Cannabis Marketing in Massachusetts

Is Cannabis Legal in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts became the first state on the East Coast to legalize recreational cannabis, on December 15, 2016. The 18th state in the country to legalize medical cannabis and the seventh to legalize recreational sales, Massachusetts is part of a burgeoning movement in the Northeast to end prohibition, including cannabis markets that opened earlier in Maine and Vermont. Since Massachusetts legalized adult-use cannabis sales, it’s been joined by New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

In addition to legalizing medical and recreational cannabis, Massachusetts has also legalized home cultivation of up to six plants for individuals or 12 for an adult household. Lawmakers passed Bill H.2785 190th in 2018 to address the expungement of past cannabis convictions, though as of 2021 only a small percentage of eligible Massachusettsans have earned court approval to clear their records. 

Is it Legal to Market Cannabis in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, as in other legal states, regulatory environments impose strict cannabis advertising rules dictating where and how brands can communicate with the general public. According to a piece of legislation called 223 935 CMR 502.000, CMOs are not allowed to develop logos, signage, brand names, or other collateral that feature “medical symbols, images of marijuana, or related paraphernalia, and colloquial references to cannabis and marijuana that the Commission determines are appealing to persons younger than 21 years old.” 

According to the same piece of legislation, advertisements should also clearly warn consumers that cannabis products are only for adults over the age of 21; that cannabis use may be habit-forming or cause impairment; that adults should keep cannabis products out of the reach of children; that cannabis products are not approved or evaluated by the FDA; that one should not drive or operate machinery while using cannabis products; and that there may be adverse long-term health effects from cannabis, particularly for women who are pregnant or are currently breastfeeding.

Due to federal prohibition, Massachusetts cannabis brands are also forbidden from advertising on FCC-regulated networks including television, the radio, or web browser ads, as well as public advertising spaces that might be viewed by minors, such as billboards, newspapers or on public transportation. Additionally, cannabis brands must include the statement ‘Please Consume Responsibly’ in a conspicuous manner on the face of the advertisement.”

How to Legally Market Cannabis Brands in Massachusetts

Additional Massachusetts regulations limit some of the event marketing opportunities available in other states. For example, Massachusetts cannabis companies can only sponsor events for charities, sports teams or similar organizations if 85% of attendees would be of legal age. 

Merchandising is highly regulated, too. Title 223 935 CMR 502.000 also prohibits “advertising, marketing or branding of MIPs or marijuana products, on clothing, cups, drink holders, apparel accessories, electronic equipment or accessories, sporting equipment, novelty items and similar portable promotional items.”

With that in mind, however, Massachusetts cannabis companies are free to deploy their marketing strategies to subscription-based adults-only media channels with a verified 70% majority of of-age users such as Massroots or the Bleacher Report. Cannabis brands also are free to make use of their owned media and content marketing channels such as blogs, websites, white papers and newsletters, or opt-in programs like text message lists. Earned media through PR efforts, too, is a legal marketing tactic in The Bay State.

Dispensary Marketing in Massachusetts

As of 2021, Massachusetts had over 150 cannabis retailers as well as a handful of delivery services. Dispensary marketing has necessarily trod a narrow line in response to the state’s strict advertising restrictions, focusing on relatively new media channels like podcasts or community engagement, such as sponsorship of adult amateur sports leagues. Generating word of mouth through promotions, attentive customer service and quality cannabis PR are also options for dispensaries that want an edge in an increasingly competitive market.

A marketing and PR firm fluent in cannabis can be a huge asset for Massachusetts dispensaries concerned about advertising compliance, because savvy firms are familiar with the unique limitations CMOs face in this complex industry. They’ll also leverage connections with journalists, editors and other members of the media to land prime earned media placements like gift guides and to craft award-winning PR campaigns.

