Marketing Responsibly



Altria's companies make some of the most iconic brands. Our companies make tobacco products and wine for adults. Society expects us to market them responsibly. We completely agree.​
That's why our goal is to build relationships between our brands and their adult consumers while taking steps designed to limit reach to unintended audiences. We make progress against our goal by understanding adult consumers and connecting those consumers with our brands.​​​​
Our companies'​ marketing approach begins with adherence to our Mission and compliance with all legal, regulatory and internal policy requirements. Our Code of Conduct​ establishes the basic compliance principles for our businesses in several key areas, including marketing responsibly. We work hard to instill a culture of responsibility throughout our marketing and sales organizations and with our business partners. ​​
​​Marketing programs vary among our companies and their brands. But the focus remains the same – to responsibly grow market share by enhancing brand awareness, rewarding loyalty and driving competitive conversion among adult tobacco consumers.
Examples of our tobacco companies’ marketing practices include: 
  • connecting with adult tobacco consumers through direct mail and websites; 
  • supporting product launches in adult-only facilities; 
  • working with retailers to merchandise tobacco products responsibly; 
  • denying requests to use their brands in movies, television, video games and other entertainment media; and 
  • advertising only in publications that meet the Food and Drug Administration’s proposed criteria.
​We believe adult tobacco consumers preferences are likely to continue to evolve at an increasing rate, driving more changes for the tobacco industry. Our businesses will need to continue to respond and adapt. Our companies’ focus on consumer-centricity is and will be essential to meet and exceed these changing expectations – whether through new products, new ways of connecting with our adult consumers or new experiences at retail. We will continue to be guided by our long-standing responsible marketing practices, taking steps designed to limit reach to unintended audiences. And we are committed to evolving those practices to ensure we remain leaders in marketing responsibly, as we focus on new approaches to converting adult smokers to non-combustible products like IQOS and increasing our adult tobacco consumer loyalty through consumer loyalty programs.​
​Marketing Practic​es
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Understanding Our Consumers
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Understanding Our Consumers
We have a rigorous approach to understanding adult consumers and their preferences through market and consumer research. We've learned that adult tobacco consumers' preferences are changing. For example, as consumer interest in alternative tobacco products grows, they're looking for superior sensorial experiences and increased flavor. Our companies are using these insights to develop products and brand experiences that exceed their expectations.

We closely monitor consumer feedback about our brands. Since 2010, we've commissioned an annual independent brand equity review that measures equity across numerous dimensions and as an overall composite. 
We learned that Marlboro's overall equity score, which represents the value consumers place on a brand, is 12 points higher than the leading competitive brands.

We complement our consumer insight process with a robust trend system that looks across macro-trends affecting the marketplace​. Collectively through these programs, we gain a deep understanding of our consumers.

Marlboro's overall equity score
is 12 points higher than
the leading competitive brands.
Connecting With Our Consumers
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Connecting With Our Consumers
Marketing activities are intended to connect brands with their adult tobacco and wine consumers by reinforcing the brand identity, positioning and value. Dedicated brand teams and the digital and marketing services teams develop annual plans that use a variety of activities, tools and channels, including a substantial age-verified adult tobacco consumer database, to engage with adult consumers​.

 
We connect with adult consumers in ways designed to limit reach to unintended audiences. For example, our companies use brand websites to communicate with adult tobacco and wine consumers. To gain access, we require visitors to confirm that they are adults and meet the websites' minimum age requirement. Some of Ste. Michelle's wineries sell wine through branded websites. In these instances, those websites use an age-verification process to confirm the consumer is of legal age to purchase. Ste. Michelle also complies with all laws involving the sale and delivery of wine.​

 
If our tobacco companies use print advertising, they limit these ads to newspapers, magazines and other publications that meet the criteria of an "adult publication" under the FDA's proposed definition. Under this standard, an adult publication is one:​

  • whose readers younger than 18 years old make up 15 percent or less of the total readership as measured by competent and reliable survey evidence; and
  • that is read by fewer than two million persons younger than 18 as measured by competent and reliable survey evidence.​

 
Social media has become a ubiquitous part of everyday life for many people and a powerful channel for companies to stay connected to their consumers. We are committed to keeping our consumers at the center of everything we do. As social media continues to shift how people communicate across the world, we will consider the implications for how we responsibly engage with our adult tobacco consumers. As always, we will be guided by our current marketing practices, including taking steps designed to limit reach to unintended audiences.​
​Tobacco Marketing​
Marketing programs vary among our tobacco companies and their brands. 

