Jason Wood, vice president of Miami Cigar & Co., in a one-on-one conversation with Cigars & Leisure magazine:
Cigars & Leisure: Tell us about the “One Life” Campaign:
Jason Wood: The thing about “One Life” is that when we thought about the slogan for the brand we wanted to gear it toward my in-laws. My in-laws, when they came to the U.S., they were given one life just like everyone else. They could’ve worked their regular hourly wage, done what they had to do, be happy, be content with what they had, but they always wanted more. And they weren’t expecting to be given that “more” so they worked hard to get that. It’s like never being happy and always wanting more and to be better was always the key and the goal with them. That’s what the whole “one life” thing is. You’re given that life and you can do whatever the hell you want with it. It’s your life and you decide what you want from it. But if you want the finer things in life you can’t expect to just be given them.
Did you come up with the “One Life” campaign?
In January, we released it to the reps in the national sales meeting. And I didn’t show my father-in-law, so he had no idea. So he had his own brand, the Nestor Miranda Collection—it was in a wooden box, just a regular wooden box with the burlap along the side, a very traditional box with a copper band. It was nice, it was him—it was what he was known for. For the 25th anniversary we used that as a springboard. I was like, “OK, now’s the time.”
That was my flagship brand for a long time. It had gone down through time just because the brand had been around for eight years. So I wanted to make it fresh. Not so crazy because it’s still his name, but make it more about the Nestor Miranda Collection and not the man. So I got to take him out of the ads, and I did the whole campaign, the whole branding. We took care of everything and then we released it in January in our sales meeting, and he was like, “What is this?” I was like, “Congratulations, this is my gift to you. This is your new brand.”
Did he like it?
He was like, “Oh my God!” He was in shock. “It’s beautiful!” But then as he started looking at things, he noticed his signature’s not on the box anymore. He was like, “Where’s my signature?” And I was like, “No, remember this is the collection. It’s your name but it’s about the collection—it’s not about you.” The reason I wanted to do that is because the old brand was very dependent on him.
He was like, “Oh the ads—since the boxes are all black, matte and sleek, you know, I’ll wear a black turtle neck ….” And I was like, “Oh my gosh, no. For the ads, it’s the product, it’s the brand. You’re not an ad.” He was like, “What?” I was like, “No, no, it’s about the brand. It’s your brand but everything is geared toward the brand.”
I took away all the sizes that were his personal sizes. The Danno, which was for his son that passed away, and the Lancero, which is his favorite size; and then we had a short perfecto called “The Ruky,” which was his name in Cuba. Every year I’m going to do a special-edition release with these sizes.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from Nestor Miranda?
Just hustle. He’s not afraid to ask for the business, he’s not afraid to go in somewhere that they’ve never bought before—it’s more of a challenge for him. And just being able to relate with people. That’s a thing I don’t think you can necessarily learn from someone—it’s either something that you have or you don’t—but just the way he relates to everyone. If I could take one trait from him, it would be that one.
How have you embraced the transition?
Since I’ve started I’ve been learning from him [Nestor Miranda] and traveling with him as much as I can. The son-in-law/father-in-law thing … you don’t really hang out that much, but he and I will hang out a lot. He’s great. We travel a lot of places together, like every second or third trip we’ll do together and we don’t have to; we just want to do it. He’s very strong in the streets—he’s a relationship guy. His wife is strong in the office. So learning from both of them, both pieces of it. Like, not trying to be too sales-y because he’s already the sales head and then my sales manager is big into sales, and then if I’m going to be big into sales, too, you’re going to get into trouble when everyone is “sales, sales, sales,” and they don’t worry about what’s happening on the back end. So that’s how we make it work and just try to balance the two—learn from my mother-in-law and my father-in-law at the same time and adapt it to my style.
What would you like your legacy to be with Miami Cigar 10 years from now?
I would just like to see the company grow, obviously. To be able to take the company to the next level. And diversification, too. I don’t understand how [Nestor Miranda] is so liquor-driven. Like, that’s what he did for the majority of his life, but we never got involved in the liquor side of it. That’s always been a thing for me that I’ve wanted to get into.
Are you going to do that eventually?
We just came out with a rum but it’s only in the Dominican Republic, so we’re going to figure out how to import it and distribute it over here. At least just to our cigar bars and build from there. Tatiana is a flavored brand—it’s a very strong Russian name and Russians drink vodka. There’s a lot of flavored vodkas out there, so that’s always been another option that I’ve wanted to get into. So there’s things that I’ve thought about in terms of the liquor side, initially starting with the cigar bars. I know they’d support it because they could just cross-brand the two. But you never know. So, 10 years from now, if I could have Miami Cigar and Miami Liquor … obviously it wouldn’t be called Miami Liquor but something like that would be cool.
What would you name as your favorite Miami Cigar brand and drink pairing?
My favorite one now is the Nestor Miranda Collection. That’s the newest one we’ve got going. Within the Nestor Miranda, the Connecticut shade. That’s like my morning cigar; I always hit that. In the morning or afternoon time, I just chill and relax. I pair that with coffee.
But with bourbon, La Aurora’s new product, Untamed. That’s a medium- to full-bodied cigar. It’s got strength, a lot of flavor to it. That’s like my night—when the kid’s go to sleep, put on the game, that’s when I’ll do Untamed and bourbon.
Tell us something about yourself that only your closest friends would know.
I go to a lot of boxing fights. The first time I went to Vegas for a bachelor party, Roy Jones was fighting, and a buddy of mine—we’d always watch the Roy Jones fights but we never went. It was just crazy. We didn’t have much money; it was just like, “Oh, he’s here, we’re here, it was meant to be, let’s go!” And we went to the fight. I like the whole experience—I’m an “experience” guy. When you go there, when you see it, it’s an event.
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