Once more, the past edition of FIHAV 2018 – Havana International Fair – represented a vital space for national and foreign investors and executives.
Habanos SA was one of the most visited stands in Expocuba´s main pavilion due to its design and variety of products exhibited, as well as the presence of a cigar roller sharing the secrets of the trade in real time with visitors. In the same line, we spoke to Alex Fernández Blanco, Marketing Vicepresident.
Can you assess the meaning of Habanos´ presence in an event like this as a company brand?
AF. Habanos SA takes pride in attending the Havana International Fair. We are a product with Protected Designation of Origin, a product with a unique tradition and exclusive of Cuba, admired worldwide and as such in international fairs like this, it is an opportunity to present our products to all visiting aficionados.
How has Habanos´ target profile changed? What are the implemented brand strategies in order to adapt to new times?
AF. As I mentioned aficionados to the Habano are lovers of a product with a unique tradition, so we cannot see a drastic profile variation but a subtle evolution like other Habanos SA products. As a strategy, we adapt leading new market trends, indicating as a clear example how, due to the many restrictions we face in many markets, there is reduction of the time an Habano aficionado dedicates to smoke a cigar. We have to satisfy also this trend enriching at the same our portfolio and that is why we have today all types of vitolas to enjoy a good Habano at any time of day.
What strategies are in place to encourage the consumer?
AF. Habano is a luxury product with a history of more than two centuries, the best selling argument is precisely its own tradition and the unique experience a product with Protected Designation of Origin offers. Cuban cigars are singular worldwide and Premium cigar aficionados know it. At Habanos SA we have a sizeable portfolio of brands and products: an Habano for each taste, smoking moment and price positioning. Our portfolio includes at present 27 Habanos´ brands “totally handmade with long fillers”; in more than 100 different formats – “vitolas de galera” or “factory sizes”), almost 200 commercial references and some 400 different products, 300 of which are permanent products of our standard portfolio.
Is the marketing specialist role more relevant in the companies in terms of promotion as well as communication and marketing?
AF. In a company, the role of the marketing team and not only the specialist is always relevant, not solely in terms of communication, which is very important but mainly as marketing support. The marketing team is in charge of product development, going from the conceptual definition to packaging design, launching innovation, brand strategies, price positioning and of course its retail channel through our exclusive distributors. However, as you mentioned, communication in such a regulated environment as ours regarding promotion and advertising is an ongoing challenge from one year to the next.
Any insights in communication procedures in companies like yours?
AF. As I mentioned, the consumer experience with our product is our most effective communication means, Habano is a luxury product allowing the aficionado a unique experience through the best cigar in the world. Specialists´ training is key in this sense, Habano sommeliers in cigar stores, acting as ambassadors and counselors and not simple salespersons, help our aficionados understand the whole culture of the Habano world. Thus the importance of investing in retail concepts as specialists, In Habanos SA we have developed a worldwide network of specialized stores as Casa del Habano, Habanos Specialist, Habanos Points, Habanos Terrace, Habanos Lounge and Cohiba Atmosphere. In addition, in communication terms we cannot forget the new social media channels where we are also very active.
To what extent are social networks part of your communication strategy?
AF. As you know there is a “mobile first” present trend applied by companies around the world, since research results indicate mobile phones are most used communication and advertising means. I personally believe companies should focus on the client whatever the communication tool, so we should be able to adapt our communication strategy to all means of support always thinking about the client first. Thus our philosophy is “customer first” because in essence the Habano aficionado should have the information and access to our brands whatever channel he chooses at the moment and that is what we try to do. We are present in Instagram, Twitter and Youtube (@Habanos_oficial) allowing us direct communication with all followers and cigar aficionados in addition to our Web www.Habanos.com, offering as an exclusive, images and information about our products and everything related to Cuban cigar culture and tradition.
In terms of the future, what are your insights as to major trends transforming theHabanos’ sector in coming years?
AF. Well as I said, our product treasures more than two centuries of history and tradition, wherein preservation of that purity and unique origin are key to its success. We do not believe in such a sizeable transformation in the short term, of course it evolves and we are first, as market leaders, wishing to innovate and launch new concepts, creating new trends with more exclusive products and more specialties, but our product will always be faithful to its tradition, because that is the key to its success.
Habanos SA distributes and markets undoubtedly a product of rich history, enjoying a magnificent present and firmly walking at the same time as guarantee of the future.
By: Dianik Flores Martínez