The e-cigarette website Spinfuel reports that Johnson Creek Smoke Juice plans to close its affiliate program on Wednesday of next week. Although I’m not aware of any website that depends extensively on the Johnson Creek affiliate program for its survival, it does come as a bit of a shock that the affiliate program is closing so suddenly and without much notice — especially given the fact that it has been in operation for more than two years.
Affiliate programs start up and shut down every day. The closure of the Johnson Creek affiliate program wouldn’t really be news if not for the fact that Johnson Creek is the e-liquid supplier for Blu Cigs, the e-cigarette company that was just purchased by Big Tobacco company Lorillard.
Not long ago, I published an article on my website about what I believe e-cigarette companies must do to compete with Big Tobacco. First on the list was product differentiation — offer something no one else can. This is just as important for Blu Cigs as it is for the smaller e-cigarette companies. Aside from the “social” charging case, Blu doesn’t sell anything you can’t get elsewhere because the same e-liquid flavors are available from Johnson Creek — who also sells an e-cigarette of their own.
So, what to do? If I were Lorillard, the first thing I’d think about doing is developing e-liquid flavors that can’t be purchased somewhere else. Although developing your own flavors in-house is one way of doing this, Johnson Creek already has the experience and facilities necessary. That’s why I predict you will soon be seeing an announcement that Lorillard has acquired Johnson Creek Smoke Juice. Shortly after, Johnson Creek flavors will only be available from Blu — and perhaps, that’s when we’ll finally start to see e-liquids released with famous brand names such as Newport and Kent.
In the short term, closing Johnson Creek’s affiliate program will do nothing to decrease sales volume. It will, however, add an extra 15 percent to the company’s bottom line, making it more profitable so it can demand a higher price from Lorillard.