Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The biggest, the best

A full-page ad in today’s NY Times addresses GENTLEMEN and promotes Cigar Aficionado. A gallery of magazine covers – Fidel in 1994, Michael Jordan in 2005 – recalls the magazine’s celebration of proud celebrities holding fat cigars.

But note the change in emphasis… In the 1990s this was CIGAR Aficionado. In this decade it’s cigar aficionado. The cigar-ness of the brand has shrunk. The word fits above the A in aficionado. The word aficionado is huge. The sense of passionate appreciation for any and all indulgences has swelled.

The brand's scope broadened over the years. Once it was about cigar as subject and as emblematic crow-bar into a patently masculine world. Today, the brand seems to promise a richly indulgent life with cigar as minor prop. “Live life to the best,” men are exhorted. “Eat and drink the best.”

Is this the men’s equivalent to the women’s magazines that fill supermarket racks and clutter coffee tables? Does cigar aficionado tell us how to cut those abs, satisfy women and shop for the best tux? Heck, I hope the magazine goes all the way: How to cut in line, get free parking and make the other guy feel like a loser… while eatin’ the thickest steak.

The symbolism of cigar, wealth and masculine aggression is a tried-and-true basis for a brand. There was a big-time 1930s labor boss who was tweaked by the press for smoking expensive cigars. “Boys,” he said in a puff of blue smoke, “nothing’s too good for the working man.”



Jay Livingston said...
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Jay Livingston said...

The cigar is a hand-held Hummer. It says, in essence, “I can, for my own pleasure, foul and pollute the air that you breathe. And I’m rich and powerful enough that there’s nothing you or anyone else can do about it.”

Yet the people who dismiss the brie-and-arugula eaters as “elitists” apparently feel no similar resentment towards the Macanudo mavens. I guess element of masculine aggression removes the taint of sophistication.

(As for the change in the font sizes of the words in the magazine’s name, maybe it’s because they got tired of the misspellings. Nobody puts an extra “g” in “cigar.”)

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