Cannabis Brand Marketing in Massachusetts

Massachusetts enjoys a unique culture all its own, one that broadcasts a distinct profile even within the broader New England landscape. From its density of universities to its elite sports teams, from its colonial legacy to its present-day proliferation of diverse, international communities and its vibrant environment of LGBTQIA+ pride, there’s a lot here for marketers to champion. Massachusetts cannabis brands, whether dispensaries, producers or ancillary services like legal and accounting firms or software consultancies, savor a rich opportunity to position themselves with Bay State values. 

For example, Grasslands client Nimbus Vapor Company incorporates Boston slang like “wicked” and “pissah” into its marketing copy and celebrates the city’s gritty, brash sense of humor. Massachusetts dispensary Berkshire Roots gets its name from one of the state’s most beloved and dramatic natural landscapes, the Berkshires. General George S. Patton’s horse farm in Hamilton, Massachusetts serves as the inspiration behind Green Meadows. And former motocross racer Joe Villatico’s Greatest Hits Cannabis Company, another Grasslands client, is revitalizing the state’s 19th textile and paper mills into cultivation spaces for the cannabis industry.

Top 10 Cannabis Brands in Massachusetts

From Uxbridge to Northbridge, Boston to Blackstone, Millbury to Shrewsbury, Leicester to Framingham, there’s no shortage of cannabis brands and dispensaries in Massachusetts several years into legalization.

253 Farmacy

Turners Falls

Curaleaf

Oxford, Hanover, Ware, Provincetown, Wells, South 

Fernway

Douglas, Uxbridge, Northbridge, Blackstone, Webster, Hopedale, Millbury, Franklin, Worcester, Shrewsbury, Southbridge, Plainville, Leicester, West Boylston, Sturbridge, Framingham

Garden Remedies

Melrose, Marlborough, Newton

Greatest Hits Cannabis Company

Dudley, Lynn and Taunton

Nature’s Remedy

Millbury, Tyngsboro

New England Treatment Access

Franklin, Northampton, Brookline

Nimbus

Cambridge

Pure Oasis

Boston

Theory Wellness

Boston, Great Barrington, Chicopee, Bridgewater

 

Cannabis Marketing in Michigan

The Wolverine State was the 10th in the country to legalize recreational cannabis, with the market opening on December 1, 2019. Michigan had previously legalized medical cannabis in 2008, though it wasn’t until 2016 that medical dispensaries were able to operate fully above board. Detroit, the largest metro in the state, only just approved recreational cannabis sales in the city in April of 2022, however. As Michigan’s legal cannabis market continues to unfurl, dispensaries and producers alike are finding new opportunities for growth.

Is Cannabis Legal in Michigan?

In addition to legalizing medical and recreational cannabis, Michigan has also legalized home cultivation of up to 12 plants, while medical marijuana cardholders and/or caregivers can possess up to 72 plants. A piece of legislation titled MCL 780.621e(2) also stipulates that as of January 1, 2020 Michiganders with misdemeanor cannabis convictions on their records can file for expungement with the prosecution office that was originally involved in their case.

Is it Legal to Market Cannabis in Michigan?

In short, yes. But as in other legal states, there are cannabis advertising rules on how and where brands can reach customers. Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA) and Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act (MRTMA), specifically stipulate that Michigan cannabis brands cannot target anyone underage, such as with the use of cartoon imagery, nor can they advertise on FCC-regulated networks including television, the radio, or web browser ads. Also off-limits are any public advertising spaces that might be viewed by minors, such as billboards, newspapers or on public transportation. 

It’s important for leadership and marketing professionals to know that advertising rules for medical and recreational retail locations are different, too. For example, Michigan does not allow medical cannabis provisioning centers to refer to themselves as dispensaries in either branding or advertising collateral. 

How to Legally Market Cannabis Brands in Michigan

Cannabis companies may have a long list of off-limits advertising channels, but they are free to apply marketing strategies to subscription-based adults-only media channels with a verified 70% majority of of-age users, including webpages and print publications. Cannabis brands are also free to make use of their owned media and content marketing channels such as blogs, websites, white papers and newsletters or opt-in programs like text message lists.

