Kay Smythe


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Thursday, August 29

Cannabis Consumerism: surviving price compression and cultural relevance


Macro-social manipulations to destigmatize cannabis as a consumer product are finally realizing success on a national-level. We are living through the next boom industry. When our grandchildren are taught about this time in American history, they will learn of the exploits that led to the legal cannabis industry. Normalizing cannabis is what we are striving for; succeeding in a capitalist market is our battle.*

The ideal cannabis consumer has one exclusive, distinct feature that all cannabis branding and marketing “experts” should be aware of. If you are operating a cannabis business, and you are concentrating on a specific demographic, then each potential customer must be: (a) alive. 

Every single person on the planet is, has been, will be, or could be some type of cannabis or cannabis-derivative consumer (Hemp, CBD, etc). Marketing your business is about community-bridging through cross-cultural education, and asserting your brand identity with the means of normalization of cannabis as a household product. Whether you’re a brand, store, or a creator selling ideas, you will fail if you don’t generate brand loyalty via broadening your social capital to be as inclusive and intelligently designed and positioned as possible. 

If you’re a cannabis business selling to a niche demographic with generic branding, marketing terminology, and you’re looking to expand further than your garage… find a different industry for the next few decades. 

My obvious bias for cannabis marketing campaigns aside, consulting for for the last year has really shed light on the degree of homogeneity and standardization within the cannabis industry. This first essay outlines the top three emerging areas of importance as I see them, and that are being ignored by the rest of the cannabis business consultants I follow online: (a) colorschemes, (b) long-term crisis management of plastics; (c) leadership branding. 

It should be noted that nomenclature was a close fourth, but I don’t have the energy to explain why stereotypical cannabis branding is stupid. Instead, here is a real life example of how generic cannabis branding can go horribly wrong:

In my own blind ignorance, I chewed out Kyler from Ambitious Stoners for suggesting that he and I shoot for Nug last weekend. Little did I know that the Nug in question is a manufacturer somewhere near the Bay, and not whatever I was thinking about. However, I have never done anything wrong, so it is clearly Nug’s fault that Kyler got yelled at, because their branding didn’t stand out in a crowded cannabis field where everyone is vying for long-term consumerism capital. 

The Color Red, Pastels, Gold 

MedMen owns red, and Sunday Goods is getting pretty close to owning pastels. 
Pastels are a cyclical fashion trend; they are the sexiest shades for this decade’s summer seasons, but they’ll soon be rendered tacky and tasteless as the Roaring 2020s roll in. 
Despite MedMen being cannibalized from the inside-out by ex-fashion executives, they sensibly stuck to their big red branding, and it’s paying off. They are the Apple of cannabis, and our hearts… until they collapse from their own mismanagement. 

I was thoroughly thrilled when the genius behind the It’s Legal “Faces” campaign left to start his own business. After observing his work with Dosist (formerly HMBLDT), it was clear that Ryan Hamilton was going to achieve at absolutely anything he set his mind too. Minds like Hamilton’s are essential to the prosperity of any successful cannabis business; he has created trends years in advance, and ensured total brand ownership of intellectual capital that has directly influenced the pop culture of the cannabis industry. 

Branding and market reputation start with colorscheme. Paying as much attention to the exact code you’re using BEFORE you launch your cannabusiness is imperative. Hire someone to dredge the internet of all cannabis and organic, natural, holistic, fashion, and mainstream businesses who may share your aesthetic, and establish the best course of action from the results. The smartest minds in the room will be able to establish whether your brand has what it takes to keep bringing customers back. 

If you’re a brand or store, you should be looking to associate with the other. We’re still in the dawning days of the cannabis industry proper. Ensuring that your product stands out on shelves and community feeds realizes customers, as does an inviting storefront. Aside from location - we’ll get into urban planning another time - your shop needs a homogenous brand experience. It’s why MedMen is kicking ass where other cannabis companies are falling out of favor; if MedMen started buying out grows, they’d Monsanto the hell out of California inside of a year. 

