Tag Archives: weed

Category Insights: Rainy Day Segments #12 And #35

It isn’t often that marketers get to blaze a trail through
an entirely new consumer category ‘ rolling out brand identities and category
signifiers from scratch ‘ but legal marijuana offers just such an opportunity.
Except, as Emily Paxhia of Poseidon Asset Management ‘ a
firm that invests heavily in the budding industry ‘ pointed out in her
fascinating TMRE presentation, marijuana isn’t an entirely new category. The
rich cultural history of the herb in America is something the marijuana
industry has to negotiate as it tries to create an identity that appeals to a
new, more diverse generation of smokers.
Even the word ‘smoker’ is part of the drug’s heritage, not
its present ‘ marijuana users are as, if not more, likely to get high by
vaping, edibles, or topical lotions and patches. Marketers are faced with a
whole legacy vocabulary designed by the authorities to put people off
marijuana, not draw them in. They have to weed out phrases like ‘recreational’ ‘
with its negative drug war connotations. Most of all, they have to contend with
the Cheech and Chong or slacker-era image of the lazy stoner, something that
puts modern marijuana users on the defensive.

Weed culture: from this…

So who are these new users? Paxhia had the figures. 65%
male, 84% employed, average age 30, mostly well-off, and roughly evenly split
between the major political parties. Most strikingly, only 31% of users claimed
they used pot to ‘get stoned’ ‘ but 95% agreed that they used the drug to be
more present in the moment, and in the ethnographic part of the study they shared
stories of how mundane activities from cleaning to fishing to dog walking were
enhanced by cannabis. As Paxhia put it, these people are checking in, not
dropping out. Everybody must get centered.
This wholesale adoption of the language of mindfulness was
the biggest indication of what made this talk so fascinating. Branded Marijuana
‘ the unbranded stuff still does a brisk trade, I believe – is a very modern
category: it’s created by and for younger consumers, and fairly wealthy and bohemian
ones at that. So it conforms almost entirely to what they expect ‘ or what marketers
expect they expect – from consumer goods. Legal pot is artisanal, tastefully
designed, social, inventive and experiential.
Paxhia reported, for instance, that in San Francisco, chefs
and ‘budtenders’ are collaborating on private pairing parties where the
traditionally close relationship between weed and food can be explored in a
more upscale manner. The entire industry is being created along the principles
of post mass-marketing: it’s a trendwatcher’s dream.
Of course, most consumer goods categories balance modern
marketing approaches with a legacy of how things were done in the 20th
century. But while beer, say, struggles to reconcile the Craft-aware kids it
wants to sell to with the Bud-chugging masses it always has sold to, marijuana
gets to make a clean break. It’s at pains to reject its underground image as
corny or childish. No more Reefer Madness ‘ brands like Kiva and Goodship are
almost defensively tasteful. ‘It’s commonplace in the finance business’ said
one earnest young enthusiast, to the sound of weeping from Jerry Garcia’s
unquiet ghost.

…to this: Leafs By Snoop.

But what’s also interesting is that the real breadheads are
staying away. Legal pot is ‘ so far ‘ growing without much input from risk
averse corporations. Celebrities are getting involved: Snoop Dogg has a brand, naturally, though
older consumers recalling the sleeve art to Doggy Style may be disappointed
that it looks as discreet as any other. And the market is set to expand, with
legal marijuana propositions on the ballot in multiple states this November.
But for now, the legal weed industry has a unique, boutique
flavour. It is changing rapidly ‘ the marijuana industry moves in ‘dog years’,
as time in it seems to pass much faster (another departure from tradition). So
the business is collectively getting to grips with issues around portion
control, regulation, and packaging information ‘ a dramatically steep learning
curve. The legal cannabis products of even two years ago look a lot more
homespun and less sophisticated than those on sale now.
In the process, it’s not just marijuana’s past that’s being
rejected. The future that stoners used to imagine for legal pot ‘ paranoid images
of Joe Camel with spliff in hand as Big Tobacco got its claws into weed ‘ has manifestly
not come to pass. Paxhia’s 420-degree overview of the category she passionately
loves showed that instead it’s a unique test bed for the new norms and assumptions of
marketing.