Study hints at low wages, high appetite for fun among vapers

beer cans 300x180 - Steve BakerIs the typical American vaper a young, divorced father with a bar-hopping habit, prog-rock tastes and not much of a career?

Not really – because the population of e-cig users is too large, and too diverse, for “typical” to have much meaning. But new research from Kantar Media on the U.S. market does suggest some ways in which vapers tend to differ from their compatriots in general.

They are 16% more likely to be men than women, and “tend to be slightly younger” than the adult population as a whole, according to Kantar; one in three is 18-34 years old.

Startlingly, they are far more likely – 62% – to be divorced or separated than adults in general, but a majority do have children. They are also strongly likely to work part-time (37% more than all adults) or be unemployed (twice as probable among vapers). Corresponding to this, their median household income at just under $40,000 is far below the U.S. median figure of around $62,000.

As for leisure activities, “these e-cig users are 11% more likely to attend a concert/live theater and 56% more likely to go to a bar or nightclub compared to all adults”, says Kantar. “In terms of sports activities, they are more likely to fish, hunt and swim. When they’re indoors, these e-cig users are nearly twice as likely to play video games and more than twice as likely to play poker compared to all adults.

“Examining their media habits, e-cig users are 60% more likely to watch any reality television program and more than twice as likely to listen to alternative/progressive music on the radio.”

Kantar’s report, The Impact of Electronic Cigarettes on the Smoking Cessation Industry, is based on data from its Kantar Media 2014 MARS Consumer Health Study.

Aimed at the pharmaceutical industry, it concludes that e-cigs are “a significant player in the quitting game as a substitute for patches, gums and other cessation medications”, asks the question “should pharma marketers be worried?”, and answers it: “Probably.”

Easy come, easy go

Some of the characteristics identified by Kantar “are consistent with what I’ve seen”, said Steve Hong, principal at Roebling Research in New York, which has also been investigating e-cig users. But he warned that marketing to consumers matching the Kantar profile may not be easy.

“The most important segments in the vape market are Gen Y users [people up to the age of about 30] and Baby Boomers [aged around 50-70], two groups that have different motivations, modes of use, and so on.

“Targeting those with an active, single lifestyle as Kantar describes is definitely a marketing strategy that many brands are executing, but those environments are also tough for inferior products because they are full of negative health cues such as peers smoking tobacco cigarettes, particularly when resolve is low after a few drinks.”

For example, Roebling has found that although male smokers make up 63% of all those who try e-cigs, they are less likely to continue with the products than females are.

“I think that’s why we’re seeing many Gen Y early adopters looking for more satisfying options such as mods. It remains to be seen whether mod use can be part of the active single lifestyle for the mainstream.”

On the other hand, he said, while the Generation Y consumers portrayed by Kantar are the “low-hanging fruit”, “Boomers make up probably half of smokers, so the company that can penetrate that segment could see great benefit” – and perhaps avoid some of those marketing pitfalls.

What This Means: Health and smoking cessation may be the most-talked-about motivations for e-cigarette use, but – even given that any single, stereotypical image of an “average” user is bound to be misleading – Kantar’s findings strongly suggest that gadget appeal to young men is a major factor too.

That should, you may think, make mods even more attractive than cigalikes to the young male market. However, mods do take more commitment (in terms of effort as well as money), which might not bode so well.

Roebling’s Steve Hong has done more work on the question of where the next group of mods users is coming from, the not-so-early adopters as it were, and will be writing for us shortly.

– Barnaby Page ECigIntelligence staff

Photo: Steve Baker

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