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Big Bud Brands Will Happen

When California passed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act last year, a lot of pro-pot people worried about big brands coming into the fledgling market.

As activists, we have mixed feelings about this. But ultimately, this is a smart market, and the choices that will drive it will benefit the consumer. Which is good.

But also, from the perspective of a marketing agency, this represents opportunity on a scale rarely seen. Probably not since the explosion of smartphones — and nobody knew in advance the impact these devices would have on our lives and culture — has the market been poised for a dynamic new commodity.

This time, many are positioned to see this one coming.

It will likely happen with an edible. It is in this sector that businesses’ branding and packaging have expressed the most sophistication.

But it will also happen with flower. Large-scale growers throughout California, and particularly in Humboldt and other Emerald Triangle counties who are to cannabis what Napa is to wine, who aren’t thinking about branding run the risk of being overrun.

Think neighborhood hardware store vs. Wal-Mart.

And while AUMA insulates California from the invasion of large out-of-state players, if you’re a grower in Silicon Valley or Mendocino, what’s your protection from your neighbor grower who reads a simple “how-to” business book that tells her to spend 20 percent of her operating budget on marketing? She spends a little money comparative to her income on a great logo, and … bam. She’s the next Foster Farms.

A lot of people use cannabis or cannabis products. We don’t actually know how many, because there are still so many of us who, by fear or personal circumstance, can’t express their use.

But while it’s a huge market by any estimation, there will come a time when the ceiling will be hit. And the first cannabis Pepsi or Hershey’s will be the one that figures out how to break this ceiling and reach a population so poisoned by stigma they don’t know its benefits.

Really, the sky is the limit. The cannabis market will only be restricted by its imagination.

And nobody has ever accused the dreamers of lacking imagination.

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