The Branding Cannabis Series…#1

Welcome to the first in a series of three papers on Cannabis Branding.

It is as if the Gold Rush and the end of Prohibition crossed paths. The legalization of recreational cannabis use includes Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, the District of Columbia, and the Northern Mariana Islands, with all but Vermont and D.C. permitting its commercial sale. On October 17, 2018, Canada legalized recreational use from coast-to-coast.

If I can provide another historic reference, this has produced a Wild West when it comes to the branding and marketing of businesses in the blooming and growing cannabis industry. Policy makers can’t keep up with the ramifications. Everyone is confused about what can be said, how they say it and to whom.

This messiness is going to have long-term impact on how the industry is viewed and perceived. Further, the mostly juvenile attempts at branding cannabis-related companies has everyone veering into Cheech and Chong territory with an overuse of green leaves and big buds. The nascent industry is “stereotypicallying” itself to the point of comedy.

Download the paper SC_BrandingCannabis_1.

Extinct Like the Dodo

Being a child of the mid 1960’s I, like many of a similar age, have had a certain discussion with our kids. You know, the one that goes, “we had a rotary phone”. It is like my dad telling me he walked an amazing distance to school. When you describe the quaint challenges of your generation, your kid’s eyes glaze over. They tune out and check their cellphones. This then leads to a discussion of other old stuff like telephone party lines, 8-track cassettes, and the Yellow Pages.

It made me think about things that were once commonplace but have gone the way of the Dodo (our kids wouldn’t know about the Dodo either). Here is only a partial list:

Dial-up Internet

Do you remember that dialing sound? How about when the connection happened? That was nearly orgasmic. Do you remember how patient we were to visit the seven websites that existed back then? How about when a photo took ten minutes to load? Talk about delayed gratification.

Renting and rewinding VHS tapes

If I had rewound all my rented VHS tapes and avoided the rewind fee at the video store then invested that money in Blockbuster and then Netflix, I would not be blogging right now.

Floppy Discs

USBs are awesome and hold a lot. I loved floppy disks that were bigger but held a lot less and had a weird name.

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A Brand is Not a Way of Life

Recently, I met with a fashion technology startup. They are building an interesting secondhand marketplace whereby consumers can sell “lightly used” bespoke clothing. Perhaps you wore a Chanel dress once but have no call for it now or the Ralph Lauren tuxedo in the closet is gathering dust. You get the idea.

An additional service involves sending in your used expensive clothing and having it “re-imagined” by company designers. One example was a beautiful woman’s blue blouse that subsequently had one sleeve and the collar removed. These were replaced with a white lacey pattern. I must admit it looked stunning and was very unique. The company also accepts purses and bags that they will clean, restore and/or re-imagine. All in all, it is a cool concept.

Then came a very familiar probe from the founders. They told me they want to be a “lifestyle brand”. That means joining a very long list of brands with the same intent. In fact, I think every brand believes they are a lifestyle brand in some way.

Apple never claims to be anything. Ingeniously they let customers identify them in certain ways. Many suggest they are a lifestyle brand given their dominance in personal technologies. Plenty of apparel brands make the lifestyle claim especially those with a focused product set and defined market. Burton is for snowboarders, Quiksilver for surfers, Helly Hansen for sailors, Volcom for rebellious skateboarders, and Patagonia for environmentally friendly explorers.

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Retro Nostalgia

We we’re feeling nostalgic for the nostalgia of Mad Men.

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