There are also clear guidelines set on not only where advertisers can display their campaigns, but what marketing collateral should include in order to stay compliant. The Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act states that cannabis products advertised to adult audiences must include a warning label that reads “For use by individuals 21 years of age or older only. Keep out of reach of children. It is illegal to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. National Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222.”

Dispensary Marketing in Michigan

Michigan boasts 260 recreational retail outlets and 410 medical cannabis provisioning centers as of 2021, with numbers continuing to climb as new Detroit cannabis businesses open their doors. As competition heats up, more and more retailers are turning to dispensary marketing to reach new customers and solidify their brand recognition. That’s especially true in townships that embraced legal cannabis early on like Lansing, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Flint. It’s also true in Michigan’s many college towns, from Ann Arbor to Kalamazoo.

While dispensaries are limited in some of the marketing strategies other brick-and-mortar businesses might deploy, one thing that cannabis brands can take advantage of is event marketing throughout the year. No month is bigger for promotions, however, than April as dispensaries jockey for position ahead of 4/20, one of the biggest days of the year for cannabis marketing and retail.

Cannabis Brand Marketing in Michigan

How are Michigan cannabis brands distinguishing themselves? The Mitten State is full of cannabis companies ranging from edibles producers and cultivars to testing labs and ancillary services. Many are leaning into Michigan’s unique Midwestern culture, ice-carved landscape and close-knit sense of community. 

Glacier Cannabis, for example, offers up strains like Cold Snap and Frosty Michigan. Northern Light Cannabis Company in northern Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is not only named for the aurora borealis but also has close ties to the Bay Mills Indian Community. And North Coast Joint Ventures, which has several dispensaries throughout the state, is a nod to the Great Lakes that define so much of the Upper Midwest’s outdoor recreation and agriculture.

Top 10 Cannabis Brands in Michigan

From Burr Oak to Big Rapids, from Lansing to Iron Mountain, from Grand Rapids to Sault Ste. Marie, from the UP to the Soo there’s no shortage of cannabis brands and dispensaries in Michigan.

SkyMint

Ann Arbor, Bay City, Big Rapids, Coldwater, East Lansing, Flint, Hazel Park, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Muskegon, Nunica, Portage, Saginaw, White Cloud

Pincanna

Kalkaska, East Lansing, Kalamazoo

The Green Door

Allegan, Baldwin, Bangor, Burr Oak, Pleasant Plains, Watervlit

High Profile

Ann Arbor, Buchanan, Grand Rapids, Grant, Kalamazoo, Muskegon

Enjoy Pleasantrees

Hamtramck, East Lansing, Lincoln Park, Houghton Lake, Mount Clemens

Lume

Cadillac, Evart, Honor, Kalkaska, Big Rapids, Mt. Pleasant, Cedar Springs, Gaylord, Bear Creek, Petoskey, Bay City, Saginaw, Lowell, Cheboygan, Owosso, Mackinaw City, Kalamazoo, Jackson, Sault Ste. Marie, Walled Lake, Southfield, Adrian, Coldwater, Petersburg, Manistique, Monroe, Christmas, Escanaba, Negaunee, Iron Mountain, Houghton, 

3 Fifteen Cannabis

Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Battle Creek, Morenci, Camden

Pure Options

Frandor, Lansing, Mt. Pleasant, Muskegon

Exclusive

Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Muskegon

Cloud Cannabis

Ann Arbor, Muskegon, Traverse City, Utica, Detroit, Gaylord, New Baltimore, Kalamazoo, Big Rapids

Cannabis Marketing in New Mexico

Is Cannabis Legal in New Mexico?

It was no April Fools’ Day joke when New Mexico’s legal cannabis market opened on April 1, 2022, just ahead of 4/20, one of the industry’s biggest retail days in the calendar year. The 12th state to legalize medical cannabis and the 18th to legalize recreational sales, New Mexico is part of a swell of Southwestern states ending prohibition to varying extents, including Arizona, Colorado, and Utah. And so far, legalization is a move that’s really paid off—the state made $4.5 million just in its opening weekend. 

