured young people.

Currently valued at $15 billion, Juul is now a giant in the e-cigarette world. The company climbed to the top by utilizing launch parties, free samples and flooding social media with content.

The Juul launch ads featured a snazzy, colorful campaign where customers were e-mailed, and were asked to become “Juul influencers,” a position that allowed everyday people to help drive sales on social media.

Robert Jackler, a physician at Stanford explained, “Juul’s launch campaign was patently youth-oriented… You started seeing viral peer-to-peer communication among teens who basically became brand ambassadors for Juul.”

At each event organized by Juul, over 1,500 samples were given out. Jackler adds, “Their business model was to get the devices in your hands either for free or cheaply.”

Juul countered that its initial advertising “was intended for adults, was short-lived, and had very little impact on our growth.” Juul also started charging $1 for samples because of a U.S. regulation that banned giving away tobacco products for free that has since been amended to include e-cigarettes.

In researching Juul’s advertising strategy, Stanford noted similarities with the big tobacco companies’ ad campaigns, and how Juul put emphasis on its sweeter flavors, like "Crème Brulee," which the company called “dessert without the spoon.”

In anticipation of an FDA crackdown where stronger regulations will be placed on e-cigarettes, Juul has stopped selling its flavored vapes in retail stores and renamed certain flavors to be less youth-friendly. Juul has also shutdown its U.S.-based social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram, according to Time

In September, the FDA sent out 1,300 warning letters to e-cigarette manufacturers, requesting that they come up with a plan to “immediate and substantially reverse [the] trend” of young people taking up vaping.

The FDA warned that if these companies, including Juul, did not comply with its demands, the agency “may require the companies to revise their sales and marketing practices, to stop distributing products to retailers who sell to kids and to stop selling some or all of their flavored e-cigarette products until they clear the application process.”

Do you think Juul purposefully marketed its products to teens using social media? Sound off in the comments below.

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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