cannabis brand opportunities with “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, 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.s.

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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an overview of the “indies” segment of cannabis consumers

During our market research on consumer motivations in cannabis  brand attribute preference, we have consistently seen four segments emerge among consumers, who we call “Traditionalists,” “Outsiders,” “Indies” and “Idealists.” Of these four, “Indies” and “Outsiders” are the most likely to patronize cannabis brands on a regular basis. Today we’re going to take a closer look at the Indies, who have increased by 15% since 2014. They currently make up about 26% of the population, and about 31% in California.

California cannabis consumer target segmentwhat exactly has caused this growth in their segment?

For one, a larger percentage of Outsiders are more comfortable with how mainstream cannabis has become, and they feel empowered to share their views and opinions about the product. As Indies, people endorse the idea that states should legalize marijuana for adult use, and are likely to support new and emerging brands. Indies tend to consider themselves independent people, without any real strong affiliation to political parties or religious groups. Some may characterize them as social libertarians, strongly against anyone imposing their own views on other people. Indies are more likely to question and rebel against government leaders, though tend to understand that change does not come quickly. In fact, they are often resigned to the fact that government will not provide them with any real impact.

Out of all of the four market segments we have seen in our research, Indies are by far the most vocal supporters of marijuana legalization. They are also most likely to have used marijuana regularly before it was legal, and have strong feelings of vindication now that states are starting to legalize it for recreational use. In states that do not have legalized recreational usage, nearly 30 percent said they would be “extremely likely” to patronize cannabis related businesses if the state do legalize. With regard to advertising, Indies want it to be genuine, with a non-radical, responsible message. They want it to focus on the benefits of cannabis without going overboard in terms of being overly promotional or in terms of overconsumption. All cannabis retailers must make the Indies a key element of their brand development and advertising. They have been extremely influential in the rise of marijuana legalization across the United States so far, and will prove to be important brand advocates in the future. A free summary is available via download and the full report is available for purchase.

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predictions for the cannabis industry in 2016

We recently provided an overview of the key cannabis events of 2015. As we turn the page and dive into 2016, it’s undeniable that the year is going to be momentous. We asked a few of our friends what they believe 2016 will bring to the wonderful world of cannabis.

6 predictions for the cannabis industry in 2016

“In 2016 we will see the legal marijuana business come of age. As we move into the third year of our ‘grand experiment’, we are seeing the creation of some truly scaleable national brands — and with the entrance of the ‘celebrity cannabis brands’ from Snoop, Willie and Marley, that trend will really gain traction this year.”

Dave Rheins Co-founder & Executive Director Marijuana Business Association

  “In regards to east coast states that have initiatives on the ballot for 2016, we anticipate significant investor interest from within the Northeast corridor, as Wall Street Investors are already attempting to corner parts of the East Coast market before established West Coast firms actively pursue this part of the country. We also expect to see more interest in the industrial hemp industry in 2016, which is a unique opportunity for farming regions within states like Pennsylvania, where agricultural innovation is being welcomed with open arms by regional economic development and investment groups.”

Tyler Dautrich Founder Greenhouse Ventures

  “Women will play a pivotal role in the cannabis industry in 2016. As the world continues to consider marijuana legalization, more women have an opportunity to fulfill their entrepreneurial goals and become leaders of a global community for the first time in history.”

Morgan Kristine Founder Cannabis Women’s Alliance

  “In 2016, we’ll see more sophisticated, insights-driven marketing, that has strategic implications on how a business scales-up for growth. There will be differentiated brands. Customers will be targeted, segmented by need, and purchase cycle if a patient. And, emerging media vehicles will allow a business to reach global audiences more effectively.”

– Karen Freese Principal & Founder Freese Branding & Consultancy

  “Tipping point is reached as California votes to legalize. Big money makes its move and the Feds give in to the inevitable and legalize marijuana.”

– Mike Jaglois Chief Brand Architect Canna Ventures

  “2016 is going to be crazy…in a good way. By the end of the year we’ll have at least 7 new fully legal states including California. The NFL will drop a blockbuster and take marijuana off it’s banned substances list. And as President Obama exits he’ll take executive action to reclassify marijuana to a Schedule II substance and remove hemp entirely.”

