Branding Cannabis: Culture or Lifestyle?
A friend was pondering on the distinction between Cannabis Culture and Cannabis Lifestyle, and we agreed that the Culture drinks from the wellspring of nature, art and science where cannabis is integral to existence, while the Lifestyle is the exterior expression of these things - oftentimes shallower and more transient. [The lesson: don't let marketing wonks wax poetic on existential issues!]
But understanding the Culture and Lifestyle of cannabis are critical to honoring God's Favorite Plant.
Yesterday in the State of Cannabis News Hour, I was fortunate to hear the terrific reporting by
Rico Lamitte that stuck with me for most of the day. Rico’s story was about Ben Wallace, the Detroit Pistons basketball legend who announced he is joining the celebrity cannabis game, creating his own strain by early 2022, and launching with pre-rolls, flower and vapes that will "… show the grit and toughness my teams and I always brought to the court in Detroit."
As Rico so acutely observed, that’s great if you’re 6'9" and playing ball, but not so sure anyone wants to twist up some gritty and tough weed from Detroit...
Which brings me to Allen Iverson. "The Answer" is himself an NBA legend though he’s closer to 5’9” than 6’9”, is also launching a cannabis brand.
Iverson was audacious as a player, but humble in getting into the cannabis game.
Harrington got in early, got deep into quality product and has always fought for social equity and opportunity. He’s built his company into the first black-owned multinational cannabis brand, and basically made all the right moves of a visionary businessman with authentic motives.
So put Wallace and Iverson in a Branding 1-on-1, and how do we know Iverson wins? Wallace is pitching gritty Detroit weed while, “Allen Iverson’s Weed Strain Apparently Tastes Like Dom Perignon”
To my first point, Iverson's effort is from the Culture, while Wallace's team is trying to play to Lifestyle.
THE DEEP DIVE
All of which brings me to my another big-statement-story, from Cannabis.net:
I think these NBA legends settled that debate already. NO BRAND, NO FUTURE. The author Thom Baccus, however, takes an ice-cold MBA approach, and I wanted to slit my marketing strategist- wrists reading it. He suggests that cannabis investors are only putting money on supply chain efficiency and technology now, and takes the disastrous regulatory decisions in California and Oregon and the resulting collapse of cannabis pricing as evidence that the cannabis industry is in a death spiral, just another a race to the bottom where our beloved cannabis is a commodity like lettuce or corn, where all weed is boof, and buyers only care about price.
"Remember, IPAs and microbrews are cool and get social media attention, but Budweiser products make up 95% of beer sales in the USA.," he says.
THE LOOP BACK
But then I remembered: Cannabis doesn’t actually exist at the macro level. So the more we talk about the MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY, the farther we get from the love and passion and guts our most talented people bring to growing and delivering the magic of God’s Favorite Plant. (The "Billion dollar industry" is a marketing construct that's lost touch with the CULTURE.)
Cannabis is not a commodity, it’s an experience. And I say, QUALITY CANNABIS IS ITS OWN BRAND and as an industry we have to commit to quality (investors and venture capital are another industry entirely and their goals are wildly divergent from those of the Culture).
If we don’t support real authentic cannabis brands that are delicious and healing and magical, then we’re going to get a box wine instead of Napa Valley.
Whether we make it or buy it, WE can choose between Dom Perignon and gritty boof. We owe it to The Plant and we owe it to each other.
[Special thanks to Alex Gomez, Publisher of the wonderful Aloft Magazine, for bringing this topic into sharp focus.]