Examples of our tobacco companies marketing practices include:​

  • connecting with adult tobacco consumers through direct mail and websites
  • supporting product launches in adult-only facilities;
  • working with retailers to merchandise tobacco products responsibly and supporting the We Card® program; and
  • denying requests to use their brands in movies, television, video games and other entertainment media; and advertising only in publications that meet the FDA's criteria.
​Wine Marketing​
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates works with leading industry groups committed to the responsible promotion and sale of wine to adults, including the Washington State Wine Commission, Washington Wine Institute, Wine Institute and Wine America​.

Ste. Michelle also:

  • complies with the Wine Institute's Wine Industry Code for Direct Shipping which addresses direct shipments of wine to adult consumers and compliance with federal and state laws;
  • uses an age-verification process for direct-to-consumer sales on its branded websites;
  • educates its employees about age verification when serving adult consumers; and
  • educates its employees about how to properly present and serve wine at the company's facilities and sponsored events.
Connecting With the Trade
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Connecting With the Trade
​Our tobacco companies sell their products to wholesalers, who in turn, sell to retailers and other wholesalers. Altria Group Distribution Company (AGDC) provides sales and distribution services for our tobacco companies. Wholesalers and retailers, also known as "our trade partners", play critical roles in our product distribution network​.
AGDC works with our trade partners to execute our trade programs, which help them responsibly manage their tobacco category. Our retail trade program is built on effective category management principles and includes features that help prevent underage access to tobacco products. These include training for store clerks on how to check IDs and requirements for retailers to place We Card® or equivalent signage.
 In 2018, the breadth of our sales coverage included 230,000 retail stores, representing 90% of tobacco industry volume​.​
Federal Regulation
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Federal Regulation
Tobacco and wine products are among the most heavily regulated consumer goods in the world. These adult consumer products are subject to extensive federal, state and local licensing, registration and minimum age requirements. These requirements became even more extensive in 2009 when Congress empowered the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate tobacco products​. The FDA has the authority to regulate virtually all aspects of the sale, distribution and marketing of tobacco products. Currently, the FDA regulates cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, "roll-your-own" tobacco and smokeless tobacco products.

On May 10, 2016, the FDA published a Final Rule to extend the Agency’s authority to regulate other tobacco products, including cigars and e-vapor products.​

Today, Altria and its tobacco companies communicate with the agency as it exercises this authority.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act includes a number of restrictions on cigarette and smokeless tobacco sales, marketing and advertising, including:

  • imposing a national minimum age of 18 to purchase;
  • prohibiting the sale of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco in vending machines, self-service displays or other impersonal modes of sales, except in very limited situations;
  • prohibiting sampling of cigarettes;
  • restricting sampling of smokeless tobacco;
  • prohibiting cigarette and smokeless tobacco brand name sponsorships; and
  • prohibiting the sale or distribution of items, such as hats and t-shirts, with cigarette and smokeless tobacco brands or logos.​
Tobacco Settlement Agreements
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Tobacco Settlement Agreements
The Food and Drug Administration began regulating tobacco products against the backdrop of the 1998 Tobacco Settlement Agreements, which fundamentally changed how companies market cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products in the United States. These agreements banned or heavily restricted a wide range of marketing practices.

The nation’s leading cigarette manufacturers, including Philip Morris USA, entered into the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) with the attorneys general of 46 states, five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. Prior to entering into the MSA, PM USA and several other cigarette companies already had reached similar agreements with Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi and Texas. These agreements are collectively referred to as the tobacco settlement agreements.

The U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company is the only smokeless tobacco manufacturer to sign the Smokeless Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement​ with the attorneys general of 45 states.

These agreements fundamentally changed how companies advertise, market and sell tobacco products in the United States. They include a variety of restrictions on the sale and marketing of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, including prohibiting:

  • use of cartoons in advertising, promotion, packaging or labeling of tobacco products;
  • most outdoor advertising, including billboards and stadium ads;
  • most transit ads;
  • paid product placement;
  • certain brand-name sponsorships; and
  • distribution of merchandise with cigarette or smokeless tobacco brand names and logos.
Compliance
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Compliance
​Policies guide how our tobacco companies market their products to adult tobacco consumers. We develop, review and approve consumer advertising materials through a step-by-step compliance review process. This process includes controls to identify business or legal issues before the materials are produced. Our Code of Conduct​ establishes the basic compliance principles for our businesses in several key areas, including marketing responsibly. 

To support this goal, employees must:​

  • create marketing materials and programs that comply with all legal requirements, our Code, policies, practices and commitments;​
  • hold advertising agencies and marketing consultants to these standards;
  • never make misrepresentations about our companies' products, including the health effects of those products;
  • substantiate all claims about our companies' products before making any claims; and
  • never market our companies' products to underage persons.​

Our companies' trade and retail programs include several requirements that help prevent underage access to tobacco products, including teaching store clerks how to check IDs and requiring retailers to place We Card​® or equivalent signs.​