June 2016

Crowd Chasers: How to BLOW UP in the Vape Space

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Being Tasty Isn’t the Only Secret to Tasty Vapor’s Success

By Maria Verven

Being ‘tasty’ is important to vapers. But sometimes simply being tasty isn’t enough in a competitive marketplace.

Tasty Vapor initially took off by virtue of the quality of their products, but ultimately found that marketing would be the ultimate key to their success.

The idea for Tasty Vapor started on July 13, 2009, one month after owner/founder Geoff Braithwaite picked up his first vaporizer.

“After 29 years as a pack-a-day smoker and having tried a number of approved cessation products with little or no success, I was at a crossroads,” he said. “I needed to do something differently or prepare to suffer some very severe health concerns, which I was already beginning to feel. After making a complete switch from analogs to a personal vaporizer and marveling at how quickly I was seeing results, I understood what this could mean to people like myself who felt doomed to a life of smoking.”

At the time, most products were coming from China, and “tasted only vaguely like their proclaimed labels.” Braithwaite wanted to create something he had more faith would keep him and others from resuming their former habit.

“I knew flavor was a key dissociative tool in the migration from combusted tobacco,” he said.

Formerly a prep cook, sous chef and supervising cook in Oakland, Calif., Braithwaite knew his way around flavoring. He decided to try his hand at creating e-liquids.

“I’m self-taught in everything I do. At the time, when the flavors on the market were simple cherry, strawberry, chocolate and tobacco, we began making flavors like German chocolate cake, Butterfinger, atomic fireball, pina colada, and so on,” he said. “We were able to successfully translate actual dessert recipes into e-liquid recipes.”

An Instant Hit on ECF

At first, they weren’t quite sure where or how to market. Traditional search engine marketing strategies such as Google AdWords and Facebook ads are closed to vape companies. But the Electronic Cigarette Forum (ECF) was already attracting thousands of vape enthusiasts.

Braithwaite began bragging about Tasty Vapor’s flavors and found they were an instant hit. “Customers were finding us through word of mouth,” he said. “We literally didn’t have to do any marketing at all.”

Tasty Vapor also differentiates itself by giving consumers lots of options in their e-liquids. Boasting their products are more ‘homemade,’ they allow consumers to choose among dozens of unique flavors and determine the nicotine level as well as the sweetener and PG/VG ratio. They then ‘hand-mix’ the order in an OSHA regulated clean-lab and ship it out within 72 hours.

Nineteen of Tasty Vapor’s most popular flavors are available in 6mg, 12mg and 18mg nicotine in 15ml bottles with 20 or 50 percent VG. Flavorings, propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin are certified USP grade, and nicotine is pharmaceutical grade.

But as the vape industry took off like wildfire, vape shops and e-liquid manufacturers began popping up all over. Now that consumers were faced with many more choices, Tasty Vapor had a more difficult time competing.

“Like any business that needs to stay relevant and competitive, we were faced with some tough decisions. We ultimately decided we needed a marketing firm,” Braithwaite said. “We knew we needed to step things up, rebrand, revamp and do something that made us stand out.”

They shopped around a while until landing on Eventige. “Their people had the skill sets and enthusiasm we were looking for in stepping up our game.”

Marketing Vape Products – Not an Easy Task

Based in New York City, Eventige represents dozens of clients, from Habitat for Humanity to Skype, Uber and The Wall Street Journal. But what makes them unique in the marketing world is their focus on the vape industry. Alexei Alankin, Eventige CEO and founder, is a vaper who also understands how and where vape products can be marketed – and where they’re prohibited.

With more and more controversy surrounding vape products, marketing strategies must never be interpreted as ‘kid-friendly’ or appear to appeal to a younger age bracket. It can be a challenge for traditional marketing agencies that don’t understand that the focus must be on the community of vapers who already use these products.

Eventige first conducted a comprehensive brand positioning that laid out a strategic marketing roadmap for Tasty Vapor’s business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) channels. Eventige essentially took over the marketing side of things, freeing Braithwaite and his internal team up to focus on R&D and manufacturing.

One of the first steps was to refine Tasty Vapor’s corporate identity just in time for a busy round of trade shows in 2015, starting with Vape Fest in February. Tasty Vapor’s website, trade show materials, and media kits and social media platforms were ‘Tiki-fied’ with a fun and playful Tiki theme. Each flavor – from Alien Blood to Waffles – was enhanced with visually appealing images.

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“Until Eventige, we didn’t attend tradeshows because we simply didn’t have the necessary gear that would make us a standout at the shows,” Braithwaite said. “They helped us with all the amenities and products we needed to participate at that level. It’s been our best marketing strategy because we can catch the attention of potential clients and engage them directly.”

Eventige overhauled Tasty Vapor’s e-commerce system and deployed an inbound customer relationship management (CRM) system, creating a clear sales roadmap for inbound leads. At the same time, they took the age-to-vape program seriously, and implemented an age verification system from Veratad.

Eventige helped triple the number of fans and double the level of engagement on Tasty Vapor’s social media channels by merging several disparate Facebook accounts and implementing social media automation and engagement systems.

Tasty Vapor continued to push the envelope for product development, eventually ending up with some 77 e-liquid flavors.

Staying Relevant

What does the future hold for Tasty Vapor?

“Like all companies, we hope to do what is necessary to increase the longevity of our company and our role in this industry,” Braithwaite said. “We do what we can to stay relevant and we continue to formulate new and delicious recipes — the very thing that made us famous.”

Tasty Vapor also plays an active role in SFATA, the Smokefree Alternatives Trade Association, by supporting advocacy efforts and educating local, state and federal representatives. “We want everyone to know what these products mean to people like me, who felt doomed to a life of smoking,” Braithwaite said.

“While I would like the simple task of running my business, I see being active on the advocacy side as product insurance,” he said. “So, I’m doing my part to be absolutely sure there is an industry to be competitive in!”

The original “Vaping VampTM,” Maria Verven is a 35-year P.R. veteran and owner of Verve P.R, a marketing firm focused on the vape industry.