At Cigar Sense, we like to think our primary purpose is to serve the critical consumers of fine cigars. But what exactly does this mean? A conversation on the critical cigar consumer is not likely to be the first one we begin with at the lounge or the cigar bar, so we asked the members of our Facebook group their thoughts on what makes for a “critical cigar consumer”.
We really like the response from Per Alenfelt, a premium Cigar Sense member, who said: “To me a critical cigar consumer is someone who finally got tired of smoking cigars that don’t live up to the expectations from advertisements and reviews.” For us this pretty much nails it – we are speaking to discerning cigar lovers who care more about how the stick in their hand suits their tastes, than about how it is promoted. How about you? Have you ever been disappointed by a 90+ point rated cigar?
In the 90’s there were a lot of misguided theories about dumb consumers, manipulative producers and smart regulators who know what’s best for all of us. But over the last couple decades our society has transformed dramatically. Perhaps it’s because of the rise of the “instant gratification society”, the “short attention span society”, the “participation trophy generation”, the democratization of publishing and the noisy user-generated content. Whatever the reasons, today it seems many consumers are arguably a bit lazy in their selection of what they’ll choose to smoke. Maybe they truly don’t mind lighting up a stick that doesn’t suit them, or perhaps some are simply overwhelmed by the array of voices telling them what to try? After all, we enjoy cigars for relaxation and social engagement, so we might as well trust those who relax and engage with us rather than investing time in understanding what we want in a cigar.
But many of us are very disappointed when we find the cigar we’ve chosen for the evening is not a good fit. Discriminating consumers find it worth to invest in more thinking, so as to ensure what they are smoking really suits their tastes. These consumers are usually happy to share their knowledge, as they are to learn from others. We see this community on the rise now, and we live to serve them. In fact, today we think the tired script of the 90’s has been flipped – we increasingly see smart consumers, responsive producers and clueless regulators.
And, although we don’t always think about this, cigars are also an iconic symbol of status, and people draw inferences about others based on what they smoke, where, with whom and what they drink alongside their cigar. Today the huge social influencers’ market is driven, among other factors, by this one. Pierre Bourdieu wrote in 1979 that consumer habits tend to reflect the amount of cultural and educational capital one has and also the economic class position of one’s family. We tended to imagine that a person was relatively wealthy and well-educated if she/he frequented the opera, had a membership to an art museum and enjoyed collecting wine (and cigars). The question to ask ourselves today is this: do we care more about how much we enjoy the cigar we are smoking, or about how others reward us based on the cigar in our hand?
Critical cigar consumers use advertising – it’s no longer the other way around. They are aware of sellers’ and reviewers incentives, are appropriately skeptical, and learn from the industry and other experiences. Producers and supply chain have incentives to help consumers overcome information flaws to earn credibility. They also have access to consumer insights that help them market those cigars that please critical consumers and this rewards them with more loyalty. Regulations subvert the consumer autonomy on which the cigar market is based and violate our individual human freedom and dignity.
The weapons of critical cigar consumers remain their wallet, but especially their increasing awareness of their choices and the will to claim respect for their right to choose. How much weight is given to each of the factors used to determine a consumer’s choice is unique to the individual, but may be more predictable – thanks to research – than you might think.
We hope you find this definition of the “critical cigar consumer” interesting. If any of this resonates with you, we invite you to join us, and to listen to our new podcast, dedicated to the critical cigar consumer.