The Changing “FACE” of the Cigar Industry – A David Garofalo Editorial

The Changing “FACE” of the Cigar Industry!
The Faces of the Brands and the ones that could be changing
another Editorial by David Garofalo

We know a small business owner, as is in the cigar industry, must be a jack of all trades and one of the tools they should possess is being the face of their brand. Today even some of the huge corporations and brands have attempted to put faces and personalities to their brands, trying to create a new dimension to their marketing and advertising, but does it work and is the consumer buying it?

At a small business, the owners are the face of your brand. That’s great news, because the “personal brand” is a valuable business tool. Some brands have attached their brand to their name both last name and even first in some cases. Others make a connection to them and their brand in other ways and some others just link because of their life story.

The face of a brand is so important. Do they like your face or do you even have one? In a study about liking, 7 percent is verbal liking (what you and your brand say), 38 percent is vocal liking (i.e., tone of voice, what you sound like) but facial liking totals 55 percent. Fifty-five percent of the reason people like you and your brand is your face, facial liking is significant.

Jorge Padron, President of Padron Cigars is always a big draw at cigar events, the ultimate “cigar-lebrity.” People apparently like his face, they take pictures with him and of him. Jorge Padron’s face is always used in their ads usually with his father Don Jose Padron and sometime with his brother Orlando. Jorge is the name of the spokesman for the company and brand.

Carlos Fuente Jr, also known as Carlito (little Carlos) is and has been the face for Arturo Fuente, now the head of the Arturo Fuente factory after the passing of his father Don Carlos Fuente. Although usually shown in ads with his father, Carlito is and has been the spokesman and face of Arturo Fuente Cigars since the early nineties. He’s got the hat, the mustache and the look apparently.

Nick Perdomo is the face for Perdomo. Nick is a self-made man, and he is the face of all Perdomo branded cigars including their value priced brand Nick’s Sticks. Nick Perdomo and Nicholas the 3rd, his son is right behind and ready. Nick’s face even won him a seat in both Miami Lakes Council and Vice Mayor. Yes, the face matters in politics too, even more so.

All these brands hold the names of their face… so it makes sense, but others don’t and they are still the face for instance…

Litto Gomez is the face of La Flor Dominicana also known as LFD. Litto always shown with his wife and business partner Ines, but some might argue that it is Litto who makes the rounds to the events and is the face of La Flor Dominicana. There is an LG line from LFD standing for Litto Gomez but that is not the reason Litto is the face of LFD.

Pete Johnson of Tatuaje Cigars probably thought long and hard that Peter or Johnson would not work due to the phallic vision of a cigar, but Pete made the connection to himself by incorporating his love affair with tattoos and being known to some as “Tattoo Pete.” Tatuaje, taken from the Spanish word Tattoo, which we all had to learn to pronounce and spell; made the connection and made Pete the face of Tatuaje Cigars.

Rocky Patel was the face of Indian Tabac despite the fact that Phil Zanghi founded and created it, but Rocky hit the road like no other and was the face, later creating RP, later called “Rocky Patel” as he doubled down as the face and possibly the best known face of a brand in the cigar world.

Alan Rubin is the Face of Alec Bradley Cigars. His name is not Alec or Bradley (those are his son’s) but it is Alan who is used as the face of the brand.
The same goes for Glen Case, owner and founder of Kristoff Cigars. That’s not his name, it’s his son’s first name and Glen is the face or his son’s name.

These brands are all FDA approved and powerful brands with a face, that have a strong loyal following and I would guess that this edge will grant them more success in the future as we may be losing faces of brands if or when FDA pulls the plug on some small brand owners and manufacturers.

Recently we saw the passing of Avo Uvezian, known simply as Avo, he was the face of Avo Cigars for Davidoff and now this brand has lost its face. We will soon see if the legend of Avo can keep the brand soaring.

Another loss for Davidoff is Matt Booth from Room 101 who has left the industry for now and possibly forever, he was and is a face for Room 101 whether it be cigars or Jewelry which he originally was and continues to be known for.

Rob Weiss from BG Meyer and the Camacho Board of the Bold seems to be gone. Davidoff doesn’t have a face any longer for Camacho. Now that I think about it, Davidoff might have been the very first face of a brand with Zino Davioff almost 50 years ago. Although Zino Davidoff passed away in 1994 his face is still used today. In this case, the Legend has continued for sure.

