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Tobacconist University
Tobacco College

Tobacco College: The Marketing of Cigars

 
BANDS & LABELS: TODAY

Walk-In HumidorAround 1900, 7 out of 10 men smoked cigars. Today, the number of cigar smokers is closer to 7 out of 100: the times have changed. Cigar marketing has adapted over the years to a shrinking marketplace. Nevertheless, product differentiation is as important [or more] today as it was 100 years ago.

At face value, cigars, if not all luxury tobacco, look like commodities. Just because a cigar or pipe tobacco looks appealing does not mean it will taste great. Additionally, just because a cigar has a beautiful band does not mean it is a luxury product. But, it is nearly impossible to not be biased by a pleasing band or cigar wrapper. For this reason even mediocre cigar makers invest in attractive packaging, bands, and labels.

Obviously cigar bands, labels, and packaging are important: they set the tone for our expectations and make the brands identifiable and memorable. As we have learned, due to the unique nature of cigars, this industry has pioneered brand identity and marketing on many levels. While traditional techniques such as bands and labels are still widely used, contemporary cigar marketers face even more challenges when distinguishing their products in the marketplace. Today, amazing tubes, unique boxes, cedar sleeves, ribbons, authenticity seals, and beautiful trimmings are all employed in an effort to differentiate and position products. Cigar marketing/packaging continues to inspire and romance the public; so much so that any Tobacconist can tell you about countless “anti-tobacco/smoke” people who wander into our stores looking for boxes or simply to marvel at the beautifully ornamented products. So, cigar marketing is important to consumers and the public in general, but it will never compensate for lack of substance and quality in the products they serve.

During the 1990s boutique cigar makers throughout the world were creating exquisite new seed varietals, blends, and sizes which have changed the cigar landscape forever: the Fuentes created their Opus X, the Padrón family created the Anniversary (Box Press) and serie 1926, La Flor Dominicana pioneered the "chisel" shape (among others), the La Aurora Preferido Perfecto series revolutionized nostalgia, and many other cigar makers released vintage cigars which embodied the best characteristics of a particular year or crop. With these evolutions in products came commensurate improvements and embellishments in packaging which have affected the entire industry. It is possible that more new quality shapes and blends were created between 1995 and 2005 than in the preceding 100 years. Packaging for this new generation of products has been evolving at an equally extraordinary pace in an attempt to make the products appear as extraordinary as they truly are. Both the quality and creativity of the cigar industry seems to be completely unleashed today, despite the legislative and social challenges we are facing.

Inspiration and innovation in the cigar world continues to be steeped in the traditions that evolved from Cuba. Yet today, Cuba is learning lessons from the rest of the world. Thanks to generations of Cuban cigar makers and centuries of valuable traditions, the breadth and depth of premium cigars is expanding faster than ever. The marketing of cigars has evolved beyond bands, labels, boxes, ribbons, and tissue paper. But, as always, the challenge to every cigar maker is to create a product which distinguishes itself substantively [and not just aesthetically or because of packaging]. Fortunately for lovers of premium leaf, this paradigm should yield many years of epicurean delight and discovery.






Certified R&D Tobacconists: United States

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Gabriel Fink, CRTCigar Cigars
New Hope, PA - United States
(215) 862-1122
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Shawn Rienert, CRTTwins Smoke Shop
Londonderry, NH - United States
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Walter Gorski, CRTGeorgetown Tobacco
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