Ask The Readers: Is the Persona Really Necessary?

Stogie Talk27 Comments on Ask The Readers: Is the Persona Really Necessary?

Ask The Readers: Is the Persona Really Necessary?

Recently we received an email from a Stogie Review reader by the name Patrick. He wanted to get our opinion on a topic that I thought was rather interesting. So interesting, I thought that simply answering the email would be missing out on an opportunity to start up a interesting discussion with the rest of our readers.

Patrick Wrote:

With all of these new cigar makers making it big lately and the pressure to secure a customer base being as seemingly cut throat as it is, do you think it is necessary to try and sell the persona or lifestyepreffered for cigar smokers? I’ve noticed with brands such as Sam Leccia, Tatuaje, Room 101, and others there almost seems to be an equal emphasis on lifestyle as there is cigars.

With all criticism magazines such as C.A. get for promoting high-end, snobby lifestyles don’t you think that these companies are doing the same thing with the counter culture, extreme living angle?

Normally, I throw in my two cents, but this time I’m not sure where I fall on the topic. Patrick makes an excellent point in that many cigar smokers criticize magazines like Cigar Aficionado, and manufacturers such as Davidoff, for promoting the jet-setter luxury lifestyle, but we seem just fine with other forms of lifestyle marketing.

Based on the comments we’ve received over the years, a good portion of the the Stogie Review readership appears to be made up of substance-over-style smokers. Do we, as a result, have the tendency to embrace the fun and edgy marketing strategies over those that market towards the lavish high-roller lifestyle?

enjoying cigars since 2005

27 thoughts on “Ask The Readers: Is the Persona Really Necessary?

  1. It is a basic business strategy. It’s great to see companies going for different demographics. The only thing, however, is that it can cause some in-fighting in the industry. As seen with the Altadis USA v. Tatuaje suit: they saw a large chunk of their customer base shift to a younger and “hipper” company in Tatuaje. I don’t think that was the only reason, but it’s definitely part of it.

    Sam Leccia brought his own style and some new ideas to what was happening and they took a risk and ity paid off, with Nub and now Cain. They also put a different type of emphasis on strength and power of a cigar without taking away from the purity of blending and such.

    Camacho also saw an opportunity to get some new clientele and saw what was working and came up with Room 101 and the whole conspiracy theory stuff. And because Tatuaje had so many followers, it seemed that it was just a blatant rip-off of what some smaller companies were doing.

    Now we have companies that at least in advertising and word of mouth appeal to every major and minor demographic out there. From old school purists to younger punk type consumers, looking for something out of the ordinary.

    That being said, there is so much crossover that the smoker’s are who profits most by having more and different options. As for the lifestyle thing, cigar smoking has always been about, in one way or another, appearances and lifestyles.

    Now there are just more options.

    For me, and many others, none of that matters. I, and we, want cigars we like, forget about the lifestyle crap.

    I just think it is appealing to poke fun at Cigar Aficionado because they have branded the Be all to End all of cigars.

    oh well.

    just rambling.

    1. And good rambling it was.

      I dont mind it. Lord knows its nothing new. Liquor/Beer industry has been doing it for years.

      So…is that why we have so much animosity towards Room 101 cigars? Its perceived as a rip off at Petes style/angle?

  2. I agree that they do bring a lifestyle. However, what’s different with most guys like that (especially Dion after talking to him for a while) is that they are more concerned with the craft and the people than the brand. They want to succeed, but they don’t want to sell out to a particular lifestyle (i.e. they don’t bow down to those bringing the big paychecks). That’s what I think anyway (and anything/all schedel said).

  3. I agree with Schedel’s first line: It is strictly a business strategy. For many, a cigar is simply a symbol of status, and as such, in order to follow suit with the pack of that group, they will light up a stogie, or just chew it. As long as they have the look and can viewed as being in that particular pack, they will spend the money for it. Taking into account that the fastest growing demographic section in cigar smoking are the younger 20-30 year old males, many of these will tend to just follow suit with whatever they can use as a “push” to keep them up to par (even if they cannot distinguish between a maduro and a connecticut leaf). As such, if they know the prestige of a certain place or personality, they will buy that specific product.

