There’s something very lopsided in how cannabis and its related paraphernalia is marketed.
Whether it’s the “bud babes” you see in various examples of weed porn (sometimes literal, sometimes not) or the “booth babes” that continue to be a vendor presence at cannabis events, you’d think that this industry is dominated by bro culture. Take this woman below, who was used as a charcuterie serving table at a private party during a cannabis convention last year in Las Vegas.
Certainly many vendors and their marketing teams seem to believe bros dominate the weed toking demographic. But is this true?
If you look close enough, you’ll see many businesses are either owned by women, or are driven by women. Women are starting businesses, and many large-scale growers are women.
On the consumer side, there are increasing data that the fastest growing segment of this exploding market is women (and possibly moms). And if you got to one of these cannabis festivals, look around and you’ll see plenty of women attendees, not the sausage fest you might expect.
So why all the sexist caveman marketing?
If we were talking about Slim Jims or superheroes, maybe. But we’re not.
“Being part of the original team that launched the Dove campaign taught me the stereotypes brands and marketers make and break greatly influence culture," said Alison Farley, co-founder of Flower, a boutique marketing agency specializing in cannabis businesses.
“So are these images really the way we want to go as an industry? I get that sex sells. But lots of women use cannabis. Hyper-sexualized images of us using it in advertising are alienating and out of touch, especially now. Cannabis stands for so much more. Leader brands will recognize this, and quickly take advantage of it.”
Some smart firms (like Whoopi and Maya) are tapping into this market by addressing feminine health issues and how, for instance, CBD products can help.
But if we’re seeking to mainstream the notion of cannabis, we as marketers and communicators have a responsibility to create a rising tide that elevates all the boats, so to speak. That means getting beyond obsolete notions of sexuality that would embarrass the Sterling Cooper team of ‘Mad Men.’
Cannabis marketing is still in its formative stages. And it’s possible, like with the marketing of alcoholic beverages, using attractive women to promote a product will always be an option. But if you look at big booze promotion, they’ve largely moved on.
Look at Budweiser. Even if they’re still putting sexist imagery up on posters and other collateral that end up at your corner liquor store, they’re also producing Super Bowl ads that work on a completely different level and create conversations far removed from that convenience store bikini girl.
We can get there, too.
Steve Robles and Alison Farley are co-founders of Flower, a boutique cannabis marketing agency. With a team who have worked on the largest brands and campaigns the world has ever seen, Flower is committed to bringing those big-brand strategies and standards to the cannabis industry. Find out more at www.floweradvertising.com.