I love marijuana, and I smoke a lot of it, but by itself, it’s pretty boring. Marijuana enhances a lot of things, like music, sex, food, conversation, art, and even work, and it often inspires fascinating, funny and frightening ideas, all of which I find much more interesting than marijuana itself. In my nearly 40 year history with the herb, I’ve smoked a great variety of weed, some very potent, some not very potent at all, but as I look back, I remember the music. I remember the sex. I remember the conversations, and if I wrote them down, I even remember the ideas, but generally, I don’t remember the weed.
I remember being high, so I must have had some weed, but as long I had weed, weed was just one of those things I took for granted, like a cup of hot coffee in the morning, or a cold beer at night. Those things don’t make the day exceptional, they make the day bearable. We all have our preferences about these things, but most of us don’t make them the central focus of our lives.
I bring this up because so many people around here seem really eager to tell me about how good their weed is. If someone offers to share a joint with me, I’m always grateful, and I usually try to say something nice about it, and in fact, around here, the pot is usually pretty damn good, so the compliments are heartfelt.
On the other hand, too often around here, by the time we get to the end of the joint, all we have talked about is the weed in the joint. I do appreciate high quality cannabis, but if I can’t find something, anything, else interesting about you, no matter how good your pot is, it’s probably not good enough to make your company tolerable for long.
I understand that pot growers, like most other successful entrepreneurs, focus a lot of attention on producing a high quality product. I know that it takes a significant amount of knowledge and skill to grow top notch sinsemilla, but personally, the only thing I find more boring than gardening itself, is listening to people talk about gardening. I think I have this in common with most cannabis consumers. This will certainly become increasingly true of cannabis consumers as we move towards legalization, because cannabis consumers who enjoy gardening will quickly become producers, rather than consumers of cannabis.
From a marketing perspective, I think it much more important to understand how the consumer interacts with the product, than to focus on the product itself. You can only show so many trichome close-ups, and award-winning strain names only mean so much. To successfully market a brand of cannabis in a competitive, legal, free market, it becomes critical to understand the customer, and to focus on how your product enhances their lives.
Remember “Miller Time?” “At the end of a hard day’s work, it’s time to head for the best tasting beer you can find. That’s Miller Time.” They don’t say “Miller beer will get you drunk faster than any other beer.” They don’t even say their beer tastes good. They just say it’s “the best tasting beer you can find.” That’s all they say about their beer. They spend the whole commercial telling you that you’re a noble, hard-working man, the kind of man that makes this country great, and at the end of a long day at work, you deserve a beer. Of course any beer tastes good at the end of a long day of work, but wouldn’t you rather drink the beer that appreciates you?
Budweiser on the other hand, wants you to associate their product with good times and good friends. That’s why Budweiser sponsors so many concerts, parties and sporting events. They want you to remember that Budweiser makes the party happen, and that wherever you had a great time, Budweiser was right there with you. Do they tell us anything about the product? If they do, you can bet it’s the most boring part of the commercial.
Now think about how this applies to branding cannabis, especially with regard to the name “Humboldt,” and some of the other brands it will likely compete with. I know that Bob Marley’s heirs inked a deal to market cannabis products bearing the brand name “Marley,” and Willie Nelson recently announced plans to market a line of cannabis products bearing his own name. What does the name Bob Marley mean to cannabis consumers? Bob Marley stands for freedom, the triumph of oppressed people, and cultural revolution. What about Willie Nelson? Willie appeals to red-blooded Americans, stout working people of modest means and conventional beliefs.
Now ask yourself, “What does the name ‘Humboldt’ conjure up in the minds of America’s bongloaders?” I mean, besides pot snobs, dope yuppies, and shadowy drug dealers who destroy natural habitat to exploit marijuana prohibition for profit. Do you think pot smokers identify with Indian killers, forest rapers or red-neck dirt farmers? Honestly, what else have you got?
Which brand of weed do I want to smoke? Find out next week when I tell you what we have to do to make the name “Humboldt” a marketing goldmine. You’re not going to like it.