Plain Packaging a Natural Experiment in Brand

Marque'd thought

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In recent weeks controversy has raged over the effectiveness of the previous Australian Federal government’s plain packaging policy for cigarettes. The point in bitter contention has been the outcome of that policy design. Free-range economists and those in more or less close proximity to the original policy decision, as well as their fifth column supporters, have thrown frothy invective as unappealing as the medical warnings emblazoned across a pack of durries. The policy decision created a natural experiment for considering economic and public health policy implications. It also provides an extraordinary insight into the mechanics of brand and their market shifting consequences. In short, removing branding changed the behavior of individuals in a way that was completely unintended by the designer and can be considered design failure as measured against the designer’s intentions.

Nonetheless, to discover the mechanism of operation it is usually necessary to go to the boundaries of…

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