Let me put it this way: whenever I see a red t-shirt or baseball cap in Los Angeles, I don’t think MAGA, I think MedMen. Whether its billboards, pop-ups, storefronts, or my face on a lorry, MedMen dominate in LA because of that color red on that white contrast. They somehow took it over from Supreme, which is no mean feat. 

Medical and technical branding does not work for pop culture longevity either, even if you have Big Pharma backers. Just saying. If you want to know more on this, get in touch. 

Easily identifiable, authentic, unisex branding has been the norm to date. Most of the branding in cannabis has fallen on the masculine side of unisex, and I don’t really like having it in my apartment as a result. An industry peer who once worked for MedMen, and is now smashing it with Pineapple Express, even went so far as to say that it’s easier to sell products with a masculine identity. It’s a female plant guys, show some goddamn respect. 

To conclude this section, I can’t tell you what color to go for, I can just tell you that it’s not red or any shade of pastel. Whatever you choose, it’s probably the most important branding decision you’re making for societal demographics in the 21st century. Oh, and gold is just tacky and nouveau riche af guys… just burn it and move on. We’re not pretending to be members of the Saudi Royal Family up in here. We’re trying to get high, and live a peaceful life, filled with love… gold is gross.

Plastic Products 

Unless you’re lying to yourself or you work in the oil and gas industry, you’ll know that plastic is toxic to humans. Drinking out of plastic bottles is really bad for your health. Plastic contributes enormously to most cancers, and prolonged exposed to plastic particles will give you one of the really fun cancers - like mouth, throat, tongue, nose, lung, and not the blood type of cancer, I’m talking about the fucked up Elephant Man-style cancer. As much as smoking tobacco can do the same, I’m not quitting until after the 2020 Presidential Election, and tobacco is not as harmful to the human body as plastic. 

Every time your child chews on a plastic happy meal toy, you’re poisoning them twice over (McDonalds is also poison, you child abuser). Every time your cannabis company releases a new plastic vape, you’re setting yourself up for a lawsuit inside of the next 40 years. Vaping is already killing people far faster than tobacco typically does, and I would put money on plastic being at the root of the problem (we’ll never hear about it though, thanks to the oil lobby). 

Heating up plastic particles and inhaling them is obviously really bad for your physical health. You’re literally inhaling synthetic bits of unnatural crap that will never breakdown; they’ll just lie dormant inside you, gradually accumulating until they fucking kill you. At least tobacco, weed, even psychedelics are better for you than smoking plastic particles. 

As a result of this basic science, I have no time or respect for any type of plastic vaping product. Anyone selling a plastic vape is selling cancer, and selling themselves a life-long prison sentence for giving an entire generation a direct line to cancer and other chronic illnesses. Plastic is cancelled. 

(Personal bias: I have been smoking since the age of 13, and I’m annoyingly healthy; most of my blood relatives have smoked their entire lives, and have either chosen to die or still won’t - Big Tobacco, we should talk)

The People Problem

I’ve already shared my opinions on John Bohner, but let’s talk about Dan Bilzerian for a moment. I am sure that Bilzerian had no prior knowledge of the #MeToo movement or how to respectfully work with women when he began branding himself, but let’s be honest here: Ignite is the alcopop of cannabis products. When you are exclusively catering to the lowest common consumer denominator, any kind of get-rich-quick scheme will quickly become associated with terms like tacky, cheap, and uninspired. Unfortunately, Ignite has a lot of work to do to get out of this bottom-out branding situation. OH WAIT, NO THEY DON’T. THEY ARE BALLING OUT OF CONTROL. 

No one with two braincells to rub together is concerned, bothered, or gives a fuck about Bilzerian and how he chooses to live. He’s going to do well because he owns his demographic, even if it is technically shrinking as a caucus by the day. Blizerian has her personal branding fucking nailed; he has spent his money so, so well. 

