You thought I was going to talk about smoking cigars in the morning didn’t you? Well maybe on my next post. But let me ask you this. Would you buy Wheaties if there was no picture on the box? Probably not. The same way branding drives the cereal industry, cigar manufacturers rely on many of the same techniques to get a cigar from the retailer to your hands.
I was talking to a friend the other day that happens to be the sales representative for a renowned cigar brand and we were discussing the impact cigar marketing has on a consumer while inside a shop’s humidor. Much like the cereal aisle in the grocery store, what we see has just as much and sometimes even more impact on what we purchase than the actual contents of the box.
Shelf Placement and Branding
According to Cornell Food and Brand Lab, strategic placement along with characters on cereal boxes are designed to create eye contact to build brand loyalty with targeted consumers. Similarly, while cigar retailers control what products go where in their stores based on sales and accounts, representatives from the companies are also concerned about the specific and strategic spots they occupy in your brick and mortar. When their product stands out to the consumer or they see it early in the decision-making process, that impression can be the difference between choosing their cigar over a competing brand.
Having worked in retail design, I can tell you that product isn’t just randomly placed on the floor. Everything from the fixtures to the folds of items are planned and laid out in a particular way to create a flow/traffic and to increase sales. When in any retail environment, the items they want to move are either placed up front and in the windows to grab you early or near the registers to catch you in that “wrap up” mode when you’re pulling out your wallet.
Research also shows that people make subconscious judgement about a product within 90 seconds; with 62-90% of that assessment being based on colors alone [Infographic from SociallyStacked.com]. While cigar branding and designs are sometimes rich in tradition and history, the presentation, such as lacquered and uniquely shaped boxes, metallic, colorful or large labels and/or the graphics on the box, their visual appeal naturally draws the consumer in and helps to create certain perceptions about quality, prestige or even characteristics of the cigar.
Just as when dealing with people we cannot judge the quality of the cigar by the cover or the packaging. We often times miss hidden gems and what could possibly be the best cigar we’ve ever had because of how it was presented…or not, or because we simply overlooked it due to its placement.
Quality cigar selection is not something that should not be done hastily. Rushing the process can lead to regret as we by default gravitate toward the more popular or more recognizable brands instead of what may best suit our need and palate. When we take our time, we can truly evaluate and even ask questions of our tobacconists about those gems that may be hidden in the corner of the walk-in or on the very bottom or the very top shelf (because I’m short and can’t always see what’s up there). It’s also imperative that we not discount other brands because they lean toward more simple and conservative packaging; as it may be the simple, non-flashy boxes of cigars that blow your mind.
That holy grail of cigars that you’ve been searching for all of your life could be right underneath your nose in something plain, like that Wheaties box without the picture. It may be overshadowed by that big display or flyer that you see advertised in your favorite cigar magazine…on every 4th page. So take your time when walking down the cereal aisle…I mean, in the humidor, read and study the “ingredients” and try different sticks. Your pocket (keeping in mind that the cost of that shiny packaging is passed on to the consumer, as all $15 cigars aren’t necessarily $15 worth of cigar) and your palette will thank you.