Do not be a copycat. That’s the advice I can give all cigar manufacturers out there. Especially the smaller ones that feel that they have to ride the slipstream of a bigger brand to be able to sell their products. It might work short-term, but it will backfire in the long term. But you are putting yourself and your product down.
As cigar journalists, we see a lot of products. Small producers that approach us to try their cigars in the hopes of reviews or an article. If the news is interesting enough, sure, we will write a review. And if cigars are given, we will do a review. Most of the time though. Sometimes certain packaging, company names, or logos are such a rip-off that it is too much. The moment we see a brand that is depending on the name or logo of a bigger brand, we automatically lose faith in that company. To us, it means that the brand owner does not have faith in its qualities. Because why would you need to copycat the name and logo of a well-known brand if you produce quality? We didn’t go for fullwheel.com, cigar-scoop.com, or developedpalate.com to leech of the reputation of those great websites. And new cigar brands shouldn’t do the same with names of developed, and well known brands.
Not too long ago, a small manufacturer reached out via a direct message on social media. At first sight, we thought it was a well-known brand. The logo was almost exactly the same as the logo from one of our favorite brands from Nicaragua. And not just the logo, also the name was quite similar. Of course, we made a comment about that. The small manufacturer’s simple reply was “they sued us, but since we use the name of the city instead of the country, we won”. Legally that might be right, but it is still profiting from someone else’s name, reputation, and more than 50 years of hard work. It goes without words that this is the only time that this small manufacturer gets publicity on Ministry of Cigars, and without even mentioning the name.
Another example is a cigar that we did review. The concept of this cigar is original, yet the name isn’t. And we did mention it in the review. The Muestra de Tabac Trifecta could easily be confused with Steve Saka’s Muestra de Saka (Chubby) Unicorn because of the name and the vitola. We smoked the Muestra de Tabac Trifecta, and honestly, with the unique concept and the flavor profile, it does not need a name that comes so close to a popular brand. Of course, we do not know nor claim that the name was chosen with that in mind, but if we would create a brand, we would not pick any name that could confuse the cigar enthusiasts. That way you also avoid accusations. The owner of Muestra de Tabac responded furiously in a message on Instagram, threatening to badmouth Ministry of Cigars. As a counter measure, his message was posted on our social media channels. That he responded in such anger over just mentioning that the name came close to Muestra de Saka says a lot we guess. No accusations were made, just a mention that the name comes very close to the more famous and popular cigar from Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust.
And then there are enough examples of New World cigars from small manufacturers that copy artwork from Cuban cigars. At every trade show, we get a few of those. New, unknown brands or cigars with yet another simplified Cohiba or Partagas Serie D ring. And prejudice automatically kicks in, these must be budget cigars.
Years ago we had a discussion with Abe Flores from PDR Cigars. Our question was why PDR Cigars was using so much artwork mimicking Cuban artwork. Such as the Partagas Serie D on the small-batch Habano or the old Ramon Allones band on the Flores y Rodrigues 10th anniversary. Flores did explain that it was a tribute to the Cuban heritage. But to us, it is downgrading his work. These cigars are good enough to deserve their own artwork and not copycat Cuban imagery. Thankfully Flores sees it that way too, and he is redesigning all the packaging.
It was also the first conversation we ever had with Condega. Why use the Partagas ring we asked. But we got schooled. It is actually a Condega design. They had that red ring with the gold print in use before Partagas did. Habanos is the copycat there. Yet even Condega is shying away from the comparison. Over the last few years, slow steps have been made to change the design to a more slick and modern look. Even though they aren’t the copycat but the original, it is better to avoid the association with Partagas and being called a copycat. What goes for PDR also goes for Condega. Their cigars are too good to be classified as “copies of a Cuban cigar”.
So our message to small brands and small manufacturers is: do not copy names, logos, rings, or other artwork from bigger brands. It makes you look cheap. It does not show any confidence in your products. Or in your ability to create traction for your brand. That automatically devalues your skills, your effort. Unless you are in just for the short term, to dump low-quality cigars on the market and run with the money. If that is the case riding the coattail of famous brands is the way to go. But there is no dignity in that.
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