Written by Jamz

Thursday, 17 January 2008

User Rating: / 1

caojon huber
We interview Jon Huber, the heartbeat behind the "hip" attitude of CAO International.
Jon Huber is the "Director of Lifestyle Marketing" at CAO International.  We have known Jon for some time, and have always found is infectious personality a blast to be around.  With the changes happening at CAO, both with Jon's job, and ownership of the company, we thought it a good time to catch up.  Following are some questions and conversation with the true guru of the cigar lifestyle, Jon Huber of CAO.
- Paul Shoberg, Top25Cigar

T25C - Tell us about your new position?  What is a Director of Lifestyle Marketing?

Jon Huber -   If I could create any ‘position’ and custom tailor it to best suit my personality, talents and interests, it would be my current position as CAO Director of Lifestyle Marketing.  I got into the premium cigar business because I fell in love with cigars—and I was relentless in attaining my goal of working in this industry.  But I’ve really been fortunate to work for such an amazing company as CAO and for them to allow me to really grow and create this role within our organization.

We’ve always seen CAO as more than just a ‘cigar’ or a ‘cigar company.’  Our goals have always revolved around CAO—the brand.  Through events, marketing, product placement, advertising, our packaging, and other creative avenues, we have managed to identify a certain CAO style or ‘lifestyle’ if you will.  It’s a bit of traditional cigar-maker, a little bit of Prada, a little Apple, a dash of Hollywood, and a pinch of rock ‘n roll.  My job from a marketing perspective is to see to it that all our pistons are going towards reinforcing and growing that brand identity and recognition.

T25C - When we think of companies promoting a Lifestyle, we think of Drew Estates.  Is this the direction CAO is going?

Jon -  I have a great deal of respect for Drew Estates and what they’ve accomplished; however, to say we’re going in a “Drew Estates direction” is entirely inaccurate.  You’re talking about apples and oranges insofar as brand identities are concerned.  I believe that one of the key elements to our success over the last decade can be attributed to the fact that we never ‘follow’ or try to emulate any other cigar brand.  We often times find our inspiration outside of the premium cigar industry, but for us to aspire to just ‘knocking off’ another cigar brand would mean that we would just be following the leader as opposed to establishing the lead.  There’s a good saying to the effect of, “Unless you’re the lead dog, the view never changes.”  We always strive to create and innovate—not follow and emulate.

T25C - Are you targeting a demographic with this new position?

Jon - Actually, we have done a good deal of demographic research to learn more about our customer base.  What we found is that our demo is a lot wider than we’d anticipated.  We’re reaching everyone from 21 to 55+.  What’s appealing about the CAO brand is that there’s something here for everyone—whether you’re a 20-something ‘hipster’ or you’re a 30-something Wall Street exec, or you’re a 50-something blue collar worker.  Regardless who you are, you’re probably going to find something in our portfolio and brand imaging that will speak to you.

T25C - What can we expect in 2008 from CAO Cigars?

Jon -  I can tell you—but then I’d have to kill you.  Honestly, this year marks our 40th Anniversary and we have some major concepts in the planning and development stages right now.  We begin every year here at CAO with the goal in mind to improve upon the previous year in all aspects of our business.  With the possible exception of 1997, I can honestly say that I believe we’ve achieved that goal every year since I began with CAO in April of 1996.

T25C - Other than a world of competition, what do you classify as the toughest aspect of the cigar world?

Jon -  I wouldn’t say anything is “tough” about what we do.  You want tough?—try being a policeman or a fire fighter.  We have a blast doing what we do, hopefully we bring an element of enjoyment to people’s lives, and we get paid to do it.  We are blessed to be able to do what we do for a living.  But if you want to ask what the most “challenging” aspect of this business is, that would be obtaining a steady and consistent product supply.  So much effort goes into creating a cigar brand—from the concept to the blend to the packaging design to the marketing to the sales—but it’s all for not if you can’t deliver the actual product to the retail shelf on a consistent basis.

T25C - How many alterations are made on a cigar when it makes its first step from thought to reality, and how many tasters are involved in the process?

Jon - That’s an excellent question and one that I’m sure Tim (Ozgener) could shed more light upon.  It all really depends upon the brand and the corresponding blend.  We’ve had some cigars that we knew were very close to being a home run from the first sample we smoked.  Others have taken numerous tweaks and adjustments to the blend to get it just right.  Then, you get into the packaging design—the band, the box, the entire presentation.  That aspect can become quite tedious when the subtle changes appear incredibly minimal and almost nonexistent to the ‘naked eye’—but after you’ve looked at the artwork a thousand-and-one times, you pick up on the slight changes and nuances.  I give Tim and Michael Trebing (Creative Media Manager) a ton of credit for coming out with amazing packaging and band designs year in and year out.

