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Brand mismanagement: Rothmans cigarette marketing, 1957‐2000

Timothy Dewhirst (University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada)
Robert Sparks (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

ISSN: 1755-750X

Article publication date: 9 August 2011




The purpose of this paper is to assess, by providing a case study of flagship brand, Rothmans, why Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc. (RBH), Canada's second largest tobacco firm, has historically lost ground to industry leader, Imperial Tobacco Canada Limited (ITL).


The paper utilizes data from internal corporate documents, made public from litigation, as well as trade press and promotional materials accessed from advertising archives. More specifically, the tobacco industry documents reviewed were made public from two Canadian trials: the 1989 Canadian trial to decide the constitutionality of the Tobacco Products Control Act; and the 2002 Quebec Superior Court trial in which Canada's three major tobacco firms challenged the constitutionality of the Tobacco Act.


The declining market share of Rothmans is largely explained by the brand's inability to appeal to the highly valued youth or “health concerned” segments. RBH failed to link the cigarette brand consistently with segment‐appropriate imagery during a time when legislation prompted a shift in promotional spending by the Canadian tobacco industry towards sponsorship communications. Unlike ITL, RBH failed to capitalize on the potential of sponsorship to contemporize the Rothmans brand and make it relevant to younger smokers. Moreover, RBH was slow to introduce a so‐called “light” line extension, which would appeal to existing smokers with health concerns.


This study should particularly interest researchers and practitioners interested in marketing and public policy, in which insight is provided about unique challenges to marketing in Canada on the basis of government regulation.



Dewhirst, T. and Sparks, R. (2011), "Brand mismanagement: Rothmans cigarette marketing, 1957‐2000", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 3 No. 3, pp. 351-369.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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