Cannabis has a bad reputation – which is doesn’t deserve
One useful way to start the discussion around in market brand perceptions of cannabis is to ask you to form a mental picture. Take a moment to consider your own view of a ‘typical’ cannabis user. Who are they ? Are they a man or woman, how do they consume cannabis. What job do they do? What socio-economic group are they in?
You may find that the mental image you have differs from the reality
Brand and perception problems for cannabis started with ‘Reefer Madness’ in the 1930s. The US government distributed what was essentially alarmist propaganda to discourage use by their citizens of the drug. Since then, both governments and media alike have largely been repeating the same message, again and again. Accurate or not, that repetition has created an often unchallenged mental impression in peoples’ minds about what cannabis is and what it does. The simple fact that cannabis has been illegal for so long associates it with criminals, and social ‘wrongness.’
MYTH: ‘Reefer Madness’ in the 1930s was a US government program which distributed what was essentially alarmist propaganda to discourage marijuana use by their citizens.You may know from your own experience, disclosing cannabis use can be frowned upon in polite conversation., even among close friend groups.
On the other side of the fence, there are genuine concerns associated with some aspects of the drug. It can contribute to psychosis, some users become addicted and, the medical evidence suggests, should not be used by those under 25 years of age.
Whatever branding is decided upon, and imposed on the public, it has to responsibly reflect the reality of the shortcomings of the drug. It shouldn’t, for example, discourage driving under the influence. In this regard, Cannabis deserves treatment similar to the way alcohol advertising has been adapted, to include the phrase ‘enjoy responsibly.’
FACT: The White House committee believes that, “There is an urgent need to message the facts about the negative effects of marijuana.”
Redefining the ‘Stoner’ image associated with cannabis consumption
Cannabis is legal in some form in some 30 US states for medical reasons and in 9 US states for recreational use.
With these ever rising levels of the acceptance of cannabis, particularly in North America, the industry is taking it’s first tiny steps towards rebranding the associations we have with what the respected Australian Financial Review Newspaper AFR calls the ‘stoner’ stereotype.
It was only on January 1st 2018 that cannabis consumption became legal in California. MedMen are the ‘Apple store of cannabis’ are Spending a small number of millions of US dollars, reeducating the public about Cannabis’ brand image, with billboards around LA, showing real people who use cannabis and the word ‘stoner’ crossed out over their picture. Rather than dealing with the features and benefits / costs of cannabis, they are focusing on raising awareness of the people who actually use cannabis.
Bringing science to the discussion : Who actually uses cannabis?
Commercial interests surrounding cannabis consumption have seen new surveys performed in the US, particularly, offering insight in to who actually uses marijuana. Below was results from two reports, conducted last year (2017). The results may be edifying.
- Cannabis consumption between genders is split roughly 60/ 40, with women in the majority
- The average age of a cannabis users is 37 but marijuana consumption runs the gamut across all ages.
- Cannabis users may well be more affluent than you think, with the average user spending $645 USD a year on marijuana.
Bringing it all together
It takes time to reset public views. The significance to me of the work being done to make more realistic public perceptions of both cannabis and those who use it, is the growing range of increasingly sophisticated business activities supporting the adoption of recreational marijuana. In this case, public polling and the use of marketing to educate the public on the reality of the situation.
Individual brand names are developing in cannabis sales – the future ‘Budweisers’ and ‘Moets’ of the marijuana world.
Cannabis deserves to be treated more realistically and with legalization, increased levels of testing for medical reasons as well as billboards to bring the truth to life, hopefully, quickly, the market will buy in to the fact that smoking a reefer will not make you mad.