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In 1995, when young men's and women's fancies turned to premium cigars, John Rano made sure his brand would capture their hearts.

The VP-marketing of General Cigar's Macanudo, the U.S. market's top premium cigar brand, was determined not to let the craze pass by without breaking a few rules. So Mr. Rano established Macanudo's hip, high-profile consumer magazine campaign by McCaffery & Ratner, New York.

As recently as 1994, cigar life-style ads were rare; ads explained production techniques and ran largely in enthusiast magazines.

Mr. Rano reached for consumers under 35 with an irreverent campaign in Details, GQ, P.O.V. Rolling Stone and other titles, depicting young and old cigar smokers and themed, "They thought you'd have nothing in common."

Macanudo's ad spending jumped 193% in 1995, to $1.45 million from `94. "Nobody's doing such big consumer advertising," he says.

Mr. Rano, 50, wasn't born with a premium cigar in his hand, but he's worked in the industry for 20 years, the last 12 at General Cigar. During that time, he's supervised 45% growth for the past 15-to-18 years on all brands across the board, in a market that was in decline until very recently.

Other factors in creating the mystique: Mr. Rano introduced Macanudo Classics sportswear, with expensive items (Macanudo leather-wool bomber jacket: $400) bearing his brand's logo. He also helped push the new Manhattan cigar bar Club Macanudo beyond the blueprint stage, while promoting cigar-smoking events elsewhere.

"In 1995, we outpaced the growth of the category," Mr. Rano says.

"We're the best-selling premium cigar in the U.S. by a factor of three," he says. "The category's getting younger and larger, as more people begin to discover cigars as an affordable luxury."

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