Marketing the Messiah of Smoking


When you’ve been in business since the kinetoscope was tech’s next big thing, you’re doing something right. Zig-Zag has done that. But make no mistake: Brands don’t make it 130 years by delivering more of the same.

They have to evolve.

That doesn’t happen overnight, but you don’t have to put in 100 years of hard work, either. Zig-Zag came to OOHology to handle some of the heavy lifting. And together we’ve worked through one of the biggest product launches in the brand’s history.

Burnt Edge
Cigarette Papers | Zig Zag

The Problem

Creating a Cultural Phenomenon

The mere fact that some of you read “Zig-Zag” and thought of cigars, some thought of a Dr. Dre album cover, and some thought of Zig-Zag’s vaporizers is proof of the brand’s century-long transformation. Their personas are some of the more interesting we’ve worked with, ranging from older blue collar dudes who have used the papers their whole adult lives, to young urban adults who love the brand’s flavorful cigar wraps (a product where they have an astounding 80 percent market share).

The wide range of fanatics (and we mean fanatics—these people get tattoos with the Zig-Zag logo) is a true testament to Zig-Zag’s commitment to staying relevant. The brand could have settled with being a cigarette paper company, but it didn’t. It moved into cigars, cigar wraps, cigarillos, pipe and cigarette tobacco, and the list goes on. Now that the industry is going digital, Zig-Zag has released a series of vaporizers.

And that’s why we love working with this brand—they get it. They understand that “cigarette papers” at face value are a commodity. But to be an industry leader in all-things smoking is priceless.

Zig Zag Brand Book
Colors - Zig Zag Brand Guidelines
Guitar - Zig Zag Brand Guidelines
Logos - Zig Zag Brand Guidelines
Typography - Zig Zag Brand Guidelines

Feeling the Burn

A Desire to Grow

With Zig-Zag’s brand equity and market share, they could have gone to a lot of marketing firms and seen various levels of success. They came to OOHology for our branding and web knowledge, and because they wanted something fresh. The company had extensive brand guidelines for packaging, but lacked any guides for marketing (traditional or digital). They also wanted a partner who could work with them to push the boundaries, while also staying within the strict legal guidelines for tobacco.

While Zig-Zag has a huge footprint, their team is small and has to be efficient with their most important resource — human capital. They wanted a partner who could help them with anything — video, social marketing, web design, photography, 3D work, and the list goes on.

Turning Up The Heat

We’ve been lucky to be a part of this evolution over the past three years, which is actually pretty fractional when you look at the company’s history. We consider ourselves partners with Zig-Zag, and fully committed to its success. That’s held true for all of the branding, web development, video and marketing efforts.

Before we could dive into the website, we did some lightweight branding work to secure the brand’s guidelines (typefaces, colors, and even an official texture that replicated the brand’s iconic cigarette papers). From there we built an incredibly sophisticated website. The site seems simple and straightforward, but we always say that’s a result of good user experience. This build had a heavy task ahead: Create an age-gated website that was flexible, allowing new products to be added or removed, and also be able to offer some products for sale on the site, but tobacco products (which cannot be sold online) were redirected to an ever-updated system that can help you find your favorite Zig-Zag smokes.

That fancy fully-responsive website came in handy when Zig-Zag launched its first all-encompassing vaporizer into the market. Our team created a digital campaign that pointed users back to the site, where they could buy the new device. This, too, was tricky: The legal landscape is significantly different for Zig-Zag than its competitors, because unlike most vaporizer companies, Zig-Zag also sells tobacco. Our team navigated the legal landscape to secure vendors that not only allowed this type of advertising, they were built for it.

Zig When Others Zag

We recently wrapped (pun fully intended) a project for the company that will continue evolving the image of the brand. In two separate commercials, we tell the story of a younger hero who wants to live life his own way. Despite having spent a considerable amount of time living in mom and dad’s basement, Millennials are increasingly becoming the most independent and adventurous generation. They don’t care about societal norms, other generations’ expectations or brands that are fake.

Being the current cultural rockstar it is, it’s clear that Zig-Zag has already achieved a stamp of authenticity with Millennials. OOHology was tasked with creating two spots to help solidify Zig-Zag’s status with this generation. We’re proud to have helped shepherd the brand into yet another generation of brand evangelists.

And don’t worry. You don’t have to watch them on a kinetoscope.

The Numbers

Who's up for a victory cigar?

  • 37%

  • 34%

  • 34%