In addition to legalizing medical and recreational cannabis, New Mexico has also legalized home cultivation of up to 12 plants. Senate Bill 2, separate from the House Bill that legislated adult-use sales, addresses the expungement of past cannabis convictions. Hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans are now eligible for their sentences to be dismissed and/or records cleared. 

Is it Legal to Market Cannabis in New Mexico?

In short, yes. But as in other legal states, there are cannabis advertising rules on how and where brands can reach customers. New Mexico’s HB 2 Cannabis Regulation Act, signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in April of 2021, specifically stipulated that New Mexico’s regulators would create limitations on advertising in accordance with industry standards.

As in other legal states, New Mexico cannabis brands cannot target anyone underage, such as with the use of cartoon imagery, nor can they advertise on FCC-regulated networks including television, the radio, or web browser ads. Also off-limits are any public advertising spaces that might be viewed by minors, such as billboards, newspapers or on public transportation. 

How to Legally Market Cannabis Brands in New Mexico

Cannabis companies may have a long list of off-limits advertising channels, but they are free to apply marketing strategies to subscription-based adults-only media channels with a verified 70% majority of of-age users such as Massroots or the Bleacher Report. Cannabis brands are also free to make use of their owned media and content marketing channels such as blogs, websites, white papers and newsletters or opt-in programs like text message lists.

Regulators also set clear guidelines for where advertisers can display their campaigns, and what marketing collateral should include in order to stay compliant. A piece of legislation known as N.M. Code R. § 16.8.3.8 states that “any advertising or marketing materials created for viewing by the public shall include the statement ‘Please Consume Responsibly’ in a conspicuous manner on the face of the advertisement.” 

According to the same piece of legislation, advertisements should also clearly warn consumers that cannabis products are only for adults over the age of 21, and should be kept out of reach of children; that cannabis products are not approved or evaluated by the FDA; that one should not drive or operate machinery while using cannabis products; and that there may be adverse long-term health effects from cannabis, particularly for women who are pregnant or currently breastfeeding.

Dispensary Marketing in New Mexico

The New Mexico market may be one of the newest in the United States, but the state opened its cannabis market with 118 medical and adult-use dispensaries ready to serve customers. That’s considerably more competition than other newly legal states have seen on their first day of operation. Other Southwestern states like Nevada and Arizona each supported less than a hundred dispensaries waiting for the green light when their markets opened. Dispensary marketing in the Land of Enchantment is no doubt already heating up along with the spring weather.

Dispensaries and cannabis producers can also take advantage of event marketing throughout the year. When New Mexico dispensaries began selling to customers in April, dispensary marketing in the Land of Enchantment immediately began to heat up right along with the spring weather, and it’s growing hotter every month.

Cannabis Brand Marketing in New Mexico

How are New Mexican cannabis brands distinguishing themselves in a newly legal market? As you might expect from a state as gorgeous as the Land of Enchantment, cannabis marketing in New Mexico tends to leverage design elements that refer to the unique colors, shapes and symbols of this distinctive corner of the Southwest.

Everest Cannabis Company, for example, features web design inspired by topographic maps and New Mexico’s signature turquoise and cobalt hues. Sandia Cannabis’ logo features stylized mountains that reference Indigenous motifs. The High Desert Relief dispensary even incorporated into its logo the iconic Zia, which is the Land of Enchantment’s official state symbol and which originated from the indigenous Zia Pueblo. So did New Mexico Alternative Care, which blends the Zia with the green cross typically associated with medical cannabis, as well as the Rod of Asclepius, which is frequently used as a symbol of medicine.

Top 10 Cannabis Brands in New Mexico

From Santa Fe to Las Cruces, from Albuquerque to Taos, from Farmington to Carlsbad, there’s no shortage of cannabis brands and dispensaries in New Mexico, even if the market is brand new. 

