It’s been several years since tobacco advertising and sponsorship has been banned and along with the expanding bans on smoking in restaurants and bars the means and ways to communicate their brand messages are becoming more clever and indirect.

In the mid-90’s I was in Singapore for a week and couldn’t help but notice that Dunhill was being advertised everywhere – but not the cigarettes, instead Dunhill was in the business of selling luxury goods including watches, luggage and apparel for men. I am not a smoker but couldn’t but help thinking this was a smart marketing decision because not only did Dunhill get to advertise its brand name it also associated itself with an upper class and distinguished class – which is exactly the target audience for the cigarettes. Of course the history of Alfred Dunhill (which is pipes, luxury goods and cigarettes) preceded the ban on tobacco advertising by 100 years but I was unaware of this at the time and wondered why more tobacco companies weren’t diversifying their product offerings in order to circumvent the ban.

More recently the folks at Marlboro have been using bar codes to communicate the brand on Formula 1 race cars. In Fast Company the article shows the before and after pictures of the race car showing the bar code. Although they have since been forced to remove these bar codes it was still an interesting and subversive way to advertise.