E-cigarette company Juul is looking for a marketing chief

Juul is growing its marketing leadership in an effort to transform its reputation. The company is recruiting for a CMO as well as some other marketing roles. 

A Juul Labs spokesperson said the CMO role will focus on education and advertising to show the company is not targeting teens.

The company is also looking to make other marketing hires as the company grows internationally and into new countries such as India. It’s looking for an international creative director in New York to handle advertising, a head of government affairs in India, an international marketing planning and programs manager, and several designers and engineers, among other roles.

Hiring a CMO is the latest move the vaping company is taking to turn around its negative perception after garnering an avalanche of negative press following an FDA inspection and Stanford studies on how the company allegedly marketed its products to teens, although Juul denies ever doing so. In October, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called teen nicotine vaping an epidemic. The marketing chief will be charged with making Juul a more “trusted” brand.

Juul’s ongoing adult education campaign, a mix of print, radio and TV ads, features testimonials from only adult smokers who have switched to Juul from conventional cigarettes. In November, the company deleted its Facebook and Instagram accounts and stopped the sale of certain flavored Juul pods that appealed to teens at retail stores. The adult education campaign spots appear on Juul’s YouTube channel. 

The Juul spokesperson said the company has no plans on relaunching its Facebook and Instagram accounts, even for the adult-specific campaign. 

Juul faces an uphill battle. A recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that while e-cigarettes might helping adults quit smoking, it also entices young people to start.

The Juul spokesperson would not discuss specifics on how the CMO will expand upon the current campaign or how much the company is spending on it. The company works with DDB for creative advertising.

Juul hasn’t had a CMO since the company spun off from vaping company Pax Labs in 2017, according to the company. The company is using recruiters to reach out to potential candidates, but because of the company’s reputation so far, the search is not going completely smoothly. One of the people a Juul recruiter reached out to was Katie Jacobs Stanton, CMO of Color, a service that gives people information about their genes and health conditions and past vp of global media at Twitter.

Stanton posted the recruiter’s message on Twitter, sharing a screenshot of what she wrote back to the Juul recruiter. She wrote: “I’m focused on helping people prevent and beat cancer. Why in the world would I try to build a business essentially driving up cancer rates and ultimately making more people sick?”

The Juul spokesperson declined to comment on the Twitter conversation.  

Dipanjan Chatterjee, vp and principal analyst serving CMOs at Forrester, believes a CMO at Juul is “much needed” given the company’s current state.

“The threat to an otherwise booming business comes squarely from the perception that the brand has created, and not from any market weakness,” said Chatterjee. “The right CMO could work to stem the negative backlash that the brand has unwittingly brought upon itself.”

Juul’s revenue exceeded $1 billion in 2018, up from $200 million in 2017, Marlboro maker Altria Group said in company earnings at the end of January, the first earnings Juul appeared in since Altria paid $12.8 billion in funding to acquire 35 percent of the company.

Juul had over 200 employees at the start of 2018 and currently has over 1,800, according to the company.

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