Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a new brand of cannabis is being launched. Marketing is composed and presented with buzzwords and concise phrases. The packaging is minimalist and well-designed, with sleek fonts, clean lines, and a tasteful yet neutral color scheme. There may even be a celebrity involved. The weed that should be the main focus does exist, but it’s boilerplate, mass-cultivated, and sometimes flavored with botanical terpenes from other plants. It almost seems like an afterthought, and it often is. “Press release weed”, my friend and colleague Jimi Devine likes to call it.
For some people, the new wave of sexy brand success meets mediocre product. Marketers expect it – many are betting their entire business on the fact that cannabis scares a lot of people, thanks to the efforts of prohibitionists over the years. They’re hoping there’s a “canna-curious” unknown customer just waiting for Uncle Sam’s OK to turn on, and once they do, they’ll be hooked for life. Personally, I think the consumer archetype is who this type of marketing is aimed at.
But for anyone who has been smoking weed for a long time and quite often, encountering a sleek brand image in the cannabis industry that continually legalizes can be a bit of a headache.
“Who, exactly, is this for?” I often ask myself the question, especially as someone who sits at the intersection of a few seemingly high-priority target groups for cannabis marketers: I am a woman approaching middle age at 36 . I have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, as well as ADHD. I also quit drinking heavily over two years ago, trading more weed for less alcohol. According to the panels I’ve hosted and participated in, the people I’ve interviewed, and the trend reports I’ve read, these are all prime targets for cannabis companies, especially the middle-aged women. But the truth is I’ve always smoked weed and the only thing I care about when I buy it is whether it’s good or not, not the packaging it came in or the style of life it promises, cute as it is.
Interestingly, however, the one aspect of my life that should seem appealing to cannabis marketers – the fact that I’m what my GP calls a “heavy cannabis user” – doesn’t seem particularly sought after by brands. or the people who market them. At first glance, this seems pretty obvious, because why should anything be built for a population that has already arrived when growth at all costs is the goal? But it seems a little disrespectful that cannabis branding and marketing efforts are increasingly ignoring its primary customer, instead looking for an imaginary potential smoker who, honestly, will probably never buy more than a bag. of low-dose edibles every few months. or.
To add insult to injury, cannabis is not just another consumer packaged good. It is a criminalized controlled substance, the banning of which resulted in many people being killed and imprisoned, a legacy that lives on to this day. It might seem odd in the age of dispensaries that look like Apple stores or high-end boutiques, but not too long ago it wasn’t really normal or even safe to buy or sell. grass ! Those of us who did, whether we tried or not, were to some degree an act of resistance. We were in danger. To me, I think that means our weed marks will be as bad and rocky as we want them to be. Bring the tie-dye, the Grateful Dead kitsch, the wide range of dabs. We fought for it and we deserve to enjoy it.
Instead, I find myself scanning dispensary windows, often unable to even see or smell the weed inside the pretty packaging and utterly unsure of what I’m even buying. I’ve read glowing profiles of cannabis executives, many of whom are quoted saying something like “our weed brand transcends stoner stereotype and image.”
Cool, I guess, but what does that even mean? So many types of people smoke weed, and on paper and at first glance, I’m probably not what most people would imagine when they hear “stoner,” yet here I am. Also, I’m not really ashamed of being a pothead, especially considering how much cannabis has improved my life and helped me recover from various illnesses. My consumption is not the problem, it is the view of the rest of society that is in fact the problem.
That being said, there are some aspects of the culture that I’m glad are starting to change, like the different types of consumption that are increasingly being celebrated. The fact that high and medium THC products are being claimed alongside a greater focus on terpenes is music to my ears. And while there’s still a very long way to go, I appreciate that the serious cultivation of the cannabis world brothers is beginning to dissipate, albeit slowly. I look around at consumer shows, parties, industry events, dispensaries, conference rooms, and cannabis media companies, and more and more women are showing up like never before. To me, that’s more meaningful than a nice pre-roll with “feminine” design attributes.
At this point, I recently sat on a panel with cannabis lawyer Heidi Urness, who also agreed with me that cannabis brands need to stop focusing on that fake customer they so want to appear out of nowhere. “You might create a product that appeals to a customer you didn’t intend to appeal to,” she said. “He’s your client now!” Serve them! I couldn’t agree more.