Keyway MarketplaceSanta Fe, Albuquerque 
Mad ReeferMadrid
Minerva CannaSanta Fe, Albuquerque, Bernalillo, Los Lunas, Las Vegas
Oso Cannabis CompanySanta Fe, Ruidoso, Hobbs, Alamogordo, Carlsbad, Roswell, Portales, Las Cruces, Pojoaque, Anthony, Clovis, Taos
Pecos Valley ProductionAlbuquerque, Roswell, Carlsbad, Ruidoso, Sunland Park, Las Cruces, Portales, Clovis, Hobbs, Tularosa, Edgewood, Alamogordo
R. Greenleaf OrganicsSanta Fe, Albuquerque, Roswell, Las Cruces, Las Vegas, 
Sacred GardenSanta Fe, Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Ruidoso
Southwest CannabisSanta Fe, Albuquerque, Española and Taos
Ultra HealthAlamogordo, Albuquerque, Bernalillo, Clayton, Clovis, Deming, Española, Farmington, Gallup Hobbs, Las Cruces, Las Vegas, Los Lunas, Rio Rancho, Roswell, Santa Fe, Silver City, and Sunland Park
Verdes Foundation Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Rio Rancho

The Undeniable Importance of Strategic Partnerships in Marketing

When I think about the most powerful and impactful strategic partnerships I’ve been lucky enough to experience, my friend and client Bob Hampe is always near the top of that list.

I’ve been fortunate to have some truly meaningful strategic partnerships in the cannabis industry, but with Bob, our content marketing and content strategy work has long been focused outside of cannabis—where Bob’s company, Actall, specializes in real-time location system (RTLS) technology created to thrive in challenging physical environments, such as mental health facilities.

Bob and his team not only create best-in-class technology like RTLS for hospitals, he’s also the kind of inspiring, progressive, forward-looking CEO we prioritize working with at Grasslands. While Actall’s RTLS technology is used in corrections facilities across the U.S. and Canada, Bob spends considerable time encouraging his partners in this space to, as he wrote recently, “think creatively about the ways we can use technology to reduce recidivism and make the transition ‘back to society’ smoother for formerly incarcerated individuals.”

After knowing each other for a decade-plus of rock shows and music festivals, I’ll always remember a conversation Bob and I had over beers one night, right before Actall signed with Grasslands over two years ago. I opened up to Bob about my drive to be a better, more inclusive, more community-minded CEO—and when he started nodding along, it told me that he too was focused on being a more thoughtful leader. 

Bob at the 2021 Actall-Grasslands Pride Party

“Let’s do some of this together,” Bob told me. And that’s when Bob and I’s friendship turned into an agency-client relationship—as well as a significantly deeper strategic partnership.

Before that night was over, Bob and I agreed that our small businesses should co-host a Pride Party together that June. And less than a few months later, Bob was also dedicating resources to help support the first cohort of our agency’s Diversity-in-Marketing Internship Program.

Bob and I speak the same business languages in our official work together. But we also prioritize the same kinds of extracurricular initiatives outside of our day-to-day dealings.

Take the Pride Party as an example. Bob was already hosting a very special renegade Pride Party in the alley behind his house, which was just off what had been the Denver Pride Parade route in normal, non-pandemic years. He always invited his entire community—including family, friends, neighbors and colleagues—and that’s how I ended up there in June 2020. 

When we first talked about Grasslands  supporting his Pride Party the following summer, it was a no-brainer. Our thinking: We could bring our personal and professional networks together, to build more strategic partnerships among our communities—while also creating something that is greater than the sum of its individual parts. I asked Bob how my team and I could help with the event marketing and production. He asked if we could bring a bunch of breakfast burritos and mimosa-makings and rent some infrastructure to accommodate the larger crowds. 

