Celebrated Art and Design Magazine Featuring BDS Analytics' own Claire Kaufmann
Cannabis? You know… grass, pot, reefer, weed. Except not in the formats favored by Cheech & Chong. It’s more like Sanofi and Starbucks. Or vintage wines and microbrews.
“Marijuana is a gold-rush opportunity for entrepreneurs and the support services that annex themselves to brands: designers, manufacturers and marketers,” says Vince Parry, a veteran pharma-ceutical brander who’s focusing on the medical marijuana industry.
Legal cannabis sales in the United States reached $5.7 billion in 2015, according to the industry investment and research firm ArcView Group, which estimates 2016 sales at $7.9 billion. Until November 8, cannabis was legal for medical use in 25 states and for recreational use in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Washington, DC. But all that changed on Election Day. Voters in Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota approved medical marijuana. Voters in Montana removed restrictions blocking the creation of a market there. And four more states—California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada—legalized recreational use. When retail dispensing licenses are awarded in January 2018, more than 23 million adults in California alone will be able to buy their favorite brand at a local pot store. According to Bloomberg Markets, the industry is expected to explode to $50 billion by 2026. That’s more than twice the size of the perpetually lucrative video game market.
Mitch Earleywine, PhD, a cannabis researcher, author of Understanding Marijuana, board member of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and professor of clinical psychology at the State University of New York, thinks that full national repeal will take twelve more years. “I don’t have a crystal ball, but if alcohol repeal is a guide, we’ll have individual states making dramatic changes and then federal repeal in 2028,” he predicts.
Lots of people aren’t waiting twelve years. They’re getting into it now. They’re starting companies with names like Cannabrand and the Cannabis Marketing Lab. They’re leaving top advertising and PR agencies to get in on the ground floor. Parry, whose ad agency Parry Branding Group helped launch Allayent, a cannabis-based medical brand sold under New York’s Compassionate Care Act, was chief creative officer at Young & Rubicam’s flagship health-care agency for thirteen years. Joe Hodas, previously director of communications and investor relations at Frontier Airlines, is now chief marketing officer of Dixie Elixirs, a
Denver-based maker of cannabis goodies. Ryan JD Christensen, founder of FORTUNE, which sells “pre-rolled bliss,” was a director of brand strategy at top Portland marketing firms.
Claire Kaufmann, previously the marketing manager at Kettle Foods, the chip company, now studies the forms of marijuana people are buying—beverages, edibles, elixirs, infusions, vapes and even old-fashioned joints—as northwest regional director of BDS Analytics. Generalist branding firms and social media strategists are adding #cannabiz companies to their A-list client rosters.