– Eric Layland Founder Canna Ventures

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2015’s cannabis recap: the death of the “stoner”

There’s no denying that 2015 was a monumental year for cannabis, and that the major events of this past year will have an enormous impact on the economic markets, as well as the cultural significance of, legal cannabis for years to come. Here’s a brief summary of a few of the headline catching events of 2015, and how they might affect us all in the year to come.

1. the year the stoner stereotype died

While there’s no specific date for the first “event” of 2015, we’re calling the year out as the beginning of the death of the “stoner” stereotype. For far too long marijuana use has really only been examined by mainstream America through two lenses: the war on drugs, and Hollywood’s portrayal of the “stoner”:  

As more states legalize medicinal and recreational marijuana, as more scientists and doctors research it’s effects, and as elected officials continue to call for the removal of the federal ban on marijuana, the clearer the lens becomes for those looking at marijuana through the lens of the war on drugs. It’s really hard to call a child suffering from epilepsy a “stoner” when CBD oil has been the only thing that has ever helped curb their symptoms. And as mainstream America begins to see videos of sweet old grandmas hitting a bong, or listening to Afroman’s updated version of Because I got High, or hearing from countless famous cannabis consumers, the clearer the lens becomes for those who’ve really only examined marijuana use through an entertainment lens.

It’s becoming increasingly harder to apply the lazy stoner stereotype to so many different types of people. We do, however, acknowledge that the classic stoner stereotype will always apply to a certain percentage of those who consume cannabis (as any stereotype might apply to some percentage of any group), but even the stereotype alone is evolving and becoming more embraced.

For the second year in a row, a Girl Scout in San Francisco set up her cookie stand outside of a dispensary, selling 208 boxes of cookies in just two hours. The relaxed soccer mom and similar personas, are now rejecting false stereotypes about cannabis and the “dangers” it presents. And old guard vs. new guard vs. green rush entrepreneurs, are starting to identify unique opportunities to develop market niches that look nothing like Cheech, Snoop or Spicoli.

2. celebrity cannabis

Celebrity brands began to emerge on the coattails of the late 2014 announcement of Marley Naturals by “cannabis conglomerate” Privateer Holdings. The most notable of those penning their names to product lines in 2015 included: Willie Nelson, Rihanna (maybe?), and Melissa Etheridge.

3. U.S. surgeon general admits “marijuana can be helpful”

In February, US Surgeon General Vivek Murphy was quoted on CBS This Morning saying, “We have some preliminary data showing that for certain medical conditions and symptoms that marijuana can be helpful.”

4. the compassionate access, research expansion and respect states act (CARERS)

For the first time in United States history, three sitting US senators introduced a bill in March of 2015 to change the way the country deals with cannabis. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act (CARERS) earned bipartisan support being co-sponsored by democrats Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).

 

5. puerto rico legalizes medicinal marijuana

In May, Puerto Rican Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla issued an executive order that authorizes the use of cannabis in Puerto Rico for medicinal purposes. Massachusetts, Illinois and Nevada also opened their first medical dispensaries.

6. closer to getting U.S. vets access to cannabis care

US Senators voted, for first time, to increase access to cannabis for US Veterans. The Daines/Merkley amendment, which permits physicians affiliated with the US Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend cannabis therapy to veterans in states that allow for its therapeutic use, prompted powerhouse Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) – and other democratic senators – to send letters urging Health & Human Services, DEA and ONDCP to ease restrictions on medical cannabis research in July.

7. majority of americans support legalization

 

As Fall rolled across the American continent, seismic shifts began to reveal cracks in the prohibition argument. A new Gallup poll revealed 58% of Americans supported full-on legalization of marijuana.

8. california gets ready to end pot prohibition

California Governor Jerry Brown, overseer of the most populous state, signed into law three bills establishing a framework for what is likely to become the largest legal marijuana market in the world.

