e-Cigarette Marketing Scams in the marketplace are too numerous.

Originally published on June 29th, 2012 – We are republishing today because, well, not much as changed, has it?

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of witnessing what money can buy. This is a Vaping and Vapers eMagazine, we cannot  forget to mention terrible e-Cigarette brands that can be turned into winners through corruption. I can’t stand it. Truth in advertising is a joke.

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But… seeing as how this is an opinion piece for an e-Cigarette online magazine and not a political manifesto, I’ll stick to the e-Cigarette angle only.

I want to talk about how money influences people in this industry to the point that some great companies or great products (even great people) are buried behind a mountain of marketing money spent on their inferior counterparts.

Before we launched Spinfuel eMagazine in February I had, or I thought I had, an idea of what to expect in this market. But I was wrong. Not only can money buy customers for cheap worthless eCigarettes, they can buy customer loyalty with it. All it takes is a slick Ad campaign, slick packaging, and oh-so-splitting-hairs-verbiage.

Experienced vapers learn, usually by trial and error (mostly error) which companies make good products and which ones don’t. But the newbies, the ones just getting into e-Cigarettes are sitting ducks for slick marketers. I mean, come on, look at Saphire and Regal and Prada and XO, and so many more as prime examples.

Regal Cigs Is an Ugly Company

This god-awful company, only one of many, is one of the worst eCigarette companies on the planet. They hurt people, financially. They sell crap and they charge a fortune for it. They are marketing evildoers that sucker the uninitiated into an expensive trap by offering people a “free” eCigarette Starter Kit and then hit them with a charge to their credit card of $170 just a few days later, and then $70 a month for 5 Cartomizers, which, according to the company, is supposed to last the customer 30 days. Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

These jackasses put together fake Press Releases every other day, I know because I continue to get them. They do this under a myriad of company names, fake websites, and redirected URL’s. I get so angry with these tactics that my eyes burn when I read the emails looking to expose the next phony e-cigarette brand.

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The poor customer who is left with a garbage product they cannot use and a hefty bill on their credit card, sometimes for several months before finding a way to stop them, (usually by canceling their credit card) and they wind up so upset with the whole e-Cigarette business that they never consider another one and continue to smoke tobacco.

If I were rich enough I’d spend whatever it took to run these guys out of business and make sure they could never start up somewhere else and do it all over again. But, companies like Regal, Prada, Saphire, XO, et al, are like cockroaches, step on one and it just stirs the nest. Suddenly a hundred more pop up and take their place.

So Instead I watch these guys continue to hurt customers and our industry and no one does anything. No one. Until now.

Marketing can be evil

Regal Cigs and the others are successful at what they do because they have deep pockets and talented (but immoral) marketing people convincing consumers to part with their hard-earned money with false promises and downright lies.  This type of marketing needs to be called out by each and every one of us in the e-cigarette community. We need to get across to those that continue to smoke tobacco that these crooks are not representative of the entire industry. Spinfuel, for one, is going to continue to call these companies out, to expose them for the crooks they are. We won’t save all the newbies looking to switch to safer alternatives like e-Cigarettes, but even if we save just a handful from wasting their money and making these bums richer in the process, then maybe we’ve done an okay job. At least “we” sleep at night.

Don’t forget the Good Guys

Then there are companies that put their heart and soul into their products and quietly go about producing top-notch products and receive little or no attention in the process. These guys don’t depend on slick marketing and slick promises. They just do their job the best they can, because their morality won’t let them do otherwise. Companies like ProVape and Halo Cigs, two companies I’ve recently had the pleasure to work with, are good examples of companies looking to make great products because they want to, because they need to. It’s in their DNA to do so. I feel good when I get the chance to work with people behind such great products.

Halo Cigs – Just One of the Unsung Heroes

There is one company in particular that has really impressed me lately. Halo Cigs is a mini-eCigarette brand that has provided me the best experience I’ve had in the mini-eCig arena. A one-stop company for serious vapers… yet, not many people have heard of them. They represent everything that is “right” with the eCigarette industry. They are unsung heroes in that they are a prime example of a company that does not over-promise, over-charge, or overlook quality control and customer service.

 

Halo Cigs actually started as a e-liquid company, who just so happened to get into the hardware side. These guys make incredible e-juice, which you will hear about in July during our “July is e-Juice Celebrations”, and they make great batteries, and cartomizers, and atomizers, and cartridges. Their first passion was e-liquids, and when it came time to move into the hardware side they didn’t go for the cheap way out, they put together great “accompaniments” for their e-liquids and it paid off. Big.

I haven’t found a single negative aspect to this company yet. In fact, they have become my new “favorite” mini-eCigarette, who just so happens to make great e-liquid I can use in my ProVari, and Johnson Creek Vea, and anything else I want to use.

