Please excuse the link bait-style title. But I really think Tesco have done something cheeky, and I'm amazed that there isn't someone out there in the world of marketing who has spotted it. This is what they've done...
No branding in tobacco
As in all supermarkets in the UK, buying tobacco is largely a brand-free experience. The products are hidden in anonymous cupboards behind the counter and purchasers have to ask specifically for the product they want. The door is then opened, the products retrieved and the purchaser goes on his/her way.
This is all fine. Except that tobacco brands try to subvert the restrictions against them whenever they can.
And I think one company has managed to hoodwink Tesco!
Since e-cigarettes are subject to the same restrictions as regular cigarettes, the company E-Lites is also unable to display a logo, packaging or any form of brand presence at the tobacco counter. Its products must be hidden from sight. But Tesco seems to have given them a brand presence denied to others.
On the panel above the cupboard, there are signs indicating what is on sale (because the products are hidden), so this panel contains the words "tobacco" and "e-cigarettes". However, the generic Tesco style typeface – used for the word "tobacco" and seen on signage throughout the store – has been replaced with the E-Lites distinctive condensed serif typeface. Thus giving an unspoken endorsement to E-Lites, since it is exactly the font used on their packaging.
Endorsing a brand?
So are Tesco and E-Lites breaking the rules? I'm no lawyer so I don't know – and I'd like to point out that this blog post does nothing more than ask the question and state the facts on view. But if I was an e-cigarette consumer, I would recognise the typeface and be reminded of the brand that I am no doubt familiar with. Compare the two? It can't be an accident...
I find it fascinating from a marketing perspective how powerful a typeface can be. We live in a world where trademarks are much more than logos. Whether it's the Kit-Kat four-finger chocolate bar design, the five-note Intel jingle or the distinctive UPS brown, companies know that they do not necessarily need words to make that connection between their brand and a customer. And in this scenario, E-Lites appear to be making their brand visible into a place where it shouldn't be.