In the past few years, Juul got the attention of a massive number of people. The e-cigarettes brand is popular not only with daily smokers, but also with people who have never tried cigarettes before. The brand had an unbelievable success since the year it was launched in 2015. Yet, by 2020, its sales of electronic cigarettes’ dropped by 40%.
What made this product take off so quickly and fall just as fast?
Let’s take a look at the company’s history to find out.
How Juul Won Over an Entire Generation
Juul began with the idea of creating an easy-to-use electronic cigarette. Their founders, Adam Bowen and James Monses, two former cigarette smokers, had this brilliant idea while studying at Stanford University.
They wanted to make the life of smokers easier. They believed that creating e-cigarettes could help people stop smoking at all or to smoke less and with less harm. This idea seemed very unique and helpful – so much that even teachers were supporting them.
The prototype of the electronic cigarette brand was Ploom. In 2015, the founders sold the project Ploom, renamed their company to Pax Labs and developed Juul. Their simple and compact design made their electronic cigarettes easy to use. Visually, the products reminded us of a USB flash drive. They could even be charged in the USB port of a computer.
The brand’s electronic cigarettes themselves were a marketing masterpiece. Their products’ unique colors and prints caught the attention of thousands of people. Their flavors variety gave smokers plenty of different choices and saved them from the unpleasant smell of burnt cigarettes. Users could find up to eight different flavors in the stores, including mango, fruit, and menthol.
Their launch year was massively successful. Giant media companies such as The New York Times reported how Juul hooked an entire generation on nicotine. They placed billboards in New York City’s Times Square, advertised in Vice Magazine, organized special parties and events, and offered sampling tours. Plenty of YouTube influencers uploaded countless videos featuring their electronic cigarettes.
Sounds like a very successful launch, right?
What Went Wrong With Juul?
Juul’s launch was a massive success, but in the wrong way. Thousands of kids were dragged by the “coolness” of this product. Pleasant smells and huggable designs made its products fashionable – all of which triggered the appearance of young “vapers” in society.
Even people who used to have a negative perception of smoking were interested in giving it a chance, and many of them liked it. The National Youth Tobacco Survey reported that high school students’ electronic cigarette use increased by 135% from 2017 to 2019 (from 11.7% to 27.5%, to be precise).
In November 2019, only three of the brand’s flavors stayed in stores: tobacco, mint, and menthol. E-cigarette smokers could still find other flavors online. Young people familiar with the online market were fast to find flavor varieties online.
Executives at the company categorically denied that they had any intentions to attract a young audience. Ashley Gould, Chief Administrative Officer of JUUL, formally stated that “All of the things you see on social media, we have absolutely nothing to do with.”
So, what exactly went wrong with Juul? Word about their product’s safety spread all around the world. E-cigarette smokers started filing individual lawsuits declaring that the brand was the reason for their nicotine addiction. People began questioning whether smoking e-cigarettes were truly a healthy alternative to real cigarettes.
Were Juul’s product safety claims a distortion of reality or just a rumor created by marketers?
Juul started off with a beautiful aim and a noble intention: to help smokers fight their addiction to cigarettes. Their claims about their e-cigarettes being a healthy alternative to cigarettes and an efficient way to combat cigarette addiction won over the hearts of millions around the world. Teens and young adults were especially attracted to them.
Yet, studies soon revealed that the company’s electronic cigarettes made “clean” people even more addicted to smoking – creating a generation of young smokers. Have the moral values of the founders been broken by their thirst for money and success, or was there a different reason for this failure?
The New York Times presented a documentary movie called “Move Fast & Vape Things” after a thorough investigation of their products. The documentary included the history of the e-cigarette brand from its early days as a startup until the present day. The research revealed by the movie proved that the company’s products could have a devastating impact on people’s health.
The movie features the life of a teenager who once made the same wrong choice as million other young teens – vaping Juul’s electronic cigarettes. Vaping has changed the life of the girl dramatically.
“I’ve never had breathing problems in my life, ever… My inhaler helps somewhat, but my lungs literally feel like they are turning to a crisp. Like I can’t explain it. It just hurts so bad,” she said. And that’s just one of the stories that we know.
How many other similar stories are there that haven’t been told yet?
Journalists had the opportunity to talk to the employees of the e-cigarette company. Some believe that Adam and James got too excited about becoming rich, which made their intentions and methods of drawing attention to their products change. Their quest for profits and success made Juul go from hero to villain – and inflicting long-term health damages to millions of teens and young adults in the process.