British American Tobacco chose 2014 to launch its assault on the e-cigarette market. With an immature market, no real market leader and a bottomless pit of cash to throw at the project, it was thought by many that a dominance of the market was surely to follow.
The following is a guest post by Pascal. All opinions are those of the author.
It hasn’t gone to plan.
Following on from the success of the NJOY King in the US, BAT initially predicted a move from rechargeable cigalike products to non-rechargeables, so they brought out the Vype Disposable, and despite it being an excellently crafted product which was well received by its users, the UK market failed to adapt in the expected way and the disposable never reached the popularity it had State-side, so the product didn’t take off in the way BAT had hoped.
The Vype Disposable was dropped nine months after its release.
Their next effort was a rechargeable cigalike called the Vype Reload, and this time they left nothing to chance and really ramped up the marketing. This product was on TV, on thousands of billboards and had every chance of becoming the market leading e-cigarette. And it would have succeeded but for one major factor – the UK market for rechargeable cigalikes had been and gone.
The Vype Reload was dropped nine months after its release.
Despite the dramatic presentation, the Vype Disposable and the Vype Reload were not spectacular flops – they were in fact up there with the best-selling products in their categories, but given their marketing budgets, BAT were clearly hoping for more. The search for the ‘game-changer’ was still on.
Enter the Vype ePen
Having witnessed a complete change in the market, whereby e-liquid and pen-style personal vaporizers were completely dominating the industry, BAT made their next move in late 2014 when they introduced their most advanced and most heavily-backed product yet: The Vype ePen.
The Vype ePen was heavily advertised in the UK’s traditional quit-smoking month of January and sales soared. The future looked bright for BAT’s e-cigarette arm, but the real test was to come. What would be the viral impact of the heavy marketing? Would sales kick on?
The answer was no. Again, the ePen wasn’t a flop. It was well received and positively reviewed by new vapers and was another well-manufactured product, but yet again it failed to make the dominant breakthrough BAT were hoping for.
Another change of direction
In June 2015, BAT made another big product announcement – it was to launch the Vype eTank and a range of regular e-liquids. This will be the first time BAT is willing to play the ‘open source’ game whereby they will risk users being able to fill their eTank with liquids made by other manufacturers, and in doing so will be far less in control of their customer base, but this looks like their best move yet.
It remains to be seen if this will replace the ePen, but judging by their previous ruthlessness with regards to under-performing products, there’s a good chance the ePen will be dropped altogether.
Will the eTank succeed? Is this the last throw of the dice?
The traditional ‘tie them in’ model is dead, and the vaping industry appears to have moved to a model more comparable to the wine industry where an empty glass can be filled with any number of different types of wines from vineyards across the globe, so this move was very much born out of necessity – but it may just work.
It looks unlikely to dominate in a way they may have hoped when BAT first introduced the Vype brand, but a pen-style tank with a regular clearomizer that can be refilled with regular e-liquid is where the bulk of the market sits right now, so if they throw a meaty marketing budget behind this type of product they definitely have their best hope yet of producing a market leader (if not the game changer they initially set out to produce). The threat is the same as before, though… will the market change direction before the eTank gets off the ground? Will the pen-style personal vaporizer still be the e-cigarette of choice in, say, six months’ time?
Possibly, but if not, don’t be surprised to see the ‘Vype Box Mod’ enter the market in early 2016…