Ernesto Padilla Interview, Part II
Yesterday, we started our interview series with Ernesto Padilla and talked with him about his old lines and the current restructuring his company is undergoing. We also talked with Padilla about where he views his company in the current marketplace and what he thinks about creating cigars that are economically minded for the average consumer.
Today we turn to a discussion about social media, vertical integration, and creating brand consistency. So without further adieu, part II of our interview series with Ernesto Padilla.
Cigar Brief: Sure. Now, this brings up another question. What’s your view on social media? Will your marketing strategy change to push these new lines out to the B&M?
Ernesto Padilla: Well, social media is a tool for reaching out to the end consumer. It’s a great tool that I’ve used quite frequently. In fact Cigar Snob publishes a list of the top cigar brands on Twitter. We’re always in that top number of Twitter followers, even though I don’t have the distribution or whatever.
For me, when I use Twitter, I try to show a little bit of what I do with my time, whether it’s working here, coming up with a product, what’s going on in my life, fishing, doing whatever, and smoking cigars just like they do, and joking around with consumers on there. So, it’s not a dry interaction. It’s not like, “Hey, we will be at this store at this time.”
I interact with them. I mess around with them. If I’m in a restaurant outside and a buddy and I are cigar smoking, the other day I posted that. People posted back, and then you have a connection with people who enjoy your product.
At the end of the day, I got into this business because I have a passion for it, and a history for it with my family. But at the end of the day, I have a passion for cigars.
Cigar Brief: Sure.
Ernesto Padilla: And it’s good to be able to share that on Facebook. And I’m interacting with you; it’s probably one of the most powerful tools that a small company can be given. It’s now the ability to directly interact with the consumer to show them the whole steps as I develop a product. Tweet pictures of what a cigar is going to look like. I took pictures of what I created and designed, and it’s a great way to get feedback from the end consumer.
Cigar Brief: With your company’s new direction, what will be your key to creating and maintaining brand consistency and loyalty with your end consumer?
Ernesto Padilla: Quality. Going forward I’m working with serious manufacturers, and knowing what they have to offer and what tobacco they can bring to the table, and how they create, and how they maintain their product. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great people and have learned a lot, and hopefully brought my experience to them as well.
I think the key to my success is maintaining quality. I smoke my cigars. I smoke other brands of cigars. I enjoy smoking cigars, and I enjoy the challenge of trying to compete that way. So, for me, it’s always about creating cigars I’m proud to have my name on, my family’s name on, and maintaining that high quality. Whether it’s a $5.00 cigar, or a $15.00 cigar, for me, I’ve got to be able to smoke it and enjoy it, and that’s what I strive to do.
And not only the cigars I should say, but I also design the cigars packaging, and the whole thing. I’m very much involved in the whole cigar manufacturing process. I go down to the box factory here in Miami myself. I go down to the factory. I check out the cigars. I smoke them, pull them out, and test them.
That’s something I love. That is something I enjoy very much.
Cigar Brief: That brings up an interesting point and that is how vertically integrated is your company? I know it’s a big deal for a lot of companies in how much vertical integration they have. So how much vertical integration do you have and what are your opinions on that subject?
Ernesto Padilla: Good question. For example, I know some companies have that high vertical integration, and that’s great, but for a brand that’s been around for nine years, to start up a cigar factory and have the inventory that you’re going to need is a tremendous capital expenditure. It definitely has its drawbacks and positives. But I’ve worked as a leader for many years, and to be able to tap into their resources, and tremendous amount of tobacco stores, and then use my connections to help in the small sector like Miami, like El Titan. And then there are people like Jonathan Drew who have helped me out with certain things. And I have in return, been able to get really good quality tobacco from Aganorsa, whom I have worked with and ASP with the Perez family.
I mean I have access through my connections to tobaccos that people in Nicaragua don’t’ have access to, and that’s really been beneficial. So, I never felt a need to start a cigar factory. There’s only one place I would start a cigar factory, and that’s where I was born, and that’s Cuba.
And hopefully that day comes around. Until that day, I’m very happy working with the partners I have, and having the resources that I have to make a good cigar. Anyone starting a factory today might have some access to some tobacco and I have had access from the beginning to this. But the key to building a brand is consistency.
To have consistency, you need a lot of tobacco, and that’s why working with Oliva Cigar Company, which is a big company, and then having my connections in the industry with people to get smaller factories like El Titan in Miami quality tobacco has really been something that I’ve been fortunate with. It’s because of this that I haven’t had the need to really be that integrated.
I mean, I don’t need to open up a box factory to have the quality control. I have the power to reach out and adjust that if need be.
On Monday we conclude our interview series with Ernesto and finish by talking to him about what he wants you to walk away with after smoking one of his cigars and what you can do if you want to be a part of his organization.