Rafael Nodal, with his boutique brand Aging Room is now the face of industry giant Altadis, owners of Romeo y Julieta, Montecristo and many more. Altadis didn’t have a face for any of their brands and needed to apparently, so they decided to buy one.  I agree it’s agood one, but will it connect to the consumer? It will be fascinating to watch the marketing approach and the results.

As for another giant corporation in the cigar industry, General Cigar is another faceless company. Losing Ernesto Carrillo and then Mike Giannini from La Gloria Cubana over the years have left them without any connection to the consumer, but they just got one. Sean Williams, owner of El Primer Mundo Cigar Company has pushed his own brand aside and jumped over to General Cigar to be the face of Cohiba cigars. Will it work?  We will soon see.

After some rough sales of late, Swisher International brought back one of the faces of Drew Estate, Jonathan Drew, and they now call him The President. Is he really in that position or is it just the face?

There are lots of small companies who have a face for their brands, most without FDA predicate dates. Assuming FDA control goes exactly as written, these brands and companies would be forced to close. These are great brands, cigars and faces what could be used by other brands. Hoping we will never see that day come, let’s just look as some of the possibilities and match faces with brands that might just work. Who are the characters, the faces in this industry and who can become a face of a brand or company?

Robert Caldwell, who has attached the name “King” to his brands is a character to say the least… maybe a face for Robert Caldwell might be the face of The Griffins brand for Davidoff – this is an old brand that could use a face lift and this guy might be the perfect face to turn a legendary creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion into a real person.

Phil Zanghi is the face of Debonaire and Indian Motorcycle. Both work perfectly as is but with FDA possibly ruining it where would Phil Zanghi fit in and possibly be a face for? How about with General Cigar and for Punch Cigars? Phil is an avid boxing fan and runs a Boxing club in the Dominican Republic. General has used a cartoon of Mr. Punch that I feel has never connected with the consumer and taking it to its natural connection to a male dominated sport and strong connection could be successful and Phil is just the guy to pull it off.

Leaf by Oscar has Island Jim (Jim Robinson), definitely a character and a face for something, and a brand that unfortunately doesn’t make the predicate date of FDA, but finding the right spot for this face might be a tough one to imagine, but it just might work. Island Jim goes to Rocky Patel and the Edge brand. Edge could get a face lift to say the least with a character that is not “in the family” separating it from all the rest. The cigars could be wrapped leaf and bring even more attention to the old brand. Think about it.

Omar de Frias – owner and founder of Fratello Cigars is a gentle giant with a big personality. He is all-in within the cigar industry but too new for FDA approval if things go horribly wrong. He must be used by someone because his face can sell. Christian Eiroa has taken distribution of Puros Indios cigars, everyone knows him, and he’s a face but not for Puros Indios. I think it might be Omar. Puros Indios was the leader in big cigars including “The Chief” and Omar could be the Chief of Puros Indios… huh… it might be a good match.

Steve Saka from Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust with Somermasa and Mi Querida… who can he be a face for? Frankly this is a long shot but what about (Cuban Cigars) Habanos? He’s not Cuban, doesn’t have the look, I don’t know if he’s ever even been there but when, and if Cuban cigars come the U.S., there will need to be some serious education to the consumer and Steve is just the guy to hit the road and carry the torch. I can actually see this happening. They will need an ambassador and an American might be a better move to spread the word.

Nicholas Melillo for Foundation Cigar Company, with El Gueguense, Charter Oak, Tabernacle and The Outsiders… all too new for our enemies at the FDA, so where can he go? Fact is that Nick, although known as a face for his own brands was never really a face for Drew Estates. Nick is a Tobacco man and a factory guy. Nick Mellilo could become a face for A.J. Fernandez brands.  A.J. just doesn’t get around enough and has language issues. Nick can speak for him and is fluent in A.J’s languages (both tobacco and Spanish).

Have you ever said, “I know the face; I just can’t remember the name…” It’s a fact, the face, helps people remember the brand. Who are the faces of the brands you like and does the face have anything to do with what you like or don’t?

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