ProVape

And then there is ProVape. This American company makes the finest Variable Voltage PV on the market, yet they don’t sit on their laurels and ride the wave. They are always improving their products, always fine-tuning their hardware and the firmware that runs them.

Yes, they have an instantly recognizable name, but it certainly doesn’t come from slick marketing. It comes from hard work, dedication to quality, and a commitment to make the best products they can. What an experience it was for me to test and review their new ProVari Mini. Such a fine piece of hardware, and not a single ounce of hyperbole coming from the company. Just a great product. You have to respect that.

Blu Cigs – King of the Mountain

Blu Cigs is a great example of a “decent” eCigarette that has surpassed the rest of the crowd in numbers and sales without keeping up with the quality of the batteries and cartomizers that others, like Halo Cigs, is offering. They’re not bad guys, not at all, but they do, sometimes, over-sell their promises with shaky batteries, but at least their Customer Service will try to make it right.

Blu Cigs is light-years ahead of most eCigarettes with their flavored, Johnson Creek developed, pre-filled cartomizers (I love their Classic Tobacco and Pina Colada), but their batteries, although one of my favorites in size and feel, were, and remain, unreliable performers.

Even the number of cartomizers that refuse to work out of the box or die out after an hour or so has made it abundantly clear that Blu Cigs is not quite as good as their marketing wants you believe. Yet they sell like crazy. (I say these things about Blu Cigs with great affection. I do like their product, but they need to up their game in hardware quality, and I think they know that.)

Unlike Halo Cigs and ProVape, Blu Cigs depends on heavy marketing to maintain their market share. They shouldn’t have to. They are honest brokers, but inferior to Halo Cigs nonetheless. Like I said, they need to up their game and once they do, well, they might even have me back as a part-time customer.

“Think I’ll buy me a football team…”

I’ve watched several inferior brands become much bigger brands than they deserve to be simply because of the money they spend on marketing. Slick packaging, slick websites, and not-so-honest “reviews” written by faux-review sites that care more about an affiliate sale then anything else.

Caveat Emptor, and all that

You won’t find a bigger Libertarian then myself (well, okay that’s not true. I am a libertarian, just not militant about it.) So if people decide they want to buy into the marketing of a particular brand then why should I stand in their way? I still believe that, yet I still struggle with it every day. In fact, there must be a way to still allow the freedom to market your product without having to resort to downright fraud to do it.

What happens to those companies that really put out a great product but are out-spent by lesser quality companies with more money to spend? What if they don’t have a huge bankroll or immoral venture capital firms behind them? What if those in this business with deep pockets clamp down so hard that great brands can’t get a word in edgewise? Is it fair?

The libertarian in me says “Sure its fair. Why not?” But then there is that part of me that says it isn’t fair, and something should be done about it. In any case, there is something “we” can do about it, albeit not much.

I’m not saying that I have all the answers, because I don’t. I struggle with my libertarian views every day. Clearly people have the right to spend their money on whatever they want, including advertising dollars. I just wish that the advertising laws on the book were enforced more, or at all. You know, remember that “Truth in Advertising” law?

“We cannot live in a world of Caveat Emptor anymore.” – Julia Barnes, a friend

I do the only thing I can do and that’s continue to have our staff write reviews that are unbiased and true by writing about their real world experience with the products… and hopefully some people will listen and we can build a large audience that can affect the community in a positive way. I wish we could reach every single person on the planet who might be interested in switching to electronic cigarettes and walk them through the mine field. But we can’t.

Unfortunately for every Halo Cigs and ProVape, there are a dozen or more Regal Cigs.

I can promise our readers one thing though; no matter what kind of promises are made to us, no matter how not-so-subtle certain marketing reps can be when it comes to reviewing a product, we will never put their desires for a great review in front of your desire to know the truth. So when you read a review in Spinfuel, and it’s a glowing review, you can bet we believe every word of it, because we know it to be true. We’ve used the product, kicked it around, and found it to be outstanding. And when we write a review that is critical of a product it’s because they deserve to be “outed” as producing poor products. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. I have a feeling some of these companies that we “out” will not take it lightly, and some may even try to bully us, or get revenge in some manner. To that I say, “Bring it on”. Truth is our defense. It’s time for more of us in the business of writing reviews to take a stand, ignore the enticements of big affiliate commissions and make your money the old fashioned way, through normal straight up advertising. When a reader knows that you stand to profit from a sale of a product you are writing about, how in the world can they take you at your word?

What I am proposing, honest reviews, no affiliations, and outing of the lousy brands and the scams that are occurring every day, won’t be easy. And until Spinfuel is large enough to make a difference it won’t be nearly as effective as it needs to be. But one day, if we stand by our principles, we will be. Right now it’s not a lot, but it’s something.

John Manzione / Editor – June 29, 2012

 

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