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Cannabis Brand Opportunities: "California Idealists"


In two national surveys designed to uncover American attitudes toward cannabis, legalization and development of cannabis brands, we uncovered a unique subculture of Americans who strongly support legalizing recreational-use marijuana, but do not expect to purchase cannabis or engage with cannabis brands. Except in California, home to a historically bolder and experimental population in which this demographic emerges as a strong potential cannabis consumer base. We call them Idealists.

“Traditional-thinking people too often block positive and helpful change in this country,” is a quote this group identified with. Another, “Our country would benefit a great deal by adopting some European social and political policies.” They are mostly young and educated, embrace new, modern ideas (nearly indiscriminately), want social change now (sometimes simply for the sake of breaking the status quo), but they don’t necessary expect to act on this ideological bent. In 2014 and 2016, The Matters Group (formerly Canna Ventures) conducted surveys designed to uncover the interests and motivations of consumers by understanding their worldview. In that research, we uncovered four demographic clusters: Indies, Outsiders, Idealists and Traditionalists.

In 2016, we expanded our research to explore the size and attitudes of these demographic groups specifically in California. One of the more interesting of these subcultures, Idealists make up just 10 percent of the adult population nationally in 2016 (15 percent in our 2014 study), and in California they make up just 11 percent or roughly 2.8 million out of 21.6 million adults. Consequently, the Idealist’s attitudes on the national level would not have led us to identify them as a priority focus for cannabis brand developers. However, what we discovered in California in our 2016 survey revealed Idealists there are a strong marketing opportunity. “Idealists in California,” we wrote in our 2016 Cannabis Brand Study, “will back their championing of new ideas with a greater likelihood with buying behavior. As such they make ideal targets for novel and unique products, consumption methods/delivery systems, and positioning that sets the brand apart from the mainstream. Perhaps most important is that Idealists want what’s new so marketers need to insure they’re conveying as much if addressing this market. “ The following graphic tells the tale of two different Idealist groups that are ideologically identical, but differ when it comes to taking action:

california idealists target segment vs. u

The difference is big enough between Idealists in the country as a whole and those in California, that in California cannabis brands should take them into account after focusing on the “Indies.” Outside of California, our research shows, brands should focus more on Indies and Outsiders. For a deep dive into the top demographic focus for cannabis brands, check out “….” And, of course, for the full picture of all four demographic clusters, their attitudes and branding strategies, order our 2016 Cannabis Brand Study. While Idealist viewed advertising messages in general with skepticism, some were attracted to brand attributes that emphasized “sexy” and “organic.” They were not attracted to attributes signaling “affluence,” “naughtiness” and “prudence.” A free summary is available via download and the full report is available for purchase.

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