Marketing is a fascinating field of study to me, as I am endlessly intrigued by the ingenuity and creativity that marketers display. I find myself critically and analytically viewing ads with eye to determining how the marketers went about identifying their products’ target markets, establishing brand recognition, devising discriminators, eliciting customer loyalty, and accomplishing myriad other feats to execute a successful marketing campaign. In particular, with today’s explosion in new product development, general rise in consumer acquisitiveness, and rapid obsolescence of product iterations, I find marketing an engaging and challenging field of endeavor.
Most of the hottest products skyrocketing to consumer attention at present include mobile phones and the endless variety of associated applications, gaming and entertainment devices, and other technology-driven offerings. A rather different new product, however, now coming to the forefront that fascinates me from a marketing perspective is…. marijuana. Legalized, recreational marijuana. For decades, clandestine use of illegal marijuana was ubiquitous, if often intentionally ignored, like the proverbial 800-pound-gorilla in the corner. Thus, though a product heavily in demand among certain segments of the population, marijuana was obviously taboo and could not be publicized or commercially marketed. Even the devices produced to aid in its consumption, though themselves composed of wholly legal materials, were highly controversial and subject to legal restrictions in many locales.
Today, however, marijuana is gradually segueing into the mainstream. Scorned and condemned by some but gleefully, giddily embraced by others, marijuana is still controversial but is now becoming a legitimate subject for marketing campaigns. Furthermore, as is true all hot, new, consumer products, marketers are beginning to establish themselves as viable representatives for this emerging industry, largely in the states where marijuana is legal and especially Colorado, one of the groundbreakers in legalization of recreational marijuana.
What is somewhat surprising about marijuana marketing consultants is that they are unexpectedly serious, sedate, and reserved. For example, Cohnnabis (https://cohnnabis.com/# ), rather than reflect a frivolous or dreamy façade as one might expect given the company’s focus, presents an almost austere image, emphasizing its respectability and successful history in marketing. Similarly, 4blooms Cannabis Business Services (https://www.4blooms.guru/blog/) site is quite heavily laden with statistics, financial projections, and other hard-core business features. The highly respected Atlantic Monthly magazine even published a marketing analysis by Vauhini Vara (2016) about the marijuana industry, contemplating such typical dilemmas as branding discrimination difficulty among producers and the challenge of winning over new, uninitiated consumers.
One is almost led to believe that the legalization of marijuana has turned it into merely another contender in the commercial rat race; yet some playfulness remains, especially regarding its continued illegality and cognoscente aura. The Washington Post, for example, published a chuckle-worthy article by Maura Judkis (2017), on the stealthy marketing surrounding what is known among marijuana aficionados as an unofficial holiday of sorts, April 20, fondly referred to as simply 420. April 20 is the legendarily date of the first marijuana smoke-in held in 1970 and since then, every year, 420 is a day of irreverent celebration. Food purveyors hoping to attract susceptible customers on 420 tantalize audiences with photos of gargantuan sundaes and overflowing burritos, making veiled allusions to the special date
While considered a legitimate new business territory by many, the fact that marijuana has perception-altering properties, is subject to abuse, and may exacerbate substance dependency repulses others. Nonetheless, as a legal product in search of all the benefits befitting an up and coming industry, cannabis may open up new avenues to marketing professionals looking for an unexploited niche.
Judkis, M. (2017). Brands want to capitalize on 4/20 munchies. Pot advocates say it’s time to grow up. The Washington Post. April 18, 2017. Available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/food/wp/2017/04/18/brands-want-to-capitalize-on-420-munchies-pot-advocates-say-its-time-to-grow-up/.
Vara, V. (2016). The art of marketing marijuana. The Atlantic Monthly, April 2016. Available at https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/04/the-art-of-marketing-marijuana/471507/.