Jan 16th 2021IT IS HARD to imagine a simpler product than a cigarette paper: small, rectangular, with no moving parts. So cheap it is often given aw
IT IS HARD to imagine a simpler product than a cigarette paper: small, rectangular, with no moving parts. So cheap it is often given away. And replaceable; desperate smokers have been known to tear out Bible pages as substitutes. It has none of cigarettes’ glamour (though, these days, some of their stigma). No wonder Rizla, which produces 45bn rolling-papers a year and dominates the industry, attracts little attention as a marketing phenomenon. Yet it is one of a few brands, like Coca-Cola, Google, Jacuzzi or Tupperware, whose name (“Got a Rizla?”) defines the product.
That is because a simple packet of Rizlas exhibits many of the qualities—history, design, consistent quality and values—that marketing gurus consider hallmarks of enduring brands. Flip open the cover and you find a lesson in how to remain relevant. Aptly for a business long associated with the counterculture, the tutorial is a wry summary of the dark arts of marketing.
Start with history. Long ago Rizla may have realised that if you lack an illustrious heritage, you could invent one. “The Original…since 1796”, as the underside of its packets’ lids still boasts, refers to a time when Napoleon Bonaparte supposedly granted the Lacroix family of south-western France a licence to supply rolling papers to French troops, according to Rizla’s website. This may well be nonsense. A museum in…