Does it appeal to me? Fuck no. Ignite and Rockstar energy should have a baby, and that baby can be the Patron Saint of college campus rapists and women who choose to be stupid because they think it’ll land them a wealthy husband. These brands do not appeal to me, but their leadership knows what they’re doing with their daddy’s money, and so long as they’re not running a business like Jeffrey Epstein, what the fuck does my opinion matter? 

Personal branding in cannabis and cannabis-derived products is not as important as competitive business marketing, but the only person I have observed doing both well is Rob Spano. Doctor Hemp is a flourishing business, and so is his work-lifestyle. He is an intellectual, family-oriented guy, who stands a metaphorical and physical head and shoulders above his competition. I’ve seen stories where he’s at parties, strip clubs, family dinners, golf: normal shit that successful men do, and he’s leading the way in community and brand-bridging within cannabis. 

I am not an escort, but I definitely look like one on Instagram. My personal branding is designed specifically to filter for those with an open-mind, who read beyond my images. Spano is one such individual, and in the two short conversations we’ve had, he’s taught me a lot, and I fucking hate almost all white men, both unconsciously and explicitly, so he’s clearly doing something right to help me overcome them. 

I sort of still hate people like Rob for being so successful (again, I hate almost everyone), but his conscious effort to ensure for diversity and inclusion, and even why he started his business in the first place, makes him a paradigm in our emerging industry - and he’s not even in cannabis proper yet, just hemp! 

If you’re an investor, business leader, or just looking to make a splash in the future of cannabusinesses, I’d align yourself with the likes of AMZ Branding and Rob Spano.

Admittedly, this section has featured two white, male examples fairly. Not very inclusive of me, I know. However, that was the point. Women and minorities in the emerging cannabis industry continue to be relegated, ignored, and do not have the same prowess or presence in the boardroom as our Caucasian counterparts. 

I don’t want to receive any BS for this; I know there are successful women and minorities leading the way in cannabis, but we shouldn’t have to have activism in order to get equality. We should just BE the same as our male counterparts. We’re not, so we have to have activists, but I don’t personally connect with cannabis activists. I associate with cannabusiness people and outlaws, so yeah… I’m not gonna write about activists. 

The cannabis industry would be best served if more private sector leaders started innovating personal application. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to work with a self-proclaimed diversity and inclusion thought leader who was both a minority and female. Had she let me, I probably could have made her the face of cannabis reform and legalization across Latin America, and I would have made it my life’s work to get her a Nobel Peace Prize. Instead, she was a stupid bint, ignored her entire team, and failed miserably as she always does. 

A lot of ignorant people continue to fear expanding their business into cannabis. Somewhat ironically, you are more likely to be successful in cannabis if you own and operate an existing business than can either expand or pivot. If you think you might be one of those people, get in touch. We can always figure out a way to get you into cannabis without anyone knowing it’s you! 

Check back to your Features Subscription for the full Solutions & Conclusions in September

A lack of originality is why most of your businesses will fail. As we go through this next round of price compression, you’ll be squeezed through the typical measures of capitalist success. Most of you will lose your dreams because of an inherent failure to stand out from the crowd, or from overreaching with a limited business model. The luckiest of you will be bought out. 

This first of many essays I intend to publish on cannabusiness and cannabis business development consulting is going to be the only free article in the series. I will be publishing elements of the series for general consumption, but the content has been specifically designed for the open-minded, cognitively advanced, explorative business leaders. Most of what I’ll write won’t translate to the closed-minded, unconscious biases of mainstream marketing expert, and a lot of the points I make will be broad. It’s up to you how you choose to read into the data and turn them into action. 

It’s not my job to tell you how to live. 

As a last note, I feel it is fairly safe to say that most of you are unaware of the impending international price compression you’re about to experience as an industry, but that’s for a different article. This essay outlined outlined three ways you’re fucking yourself and your cannabusiness over by being basic bitches in the world of business, so now let’s take a look at some solutions...

*all of this is dependent on society still existing in 75-years or so, which I feel is unlikely 

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