As far as how many tasters are involved, our primary taster and evaluator of blends is obviously Tim.  He’ll go and work down at the factory with the Sr. Fidel Olivas (Factory Supervisor CAO Fabrica de Tabacos) for weeks at a time to work out the preliminary blend samples.  Then, he’ll bring them home for a handful of us here to smoke and evaluate.  We also have a short list of people outside of CAO to whom we reach out to for their evaluation, as well—people whom we know have great palates.

T25C - What’s the story with you and tattoos?

Jon - I got my first tattoo when I was probably 22 or 23.  It was something I’d always wanted to do and my philosophy is that life is short and only today is guaranteed—that’s why they call it the “present.”  So, I live my life with no regrets and I live for today—I go after everything today, not waiting for tomorrow to happen.  Well, 20 years later I now have my entire right arm done, half of my left arm, and my right chest and stomach.  I guess you can say I have an ‘obsessive personality’—which is why I never got into drugs!  I have a tattoo of a CAO Cigar on the back of my right arm but my favorite tattoo is my son’s (Liam Vaughn Huber) initials on the inside of my right arm.  I will say that I have never regretted any of my tattoos—each one tells a chapter in my life and my skin is like a journal of my life.  Twelve years ago when I got engaged, I had “Nancy Forever” tattooed over a flaming heart on my right arm.  Last year, Nancy and I got divorced so I changed it to “Nasty Forever.”  I guess I lucked out with that one—I could’ve married a girl named ‘Patricia’ or something!

Jon - My “everyday” resolution is to be a better man and the best father I can be—but my New Year’s resolution was to learn how to play the drums.  That’s been something I’ve wanted to do since I was five years-old.  I used to play on pots and pans and empty oatmeal boxes with wooden spoons and then I remember asking Santa for a drum kit when I was five.  Well, Santa brought me that drum kit and I played it day and night—to the point where one day I woke up and it was gone.  My parents had ‘trashed’ my drum kit because I was making entirely too much noise.  I laugh about it now, but I’ve always had that desire in the back of my mind.  Funny enough, my 7-year-old son Liam asked for an electric guitar and an amp this year for Christmas and Santa delivered.  Hopefully, he’ll pursue his desire of music.

T25C - How many cigars do you smoke in a typical week?

Jon - 3. On average, I’ll smoke 8-10 cigars per week. That number goes up if we’re in the middle of blend evaluations; however, unlike most of the people who’ll read this, I smoke only at the office and never at home. I started the ‘no smoking’ policy at home when my son was young, but the reality these days is that it just seems that I’m never at home or in one spot long enough to actually take an hour to sit back, relax and enjoy a cigar. Fortunately, cigar smoking is highly ‘encouraged’ in my work place…call it one of the many ‘perks’ of working at CAO!

T25C - Describe your typical day at CAO.

Jon -  I wake up at around 5:00am (after about 5-6 hours of sleep), have a cup of coffee, return overnight emails on my blackberry, and then grab a workout or a 4-5 mile run.  I get ready for work and am in the office at 9:00.  I get into the office—have more coffee—check about a half-dozen online forums for any CAO-related activity, then I prep for our daily 10:08 executive meeting.  After that, everyday is completely different.  I may be gearing up to shoot a CAO video, coordinating sales and marketing strategies, working on in-store events, point-of-sales materials, designing new CAO apparel, finalizing a product placement deal, responding to a interview…it’s always changing, it’s always different, and that’s one of the things I love about my gig!  I typically wrap things up between 6:00 and 8:00pm and head home…..or out.

T25C - Why 10:08?

Jon - 1. Our “10:08” is something that is done each and every day. Tim gathers the heads from sales, marketing, customer relations, logistics, and finance for a 10-15 minute pow-wow so that we maintain a constant and open line of communications with everyone on the same page. If someone is on the road, we’re expected to call and we’re conferenced-in via phone. The only ‘excuse’ is being on a plane. The time was something that Tim initiated. He felt that if the meeting time was at an unusual time (such as “10:08”) people would be more apt to remember it and never miss it. Well, it has worked!

T25C - Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Jon - If I’m not living on a beach somewhere, spending my time learning music, painting, and taking long walks by the water with my loved ones, I will be right here at CAO creating a bigger, badder, and better CAO brand!

T25C - Lastly, and most importantly, when are we going to be able to grab a beer, share a cigar, and tell stories about our kids?

Jon - You name it, bro! If we don’t cross paths before July, there’s always the IPCPR show in Vegas….and you will NOT want to miss this year’s CAO Vegas Bash—it will be EPIC.

Add comment

Security code


Sign Up to our


Member Cigar Reviews | Staff Cigar Reviews | Cigar Videos | One on One Interviews | Cigar News | Puffcast | Cigar Forums | Lifestyle | Partners | Contact
© 2015 by Caputo Media, LLC. All rights reserved.
Terms of Service - Privacy Policy - Ad Blockers Suck! Why? Daily Digest

Thank you for your interest in the Daily Digest. Get notified of all new content on in our free Daily Digest. To subscribe, enter your email address below and click the subscribe button.

Email Address:

Email will come from "". Please whitelist this email address.

Cancel and Return to page