    Case in point, I recently had dinner with a small group of business colleagues, in a place where unfortunately no smoking was allowed. During our conversation, we started talking about cigars. I was mentioning a particular brand which can only be found in Puerto Rico. We talked about many brands and how they compared in flavor and overall change in taste with aging, prices, etc. One particular gentleman (who was visiting from the California region) mentioned that he only smoked cigars from Room 101. I was curious, as I’ve seen it hit the market recently but haven’t had the opportunity to try one. His answer was “I only smoke these, I have for the past 2 years.” I was a little confused, as it has only been out for a few months. But, I indulged in his feedback, which lead eventually to a key comment: “If you smoke anything else, you can’t be possibly have good taste in cigars.”

    Maybe it was a matter of opinion, and considering that some younger people are ready to follow suit if it brings them some “status” benefit in that aspect. But, at the end of the day, cigar companies are in the industry for one reason – to make a profit. As such, they’ll use whatever tool or strategy to market their product and put it on the map. Only a rare few do it for the love of it and are successful – quality speaks for itself.

    Having said this – the best cigar I’ve ever had was rolled by the grandfather of a good friend of mine, in the the Dominican Republic. It was rolled on a small wood table in his front porch, right outside of “El Cibao” . It had no band, fresh long leaf straight out of the bunch and it was given to me – free. Even “The most interesting man in the world” will never have the chance to smoke a cigar like that. 🙂

  4. A good cigar is gonna sell regardless of whatever lifestyle it is attributed to. It may attract people who normally would not either a) smoke a cigar or b) smoke that particular brand, so I am all for it either way. A brother or sister of the leaf is one regardless of the brand they smoke.
    I think anyone who looks down upon others because they smoke a brand that has a certain “persona” or marketing attributed to it is missing out on the point that it doesn’t matter what you smoke when it comes to cigars.
    I think it is great that some of the smaller boutique cigars have grown their business by using a certain persona to attract cigar smokers. But, the bottom line is that if the cigars sucked, they wouldn’t remain successful for very long. The persona may be the initial attraction, but the quality of the cigar is what will make them successful.
    One thing that I have found of some of the brands that do have a certain persona or lifestyle attributed to them is that the guys behind the brand are very accessible and more than willing to engage with the everyday smoker. Pete Johnson, Sam Leccia, Dion Giolito and Matt Booth are examples of this. All have been accessible to me when I had questions and I appreciate it. I can’t say that about some of the bigger brands out there. Also, for me, I can relate better to those guys than I can some of the higher-end companies, but that is just me.
    With all that being said, I don’t smoke cigars to show off, I smoke them because I enjoy them and I really don’t give a damn how they are marketed. A good cigar makes the brand, not the other way around.

  5. I believe what most new cigar makers and some old are doing is a good job of marketing to a wider customer base. Basically what I swee in most new cigar companies is not so much of the Jet-setting crowd being targeted but the Average Joe like me and most of the cigar smokers I know. Another good thing is that all the B&M’s I go to are doing the same, most are remodeling away from that dark room with the leather couch type of a smoking lounge and making things more modern and friendly. I feel that cigar smoking and the veiw of it for most is getting away from that “Fat Cat” persona and is more mainstream. In the past year alone I have seen more and more everyday guys/gals going to the events I go to at my local B&M’s andI believe it is mostly because of the newer hip marketing that most of the manufacturers are doing now.

  6. I think the lifestyle marketing looks good on paper, but in real life, if the cigar is good people will buy it, if you have a piece of shit, it will fail. I dont care how they market it at all, I just care if the marketing side is making the product more expensive than it should be! It would be very interesting for a cigar company to release a cigar wiht all of the marketing hype, then release another cigar of equal quality at a lower price and just send samples out to bloggers and maybe show attendees. If the cigar is the same caliber, it should sell the same or better.

    Example for everyone – Rocky Patel Cameroon Especial – I think this is one of THE best cost/cigar combos out there, yet there is no marketing push behind it, just word of mouth (as far as I know).

    Marketing has its place but when it starts to impact the price of a product too much, it is time to settle down and let the cigar speak for itself. Example (yes I am full of them) – Room101 Cigars. I think these cigars would be a super seller in the $5-$6 range. I do not think the 808 is worth almost $10 a stick even though I absolutely enjoy smoking it!

    Mike

    I still have not had a Davidoff, even though someone on twitter got my address ;), but I am still in the class that they just have too much marketing and high-end hye and that is what drives the price up. Davidoff should release a same class cigar with no marketing but for word of mouth and see how it does at a LOW price point. Quantity might make up for the loss in profit.