Of course we were happy to—the larger the crowd we could draw, the greater the number of community connections we could cultivate and the more money we could raise for a good cause. We accepted cash tips at the breakfast bar and raised nearly $500 for The Center on Colfax, the largest LGBTQ+ community center in the Rocky Mountain region. 

Ricardo and Bob at the 2020 Actall Pride Party, which originally inspired their collaboration on another Pride party the following summer

As for Bob and Actall’s support of Grasslands’ Diversity-in-Marketing Internship Program, that collaboration was equally organic. Grasslands’ Chief of Staff Debbie McHugh and I developed and implemented the program out of our Indigenous-owned agency’s commitment to attract, develop and retain diverse, high-potential early-career marcom talent. One day, Bob asked me, “How can I help?”

Debbie and I knew that one day we’d develop a framework that would allow our partners and clients to support our DEI-centered internship program—but before we could develop the opportunity deck and put that out to our community, Bob beat us to the punch. And one week later he’d committed to supporting our internship program in a way that would also benefit his business. The Grasslands marketing and PR interns would each work on a project for Actall. That way, Bob and his team could be hands-on with these young professionals whose work would elevate Actall and its mission. 

The collaboration was a win-win for everyone involved, including our interns, who had the opportunity to be client-facing and present projects on which they had taken the lead—and receive feedback on their work from a client who had a vested interest in their success. Thinking back on this powerful collaboration still gives me goosebumps, especially because it was so successful.

Any business leader understands the immense value of these kinds of strategic partnerships—a content marketing client that turns into a creative collaborator and a like-minded, values-driven sounding board. It’s impossible to assign a value to this kind of strategic partner, especially because these kinds of relationships can last a lifetime. 

2022 will be the second summer of Grasslands’ Diversity-in-Marketing Internship program with a cohort of three spectacular young professionals. I wanted to take a brief moment to shout out to Bob Hampe of Actall and others like him. My colleagues and I are all the better for these relationships, and we look forward to more collabs with Bob and his team, and more opportunities with other visionary leaders and bold brands in our network.

The History and Evolution of 420 Marketing

4/20 is widely considered the dankest day of the year, when cannabis enthusiasts celebrate coast to coast and the whole world gets a little hazier. As legalization has spread and stigmatization has decreased, the term 420 has grown from a stoner in-joke to a nationally recognized, if still unofficial, holiday. 

And it remains a huge marketing opportunity, not unlike the commercialization of Pride Parades or the proliferation of Presidents Day sales. 

So how did this curious bit of shorthand that for decades has inspired the theft of 420 mile markers and street signs come to encompass decades of cannabis culture? Of all the historical terms linked to cannabis, from the racially-tinged marijuana to the devil’s lettuce, chronic and fire, how did 420 come to be so widely known and instantly recognizable? And how can cannabis brands capitalize on the enduring power of one of the best-known examples of cannabis culture slang? Here’s the scoop on 420 marketing.

The Origins of 420

As the legend goes, it all started in 1971 after school let out one fall afternoon in the Bay Area city of San Rafael, California. A group of friends who called themselves The Waldos shared a toke before heading out to Point Reyes in search of a clandestine weed crop that, according to local rumor, had been planted by a member of the ​​U.S. Coast Guard. The private code they used to remind one another to meet up for the mission at 4:20 p.m. became an inside joke passed back and forth in letters, in the school yearbook and even emblazoned on an art class batik banner. 

After The Waldos graduated, they continued to run in the broader Bay Area social scene of the 1970s, crossing paths with members of the Grateful Dead and their fans while working backstage at various gigs. The 420 joke trickled out of their friend group and into the lingo of the regional scene. In the years since, it took on a life of its own with a wide variety of telephone-game origin stories, like the popular theory that 420 was a law enforcement code for marijuana offenses. Eventually, 420 became baked into cannabis culture far beyond California, even as the larger myth obscured The Waldos’ role in starting what would become the ultimate stoner meme. 

