Romeo y Julieta, Montecristo, H. Upmann and Henry Clay—these are all well-known premium cigar brands within the Altadis U.S.A. portfolio. Though these brands have been on the market for years—even generations for some—there’s a calculated strategy and effort that goes into making sure these brands are at the forefront of the minds of cigar consumers worldwide.
Altadis U.S.A. is just one of many premium cigar manufacturers that have well-known, established brands in their portfolios. Throughout the tobacco industry, brands with notable histories are common—as is the question of how one should go about marketing a product with a lengthy presence or one that’s steeped in tradition. It’s a problem that Oliver Hyams, Altadis U.S.A.’s trade marketing director, deals with on a regular basis. Hyams and his team develop the tools and programs that will help Altadis U.S.A.’s sales team and retailers sell the company’s many products. In addition to developing all the promotional and incentive activities, Hyams also manages the trade programs, event activations and trade shows.
Hyams delves in deeper into Altadis U.S.A.’s untraditional approaches to marketing, including the company’s unique trade programs, its handling of historic brands and how it’s tapping into new media platforms to promote its products and connect with customers.
Tobacco Business: How do you position Altadis U.S.A. and its products to stay ahead of the curve rather than being viewed as following trends in the cigar market?
Oliver Hyams: Altadis U.S.A. has a great collective team of cigar professionals. From the factory, leaf department, supply chain, business intelligence and marketing team, we come together regularly to discuss market changes and consumer insights and trends. At heart, we are all avid adult cigar smokers, so we try our competitors’ products all the time to understand where they are headed in the market. At Altadis U.S.A., we have, in my opinion, some of the best data and easily accessible market insight in the industry. This allows us to capture insights and develop concepts that we hope keep us ahead of the curve.
You’ve mentioned working with established brands like Montecristo and Romeo y Julieta. How do you market these heritage brands in a way that honors the past and their history but makes them feel new, fresh and relevant?
I believe the brand portfolios and strategy of the two brands you referenced—Romeo y Julieta and Montecristo—have expanded significantly in recent years, whether by smoking profile, country of origin, ring gauges, limited editions or collaborations.
Continuing this, we will be implementing a packaging uplift of the core range of Romeo y Julieta this year, including Romeo y Julieta 1875, Reserva Real, Reserve and Vintage. The brand team did a great job in rejuvenating the existing packaging while still keeping the true authenticity and iconic Cuban heritage of the brand. In response to the growing popularity of Nicaraguan tobacco, we worked to create a Romeo y Julieta 1875 Nicaragua line, adding to the range and further building our Nicaraguan footprint.
What opportunities does the company see in the tobacconist, convenience store, discount and smoke shop channels?
These channels are all very important, and we need to continue to be visible in all of these retail categories. Retail outlets are important because that is where adult cigar smokers can see, try new products and learn more about our brands. The Altadis U.S.A. brand portfolio has a wide range of cigars, offered at a variety of price points and formats, which provides opportunities across multiple retail categories. One of the keys to developing these channels is to offer unique incentives and create exciting reasons for the adult consumer to visit the store.
What innovative things are you doing with POS programs and promotions?
We believe some of the digital assets we are developing are new and innovative, in terms of customer engagement and communication. Specifically, our Chase the Ace digital golf game is built on creating customer engagement and driving traffic back to brick-and-mortar stores. Adult cigar enthusiasts can enter #romeocontest and earn “swings” by answering trivia questions or by sharing their Romeo moments on Instagram. These swings can then be used for a chance to win coupons for Romeo y Julieta cigars that can be redeemed in participating tobacconists nationwide. Any retailers that are interested in adding their retail store should contact their Altadis U.S.A. sales representative.
How do you use old-school marketing platforms like print with new ones like social media to advertise and push new products to retailers and adult consumers?
We use various mediums to communicate with retailers and adult consumers. Print media remains an important channel for us. Additionally, we are working hard to create an integrated presence on digital and social media. We have recently launched our new trade application, Altadis Connect (connectausa.com), which is available to all our retail customers. This is an innovative order-entry platform that helps retailers purchase product more efficiently, as well as providing access to margin-enhancing promotions and flash sales. We urge those who haven’t accessed it yet to contact their Altadis U.S.A. representative to get hooked up.
We are also excited about the upcoming launch of our new social engagement and couponing platform, “Romeo Chase the Ace.” Romeo Chase the Ace is a cool digital golf game with the goal of driving traffic to brick-and-mortar stores. This will be implemented first with a select group of cigar retailers nationwide. We have also recently rolled out new brand websites, updated montecristosocialclub.com and increased our presence on social media outlets—all to promote greater interaction with adult cigar enthusiasts.
What one lesson learned would you pass along to others?
I would say surrounding yourself with good people. So far in my career, I have been fortunate to work with some great people and have learned a lot. The team at Altadis is very experienced and great to work with. We certainly enjoy what we do.
This story first appeared in the May/June 2018 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.
– Story by Antoine Reid, an editor and digital content director for Tobacco Business Magazine. You can follow him on Instagram @editor.reid.