9. oregon opens rec stores

Further establishing the Left Coast as the Best Coast, Oregon commenced legal recreational sales on Oct. 1, 2015, and so far sales have been booming!

10. our neighbors got closer to legalization

Canada elected pro-pot Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Just as noteworthy, Mexico’s high court (pardon the pun) ruled growing marijuana for personal consumption a “personal right”, paving the way for future legalization efforts.

 

11. ohio rejects marijuana monopoly

This year Ohio voters revealed they weren’t swayed purely by the notion of legalization. Rather they understand when a law is bad and rejected a ballot measure heavily funded by the rich and somewhat famous that would have created a state run monopoly. Or it could have been that voters really hated the idea of being pandered to by a pro-pot mascot.

As 2015 fades into distant memory and we turn our attention to 2016 and the impending year, it’s difficult to deny that the tides have changed.  It’s clear that 2015 was a turning point, however, 2016 is shaping up to be the tipping point when elections take center stage in November. Should even the unfathomable happen and a Republican win the White House, our Nation has moved unapologetically in favor of ending cannabis prohibition. Well done, America. Now, let’s hold on tight and continue to support each other in 2016. Momentum is in our favor. The end of prohibition is near!  

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the top 3 scariest marketing tactics in the cannabis industry

As the cannabis industry continues to be one of the fastest consumer markets, the tactics used by niche companies and startups are becoming more main-stream, legitimized and professional. That doesn’t, however, mean that the scary tactics of old have disappeared. In fact, some have become so predominant in a constantly growing culture, that one has to wonder if the cannabis community is doing its due diligence to foster a safe and healthy community. Since it’s almost Halloween, it’s only fitting that we take a look at the most dangerous and, honestly, scariest marketing tactics some cannabis companies are choosing to use, and explain why you should stay away from using them as well.

scariest marketing tactics in the cannabis industry

1. using sex to sell

Sure, maybe if you fancy yourself the Don Draper type, and have no problem stereotyping, sexualizing and otherwise degrading women.  

While many like to lazily use bikini-clad women to peddle their products – or make sexual, downright pornographic innuendos to describe their brand – smart cannabis companies know that times have changed. While the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that men were 50% more likely to use marijuana than women in 2012, the rapid changes in the social and political views on marijuana has seen a rise in marijuana use among women. Now more than ever, women are using marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, spilling into the cannabis market as informed and engaged consumers.  

It would make obvious sense, then, for a smart cannabis company to refrain from dehumanizing a large population of potential clients. Plus, its misogynistic and horribly sexist, and nobody has time for that.

2. creating marketing, messaging, and packaging that appeals to children

If you have a conscience, this marketing tactic shouldn’t cross your mind. But, for some, creating products and messaging that appeals to the young and impressionable seems like a reasonable way to go. While it would be easy to stick our heads in the collective sand and go about our own business, it’s important that – as we shape this new legal cannabis community and the brands that will become successful because of it – that we ask ourselves: are we comfortable using big tobacco tactics to sell marijuana to consumers?  

The answer should be obvious. So, it would be a wiser choice to stay away from THC candies, lollipops, and cookies that are packaged in a way that would appeal to a child, essentially marketing the product as something that doesn’t have mind-altering side effects. When marketed correctly and in an ethical manner, the legalization of marijuana doesn’t increase usage among underage populations, and that is a statistic we should all work to uphold.

3. straight up lying about your product

And then, of course, we have completely unfounded and false claims about a specific product’s effects and health benefits. Which, perhaps, is why we have seen a terrifying rise in the number of deaths caused by Spice and other types of synthetic marijuana, all sold legally and claiming to be harmless. It’s often promoted as a natural or herbal product, using buzz words to create a false sense of safety and security for consumers. It’s important that reputable cannabis brands distance themselves from these kind of tactics, that not only hurt and mislead people, but create a stigma surrounding marijuana that society is still trying to overcome.

If you’re wondering what your state’s guidelines are concerning cannabis marketing and labeling, you can check out this nifty guide, provided by Leafly. And remember, the best way to successfully market a product is to create a brand that doesn’t need sexism, lies, or morally corrupt tactics to sell.