The Power of Modern 420 Branding

Over five decades later, 420 has taken on a life of its own. The shortest of shorthands has gone from a time of day to puff-puff-pass with your buddies to an international holiday on April 20, when cannabis enthusiasts across the planet celebrate their favorite plant. 420 legalization rallies, parties, festivals and smoke-ins pop up every year in cities from San Francisco to Denver to Vancouver to Amsterdam. Even the COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t dim 420’s shine, with many marketing events and community gatherings going online as state health officials discouraged large public gatherings. 

And while 420 fervor certainly hits a crescendo each April, the euphemism extends far beyond the cannabis realm. 

The 420 advertising campaigns and branding with mainstream products are everywhere: You’ll find it in dank-smelling, hoppy beers like Declaration Brewing’s massive 420 Freedom Pack or Sweetwater’s 420 Extra Pale Ale— not to mention their annual Sweetwater 420 Music Festival. The term is plastered on t-shirts, socks, stickers and water bottles. 420 even made the cover of cookbooks, lifestyle guides and adult coloring books

It’s a term embraced by companies big and small, both in and outside of the cannabis industry. Fast-food restaurants like Carl’s Jr. and snack brands like Totino’s embrace the meme. For a while at least, if you showed your receipt from the Canabliss Dispensary next door at Straight from New York Pizza in Portland, Oregon, they’d give you a slice and a soda for $4.20. Melt Cosmetics put out a 420 makeup palette in smoke sesh-inspired hues, and Arizona-based FourTwenty infused its skincare line with CBD and THC. Vacation rentals on sites like AirBnB, VRBO, and BudandBreakfast.com denote which properties are “420-friendly,” indicating on-site consumption is A-OK. 420 is the name of a canna-tourism group in Denver, a hotel package in Portland; and even a piece of cannabis legislation in California.

Why 420 Branding and Marketing Still Works

So why did 420 take off as a meme in the cannabis space decades before widespread legalization? And why has it endured in the era of big cannabis marketing budgets and a pop culture landscape increasingly driven by rapid-fire microtrends? Understanding why 420 has been such a durable meme is key to understanding what makes for effective 420 product launches. 

Essentially, 420 is a short, instantly recognizable phrase that still has the whiff of a secret or an inside joke. That’s the kind of snappy, larger-than-life tagline that marketers hunt for like prized truffles. The term signifies not just the overall appeal of cannabis, but also the pre-legalization era that evokes nostalgia for a lot of people who partake. Even if you never scarfed down a magic brownie in the parking lot of a Marin County Dead show, it’s hard to put a price on that kind of sentimentality. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the dispensary or happen to see a 420 street address, it always generates a “heh” moment.

420 is also flexible and adaptable, as any durable meme should be. Just look at the sheer variety of companies that have incorporated this catchphrase into their branding. These are just a few of the reasons why the week of April 20 remains one of the best times to launch cannabis products, and the days leading up to it feel a little like Black Friday.

420 Marketing Today

Despite being invented well before the internet went mainstream, 420 was perfectly adaptable perfectly to use as a hashtag and shorthand in the social media era too. It’s not often you find a piece of cultural ephemera that can be folded into new trends in the cannabis industry without losing its old-school flavor. Naturally, marketers still want to tap into that longstanding association. 

420’s decades-long staying power contributes to the meme’s unique ethos as well. Even years after the Waldos first met up at 4:20 p.m., the term still suggests that it’s time to enjoy yourself— the bud equivalent of “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.” 420 still powerfully recalls The Waldos’ communal belief in putting a pause on obligations to take some time together and in the social nature of savoring weed

Of course brands of all sorts, whether in the cannabis industry or adjacent to it, would want to make that potent ethos their own. That’s especially true now that legal recreational and medical cannabis are bringing more people together than ever. While cannabis culture might be evolving beyond old stoner stereotypes, 420 isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

5 More Key Cannabis Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Brand (Part 2)

Three cannabis marketing professionals are in a conference room, one seated with a laptop at a table and two standing at a white board gesturing at elements of a marketing strategy

In the crowded cannabis space, everyone’s jockeying for brand awareness. But coming out first in the race for customer attention requires some savvy planning. It also requires deep familiarity with regulated cannabis markets and cannabis advertising regulations that impact both digital marketing and offline strategies.

