A key player among tobacco manufacturing companies, British American Tobacco (BAT) recently launched flavoured nicotine pouches called VELO in Pakistan. Available in two flavours – berry frost and polar mint – the product is the first of its kind in the market, with no direct competitors so far. So what is VELO and how does one use it? According to their website, consumers can use VELO by putting a single pouch between their gum and lip – allowing the nicotine to be absorbed through their gums. One pouch lasts up to 30 minutes and each can, which costs Rs 160, contains 20 pouches.
If you are a consumer looking to try VELO, you can find it at the medicine and tobacco counter at Agha’s, as well as other big stores in major cities. The product is currently available in “Karachi and Lahore at roughly three thousand outlets in total,” confirmed BAT. Moreover, if you are out and about in Karachi, the chances are you will run into one of the representatives from the brand, giving out free VELO cans after asking your age.
According to BAT, “VELO is aimed at adult nicotine users only.”
The brand did not comment on the factors that went into setting the price, but considering the fact that a can costs approximately as much as a pack of cigarettes, it won’t put a dent in a nicotine user’s monthly cigarette budget. The pouches come in a premium-looking translucent box with a dotted line as a visual guide to the strength of nicotine, so you can pick whichever strength level you are comfortable with.
The brand did not divulge the manufacturing details of the product. They did, however, confirm that “VELO cans are imported from Europe”, a fact printed in bold letters on each can. However, considering the current economic dip and inflation, one would assume the brand is focusing more on market penetration at this point by setting the price of a semi-imported product at as low as Rs 160.
BAT confirmed that VELO is a spanner in a much larger category wheel they are trying to slowly roll into the Pakistani market. “Nicotine pouches fall under the Oral Nicotine category, which according to insights, is an opportunity area to launch VELO for adult consumers,” BAT stated.
Launching a product that does not have any measuring metric in the market could be a boon as well as a bane. While it gives the manufacturers all the room to play, it comes with its own set of strategic risks. Is the market ready for this product? How will they use market segmentation to maximise ROIs in the absence of any previous success stories? The good news is a short market research which suggests that VELO is on the road to becoming a product launch hit of 2019. Khalid Qureshi, a salesperson at Agha’s medicine counter, shared that “for a new product that came to us a month ago, VELO is performing pretty well and we are almost out of our first stock.” Salman Naveed – another salesperson at Agha’s – confirmed that the “product’s demand is higher than expected.” Qureshi was of the opinion that “most people are attracted by the packaging” and the round translucent box with hints of sea-green (polar mint) or blue (berry frost) is one of the main reasons people are picking VELO.
The product’s warm reception could also be a result of a dearth of such alternatives for nicotine users. While nicotine chewing gums and patches are available in all big stores, VELO is that new product in town piquing nicotine users’ curiosity. Naveed observed that “the product is picked up by men and women who look 30+ and then, there is another group of 50 to 60+ who seem to be interested in what this is.” These observations are in sync with the market positioning BAT has in mind for the product. “It’s positioned towards affluent adult consumers,” the brand confirmed.
The creative side
The introductory ad on VELO’s page was developed by Ogilvy Pakistan and shows local heartthrob Sheheryar Munawar living in style and encouraging audiences to ‘Live Unstoppable’ with VELO. “The consumer of today lives multiple lives rolled into one – family, work, passion, activism and talent. These lives are captured best in their social media personas where they show off each aspect in its most glorified form. To live all these lives, they know they can’t afford to slow down – they must always push forward and test their own limits. We call these people ‘unstoppables’ and VELO is an expression of living life to the fullest,” a representative from Ogilvy explained.
The ad has a ‘Bond meets Lucifer’ vibe to it but the agency insists that “the inspiration was neither of the characters mentioned. “Our inspiration was to do justice to an international product. Our brief was to show adults in their everyday lives and in various moments and that was pretty much that.” Ogilvy also confirmed that Munawar was their first choice because “he is one of the few figures that we have in our industry today who personified the kind of role we had in mind.”
When asked whether digital was going to be the agency’s preferred platform because of the ad’s Millennial inclination, Ogilvy replied that “VELO is very much a digital first brand. While we have designed the campaign to reach out across other suitable avenues, digital and social media in particular is where the brand will come to life.”
With the tide of influencer marketing at an all-time high, it would be a treat to see a brand like VELO collaborating with the likes of Ali Gul Pir to ramp up its mass appeal. “We want to place the brand in the hands of adult consumers who live the unstoppable lifestyle. Some of those people are leading social media personalities we are engaging with. We are also working with other content creators who personify this spirit and attitude,” the agency confirmed.
When asked about the challenges Ogilvy faced while strategising for this product, the team said that, “working on a completely new category comes with its own unique challenges. Our strategy not only has to launch and establish the brand but also the category. Our communication, media utilisation and content have to adhere to strict global governance standards. The content you see is testament to a deep cross-functional collaboration between various teams that have worked tirelessly to overcome any challenges. ”
Taniya Hasan is a content marketer.