  7. I only smoke cigars because they make me cooler, better-looking, taller, more popular, and more sexually potent.

    If that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right.

  8. I definitely think there are a lot of cigars out there that are heavily marketing to the “rock & roll” lifestyle or image. This seemed to explode in 2008-2009 with themed releases & commissioned motorcycles.
    I hope that the theme of 2010 is cigars.

  9. I agree with a lot of what has been posted already but marketing is marketing, good or bad and it will always be that way. I think it may grab the attention of some people at first but that‘s it. In the long run, the bottom line is, if a cigar is good it will sell itself. If it is crap, it will die off no matter how flashy or how much of an upscale lifestyle they try to portray.

  10. This is a great post. I find myself thinking like Patrick. I think their success is 2 fold. First you have to have a good cigar, which all of the brands that were mentioned are. The marketing behind the brands have also been successful. It seems like they chose their demographic, targeted their marketing to it, and the demographic accepted it. Definitely easier said than done…

  11. It would be stupid for companies not to try and market to a younger crowd. Companies like the ones mentioned have done so effectively, and are reaping the benefits.
    Marketing is a necessity… it doesn’t matter how good a cigar is… If no one knows about it, and no one is tempted to try it… its going to fail… plain and simple. The opposite is also true… there are cigars that have tremendous marketing behind them, and super hype, both in print and on the internet, but the product isn’t anywhere near worthy of the hype (I won’t mention any names, but my fellow southerners know which label I’m referring to).

    Do we follow trends… of course… don’t lie to yourself and others and say you don’t… Unless you are an absolute purist, that picks up a brand new cigar every time you walk into a B&M without any inquiry about the brand, or having heard nothing about it…
    At some point we all are affected by the marketing, whether a conscious decision to try and obtain a “lifestyle”, or by reading a review on Stogie Review! It all points back to the marketing.

  12. The backlash against CA may well be one rooted in envy. I know that I have to guard against my natural inclination to hold in contempt that which I am unable or unlikely to attain myself.

    Renting a private jet to Hawaii so I can wear a $12,000 watch while playing golf and chain-smoking Davidoff cigars is probably not in my future. Therefore, instead of reading CA and enjoying it even vicariously, I scoff.

    On the other hand, listening to loud music while getting myself inked up by a truly gifted counter-culture artist is certainly within my daily sphere of ability.

    Just something to think about.

  13. I am one that thinks that all the marketing is a little much. Id rather see less marketing and cheaper prices. But on the other hand without the marketing and of course SR how would you know about new smokes coming out. I do have my issues with some of the companies strategies but if they get me to try a smoke and I like it and want to purchase again, then job well done.

    Side Note on CA
    I live in NYC and I frequent Cigar Inn there lounge is sponsored by CA and let me tell you its a great place to smoke. Say what you want about there bullshit life style sections of the magazine. They really put there money were there mouth is and helped build one of the best smoking lounges I have ever been to.
    My 2 cents

  14. I just hate the whole selling of a lifestyle aspect of this particular style of marketing. I find it no less snobby than CA. I feel it is the yang to CA’s yin except instead of a rich snobbishness this new angle seems to be the counter-culture style/ high intellect snobbery. Yes, high intellect. They sell this new angle as seeing through the b.s. and just smoking the best, their stuff. While it makes sense to take up this angle of merchandising, it just irratates me because I believe that both this angle and CA’s both miss the mark. Granted my demographic is not as sexy (30’s, white, metro-area, married with kids), but I bet there are a lot more of me than there are of rich guys, or tatted up counter cultured elitists. I am not saying that i have a problem with the afore mentioned crowds. I am saying that I like most dont want to be lumped in with them. I just like to smoke cigars..

  15. Personally I don’t care who owns the brand, who promotes the brand, who created the brand, who blended the brand. The only important thing to me is that when I smoke it, I like it.

    From my own small portion of this world, I wouldn’t care if Ernesto Padilla drove a pink VW Bug or Pete Johnson found himself to wear nothing but clown suits (although I’d pay to see Pete do it ;)) .. I’ll still enjoy their cigars. I don’t care about numbers associated to smokes in the same manner that I don’t care how the owner lives his life. It’s his life to live, just keep making the smokes good.

