While the tobacco industry is the second largest contributor to the Romanian government, cigarette smuggling holds 13.7% of the total consumption. 3.2 billion euros are paid by manufacturers to the state annually, yet about 700 million euros are lost to the black market.
The institutions in charge of fighting the problem are overwhelmed. Various ongoing investigations are looking into corruption allegations affecting the better deployment of the counter actions fighting smuggling. The public opinion is not really helping either as most people don’t think the black market is really that bad.
In this context, tobacco manufactures are trying to step up and help local authorities raise awareness over a black hole that’s literally sucking money out of the economy. Japan International Tobacco (JTI) has been supporting the efforts of the General Directorate of Customs, a division of the National Agency for Fiscal Administration, for 10 years. To power up results, this partnership has focused on a special division of the institution – the Canine Teams. JTI has contributed to the creation and training of 50 Canine Teams. This year alone they’ve donated to Customs and Order Police 11 dogs, three cars, drones and surveillance equipment.
What we did
Our strategic approach was to enhance the results of the available resources JTI has put out through the partnership. We decided to focus on the Canine Teams and to use a witty shift in the tone of voice that would in turn generate the traction we needed to generate change. From a dry publisher posting news about the counter actions boarder control teams take to tackle cigarette smuggling, to a special communicator that everybody loves. We used the actual dogs in the Canine Teams to promote news in a creative and funny tone of voice.
We also needed to reach decision makers, the media and all the players ready to power actual change. So we used the yearly press event where JTI launched its eight national public awareness campaign – Smuggling is organized crime.
Our switch in tone of voice has met remarkable results. Indicators have shown a switch in perspective among our followers on Facebook, while the highlight of our campaign – the press conference – has generated changes decision makers have announced officially. Our communication efforts might have helped with the decrease of the smuggling rate. According to a study made by Novel Research, May 2019 has registered the lowest rate of cigarettes smuggling in six years, with less than 14% of the total market.
We’ve observed a strong improvement in the messages followers left shortly after we changed our communication strategy. Instead of disapproving, they started to support the inspectors with kind messages send to our page and appreciative comments.