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Discussion Contest: If You Could Start a Brand, What Would You Do Differently?

Discussion Contest: If You Could Start a Brand, What Would You Do Differently?

Happy Wednesday, folks! 

With the recent Facebook post by Jas Sum Kral saying that they’re expanding Tabacalera Aragon and open to private labels, it has me wondering: 

If you had the chance to start a cigar brand, what would you do differently? 

I think this is a question that most cigar enthusiasts have bounced around in their heads from time to time - and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t something that was on my mind frequently. After a great cigar, it’s hard not to wonder if you could carve out a path in an industry that provides your favorite past time. 

And didn’t someone say, “give a man a job he loves, and he’ll never work again”?

One thing I’ve always wanted to see is more exploration samplers by my favorite brands. It doesn’t have to be a whole blending kit with each tobacco offered as puritos, but something as simple as a 3-pk with an unfinished foot, a closed foot, and a shaggy foot.

And there are a few other things that I prefer in the industry, and wish were more common as a whole: 

  •       Magnetic box lids
  •       Numbered boxes
  •       Rolled Date stamps on cigar bands (or date boxed stamps)
  •       10-ct boxes
  •       QR Codes that explain your brand, blend, and vision to anyone with a smartphone

Of course, there’s a reason these are not commonplace! If I were footing the bill for each of these niceties, would I still prefer them? I’m not sure… 

But I’m probably thinking small thoughts! If you had a crack at launching your own brand, what would you want to do differently? Or, if not different, what would you want to take advantage of that’s already happening in the industry?  

DISCUSSION CONTEST DETAILS

One of the comments below will win a $25 gift card.  The gift card will automatically be sent to the email address that you login to comment with, so please use your regular sign-in.   

I’ll be randomly selecting a comment below this Sunday after sending out the Weekly Newsletter. The winner can expect a comment with his or her name in it, a congratulations email, and an email with the $25 gift card information.  The actual gift card email takes some time to generate from the system and may lag behind by up to 48 hours. 

Only available to U.S. customers. (Sorry!)

Leave your comment
Comments
3/31/2021 1:04 PM
I would:
1) Put out more 10-count boxes
2) Brand a "rolled on" date onto each box (or print onto bands)
3) Price and market for the average guy
3/31/2021 2:56 PM
If I had my own cigar brand:

1. I would overshare ala Steve Saka on the exact kind of tobacco used in my cigars.
2. Sell my cigars in bundles instead of boxes and pass the savings to my customers.
3. Include a Boveda packet in each bundle.
3/31/2021 5:07 PM
1. Numbered boxes with QR codes like you mentioned.
2. I like the idea of doing more experimental blends and vitolas. Kinda like Muestra De Saka, or Romacraft Craft series. Just to mix things up and see what we could come up with.
3. I really want to try a CT shade wrapper with a CT broadleaf binder. Kinda like a reverse Big Payback Maduro. I think it could possibly appeal to a lot of smokers who don’t normally smoke Connecticuts.
4/1/2021 7:45 AM
First of all I would make a commitment to not follow the crowd! Just because another brand finds success with a certain blend or vitola doesn't mean you have to try and follow suit, i.e. the explosion we've had with San Andreas wrapper blends in recent years. Among other things I would do include:

1). Save limited editions and anniversary blends for actual milestones. If you want to come out with a new blend then just do it, don't try to pigeon hole into some insignificant corporate marker.
2). Also, just because something is limited edition shouldn't mean it also has to be limited quantity. Not only are you not able to get your product in the hands of more consumers and thereby grow your brand/following, you're unnecessarily incentivizing some retailers to mark these up way beyond MSRP.  
3). No more crazy ring gauge sizes. Personally, I don't prefer anything greater than a 56, but this has really started to get out of hand recently. I'm sorry guys, but unless you're a cartoon character you don't need to smoke an 80-ring gauge cigar.
4). Provide full transparency in the blend for customers. I've been smoking for well over a decade. I know what I like and I know what I don't like, so trying to be cute or  mysterious by not disclosing what your blend contains or where it is from is turn off.
5). Offer new packaging options. I agree that the 10 ct. box is probably the happy medium for this as it gives you a significant quantity without breaking the bank. I've noticed some manufacturers are already starting to experiment with 5 ct. bundles, so that may be an option as well.  
6). A commitment to quality control. This should be true of any cigar coming out of the factory but especially anything in the "ultra-premium" class. A tight draw or frequent relights on something I'm paying $15-$30 or more to smoke is unacceptable.
7). Last but not least, and this is probably most concerning, make sure this is a hobby that remains affordable for everyone. Maybe it's just my imagination but prices seem to be trending higher and higher as of late. Some of that is out of the manufacturer's control - taxes, supply and demand, etc. - but some of it certainly is. It is never a good time to price your everyday customers out of the market, but given the legislative and regulatory hurdles  that tobacco faces, this is even more paramount today.
4/1/2021 3:15 PM
I second the following suggestions already made:
- 10-count boxes and/or more use of high-quality bundles
- Focus on the nexus of quality & affordability
- High amount of consumer info - what's all in the blend, maybe even down to which farm(s) it came from,  QR coded & numbered boxes
- Every year is not an anniversary

I'd also do the following:
- I really like annual releases for a holiday (ex: Filthy Hooligan). I would have 2-3 of those.
- Have the roller's name on the box or band somewhere to recognize their craft (ex: 300 Hands line).
- No alt wrappers to a good blend and no Churchill + Toro + Robusto in EVERY freakin' line. I would pick the best 2-3 sizes and the best blend and just make that.
- Related, more of my favorite sizes (coronas / petits / lonsdales), assuming they were the best size(s) for the blend.
4/2/2021 7:01 PM
I would concur that more transparency like QR labels and printed dates would help. More brand samplers, smaller box sizes and utilizing tobacco from unknown regions.
4/2/2021 8:14 PM
I would produce limited run,  multi-regional blends that utilize select leaf from well aged bales.  No brand lines, just a stable of custom sticks released annually.
4/4/2021 8:03 AM
Congrats to Alex! Great ideas ladies and gents

Looking forward to seeing what you have to say next week :D
4/9/2021 12:35 PM
1: Every blend I offered would be available in lancero.
2: All caps would be single and able to peel off vs cutting/punching.