  16. Personality can help in marketing, but is not important in an overall purchasing decision.

    2 examples

    1.) Don Pepin. Pepin barely speaks any english at all, yet he is considered by many to be the premier cigar maker in the world today. He is in tremendous demand and his cigars are flying off shelves.

    2.) Cohiba. Do you know who represents Cohiba? Do they even have a marketing strategy? No face, no marketing, no persona, yet worldwide recognition and demand.

  17. Living vicariously through some of these guys is fun – sort of the like the Dox Equis guy.

    But frankly, I think the whole, tattooed, biker, hardcore rock n’ roll thing is a bit overplayed. I’ll bet a crapload of us are middle aged guys with wives and kids and normal boring jobs.

    I think we’re more likely to relate to Bob McDuffee, Dale Roush and David Diaz than Zino Davidoff or Sam Leccia. We’re probably more akin to the hard-working, decent cuban families who started some of these brands than the jet-setting snobs or hardcore biker dudes we see as the face of the brands today.

    But, I’m in advertising and marketing myself, so, “go for it!” Just don’t forget that taste and price are still the two most important considerations.

  18. A lot of “lifestyle” marketing turns me off; jet-setter or biker, it doesn’t matter. If they seem to be pushing an image, I automatically assume the cigar sucks. Why else would they push image over substance? Sure, I’m often wrong, but that’s my gut reaction-first impression. Good cigars sell themselves.

  19. ditto with mike-knightrid if its a pos no ammount of marketing will help it unless it’s the casual smoker or the wife buying cigars for the husband WITHOUT asking him.

  20. I find the lifestyle marketing to be a turnoff. I love a good smoke, but there are so many out there I’m not going to purchase ones that market that way. Though I wouldn’t call Illusione, Cruzado, or Tatuaje lifestyle cigars. Dion and Pete Johnson are both passionate about making great tasting cigars, I don’t find their advertising to be over the top, what little of it there is. The problem I have with the Room 101 is that they are constantly pushing the lifestyle aspect of it. I love Camachos, have many many boxes of them, but won’t purchase any of the 101s just because of they way they are marketed. Plus the addition of the Dominican tobacco. 😀

  21. I also find lifestyle marketing ridiculous. I’ll probably never buy a boutique cigar because I hate the marketing. Just give me a god damn cigar that is good that doesn’t cost me $10+.

    I’m a mellow guy, and I don’t need stupid boutique/lifestyle brands to get up in my face about what they think I’ll enjoy because they have so much energy and “passion” for their brand.

    1. There are many non-boutique cigars that cost $10+ and are subpar .. (ie: Cohiba, Montecristo, etc).

      Not smoking something because of the way it’s advertised is a good way never try other good products.

  22. Tatuaje is now the Abercrombie & Fitch of the cigar industry. I don’t see many of the old guys smoking them, but all that young guys are. Also, you can pick up a Tatuaje scarf for yourself after you buy your gf those Tatuaje underwear they offer and the Tat mesh trucker hat you always wanted. If someone like RP did something like make a scarf, girls underwear, and mesh hats most of you guys would rip him to shreds, but because it is Pete Johnson you don’t.

    Marketing is how you sell. Think about all the money A&F make selling a Tshirt for $25 just because it is cool. Tat stuff is good, but you can get other great stuff too for under $10, it just doesn’t have a fluer on it. I don’t think he marks up prices though like A&F, but he is marketing to the younger cigar smoking demographic.

    Seems that the cool thing now is having that tough guy look. You know, scruff, tattoo’s, kinda rebellious, where as the old cigar companies are more geared toward class and sophistication.

  23. A cigar is just a cigar, unless you put a fancy band on it and pay a model to smoke it, then it’s a lifestyle…..

  24. Its funny, but I don’t read CA, I pay little attention to what the people who are pushing the cigars look like. Lately, most of my purchases have been influenced by what the twitter crowd is talking about.

    If someone mentions a stick that sounds interesting in the price range I shop in, I’ll pick one up. I’m caring less about “lifestyle” and more about the flavor….

  25. I think cigar smoking is a luxury in life. If they’re selling a product that promotes the high life and sophistication they know they’re going to sell more cigars. But I don’t fly a jet or even drive a Benz and I love premium cigars. So the high life persona isn’t necessary but I believe it does sell more cigars.

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