The Evolving Design Strategies of Tobacco Packaging In Hostile Times
Institution: University of Otago
Dept/School/Faculty: ASPIRE2025 collaboration (www.aspire2025.org.nz)
PhD Supervisors: Professor Janet Hoek and Dr Roel Wijland
Co-Supervisor: An ASPIRE2025 team member
Application Deadline: Until a suitable candidate is identified
Funding Availability: Candidates may apply for a University of Otago PhD Scholarship, currently awarded to students with an “A” average or better
PhD Research Project:
Debate over the plain packaging of tobacco products has refocused attention on the brand imagery featured on tobacco packaging and how this communicates aspirational attributes to smokers and non-smokers alike. Although several studies have examined how smokers and non-smokers interpret brand imagery, we know much less about brand design as a responsive process in hostile markets and adverse consumer cultures.
In New Zealand and other countries, progressive tobacco control legislation has lead to the gradual phasing out of mass media advertising and sponsorship of tobacco products. Packaging as a container and the solitary cigarette as product with potenetial advertsing space, have become the last available media spaces to communicate brand meaning. Tobacco companies have introduced fresh message strategies, and use this still permitted medium to communicate with smokers.
Thellefsen et al. (2005) stated: “a brand is really a product laden with symbolism, a sign system that has virtually nothing to do with the usability of the product and, yet, has become so integrated with its marketing and promotion that it eventually becomes an inseparable semiotic (thus habitual) feature of the product” (p. 59). This project examines and interprets changes in the physical and embodied opportunities related to tobacco packaging from a strategic and business perspective, based on content and /or narrative analysis. The results of the research should add to our understanding of the design thinking in the context of the tobacco industry and lead to new insights and theories that are consequential for the branding of other product categories operating in adverse cultural markets.
Applicant: The successful applicant will have a strong background in design and semiotics. The candidate will have to be able to work across traditional disciplinary boundaries. S/he is expected to have a strong interest in branding and strategy; knowledge of public health and tobacco control research would be advantageous. The successful candidate will be expected to familiarise her or himself with the topic.
Applicants will need to demonstrate knowledge and experience of design, social research and /or ethnographic methods and must have previous post-graduate research experience. Skills in qualitative research are desirable, as are skills in managing a project. The successful candidate may become a member of the ASPIRE2025 collaboration and will have opportunities to become involved in the group’s wider tobacco control research programme.
Interviews: Appointments for live interviews with Dr. Roel Wijland are also possible in Europe at the Consumer Culture Conference at the University of Oxford, August 16-19, or in Amsterdam August 21-25.
Funding Notes: Further information about University of Otago PhD scholarships is available at: http://www.otago.ac.nz/study/scholarships/database/otago014687.html
Suitable academic backgrounds: design, branding, advertising, marketing and consumer research. A First or Upper Second Class Honours degree or a Masters degree is required in any one of these subjects. Graduates from other areas and disciplines will be considered if they can demonstrate both engagement with the topic area and relevant ability.