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life, liberty, and the pursuit of legal cannabis

The leaves are changing, the temperature is dropping and the summer is officially ending. While many will pack up flag t-shirts, put away leftover fireworks and clean that deliciously-used BBQ, we’re asking that you carry one thing with you as you say goodbye to summer and everything associated with it. The idea of freedom.  

While many don’t think of the Declaration of Independence after, or even during, the 4th of July, it is worth thoughtful consideration.

Especially now. The most famous component of the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble, embodies what America has stood for since its hard-fought establishment, and deserves more than a passing thought once a year. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. We may take these words and what they’ve established for granted, but there is a war going on. A war of class, culture, and lifestyle. On one side of this battle is a group aiming to control others, typically hiding under the veil of “individual liberty” but with the very-real goal of suppressing individuality. They seek to repress individual rights by having us tow the party line they feel they have the right to define.  

On the other side is a group of individuals who haven’t forgotten about the Declaration of Independence or the Preamble. They’re people who believe in individuality and individual choice. People who believe in the intellect and ability of others to make their own choices, while in constant consideration of others and how their choices impact the greater good.

So, we have to ask: Which side are you on?

life

Being alive and enjoying the life you’re living are two very different things. While some people consider the two thoughtlessly intertwined, many people have been dealt a bad hand when it comes to health and, as a result, are suffering. Does one person have the right to make decisions about another person’s health? Should a proven, scientifically justifiable form of pain relief be denied to those who need it most, because it doesn’t align with other people’s beliefs? Should a drug war, arguably steeped in socioeconomic and racial disparity, keep those suffering from enjoying their life? By refusing to legalize medical marijuana use immediately, and subsequently removing cannabis from the list of schedule 1 narcotics, one side of this debilitating war is choosing bad law and worse science over what has been proven over the course of humanity: Cannabis is on the earth to be used responsibly as a natural healing property. A healing property that gives many people the unalienable right to live life, free from discomfort.

  

liberty

The aggressive pursuit of non-violent possession crimes has been a waste of money and manpower, a destroyer of families and a pillager of lives. Statistics show the consumption rates of cannabis amongst whites and non-whites are basically the same, yet the arrest rates of non-whites is significantly higher: 3.7x that of whites.   People of color have suffered at a disproportionate and staggering rate. The results have been an eroding of civil liberties of fellow Americans, who haven’t harmed anyone else with their “crimes”. The result is the disillusion of the unalienable right to liberty.

the pursuit of happiness

The truest definition of freedom is, arguable, the ability to enjoy self-expression. We all have unique ways in which we enjoy expressing ourselves. Whether it’s through personal style, participation in particular social groups, or preferences in recreation – so long as we’re not infringing on others, and are of age to make legal and informed decisions – we are generally allowed freedom in our personal pursuits.

Unless, of course, that pursuit involves cannabis. There are zero annual deaths associated with the consumption of marijuana. That doesn’t mean we should be encouraging use while operating heavy machinery, driving, or performing brain surgery, but use as a recreational aid isn’t likely to result in death or injury. And while it is a safe way to relax after a stressful day or lose yourself in wondering thoughts, recreational use of cannabis is still overwhelming illegal in the United States. The same cannot be said, however, for alcoholic beverages. While alcohol sales are estimated at $170.5 billion annually, they also account for roughly 500,000 deaths a year in the United States alone. While death and alcohol seem to go hand-in-hand, alcohol is still a legal substance that is readily available to all who decide to use it.

Something has to change. We shouldn’t allow our unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness be stifled. It’s easy to think changing laws is too hard, too time consuming or way too expensive. However, think back to the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble. Think back to the inaugural Independence Day, and the difficulties our founding fathers had in establishing a free country in which the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness would be a defining cornerstone. We can make a difference. We can make a change.

Educate yourself on these important issues and become an active participant in your community by voting. Lend your voice to the future and exercise your individual right to be heard. Organizations like NORML, Marijuana Policy Project, Americans for Safe Access, and others are working hard to insure the Declaration of Independence is a tool for positive change.

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