Getting your team aligned on your marketing goals is the first step. Here’s how to start the conversation on your cannabis marketing strategy:

1) Meet Your Target Audience With Market Research

To build trust and get your well-defined brand out there, you first have to reach your target audience. This is a two-fold process.

Meeting your customers where they’re at means dialing in on who exactly fits into your brand’s target audience. These insights happen through quality market research.

It also means knowing where your customers go online and off, so you can make sure your cannabis brand is in the right place at the right time. Cannabis marketing agencies like Grasslands can help you identify and reach your target audiences through earned and owned media channels, advertising and event marketing.

2) Stay Informed on Cannabis Marketing Rules

Because cannabis is such a highly regulated industry, it’s important to ensure the content strategy you’re executing on earned, owned and paid media channels is in line with current state and federal cannabis marketing laws and adheres to marketing policies set forth by private advertising platforms. Cannabis businesses face all sorts of marketing obstacles  that companies in other fields do not—from restrictions on financial transactions to stringent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) advertising rules to social media network policies on the promotion of drugs. Don’t waste your time and budget on advertising strategies that you won’t be able to legally execute on or that could lead to the need for crisis management services.

3) Leverage Local and Regional Marketing Opportunities

Dreaming big is important—after all, what business owner doesn’t want their brand to take the biggest market share possible, growing to national or even global proportions? It’s equally important to dream small, though. And by that, we mean that it’s critical for most cannabis businesses to leverage and secure their local markets before attempting to grow on a broader scale.

Because cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, many cannabusinesses focus first on developing their business strategy and market presence in a single post-prohibition state. That can look like using geo-targeted ads and social media posts, locally-focused SEO keywords, and leveraging regional networks and partnerships.

The power of a solid local and regional presence is another reason to partner with a cannabis marketing agency that has deep ties in your target market and is already well connected with local journalists, media outlets and other cannabusinesses that can help you reach your target audiences.

4) Cultivate Community Through Event Marketing

Digital marketing is integral to any cannabis marketing strategy. But don’t discount the importance of real, live events to bring people together, including potential customers. Whether you’re hosting a mixer or reception at a larger conference like the NoCo Hemp Expo or MjBizCon or a happy hour in your own backyard, event marketing is a great fit for cannabis companies for several reasons.

For one, cannabis products are inherently fun to enjoy with other people. And even if people can’t consume at your event, you know your guests will vibe over their shared interest.

For another, there’s nothing like getting people together in person to generate buzz and word of mouth—a key product of any marketing strategy that is worth its weight in gold (or green). Events are also a great way to build a sense of community. That’s invaluable in and of itself, but particularly so in an industry that is working to change decades of bad press and drug war stigma. Chances are your target audience wants to feel like they’re a part of something. Event marketing is a way for your brand to make that wish come true.

5) Don’t Get Lost in the Weeds

It’s an easy pun to make but an important lesson to remember. You’re bound to find yourself getting deep down in the details of building your business—especially in an industry that’s changing as fast and growing as big as cannabis. But while you’re building your brand’s digital market presence and getting face time with your neighbors offline, don’t forget to have fun.

At the end of the day, marketing cannabis products and services is all about helping people feel their best and connect with one another. Even if your brand tends toward a no-nonsense voice with more buttoned-up messaging,  it’s important to stay in touch with the positive, driving spirit at the heart of the cannabis industry. Maybe that’s just easy for us to say because at Grasslands, we really love what we do. But it will help you stay in touch with the core needs of your customers, too.

Want to learn more? Read our first post in this two part series: Five Key Strategies for Marketing Your Cannabusiness. 

Got a marketing question? Reach out to the Grasslands team anytime.

What Makes a Powerful Cannabis Brand?

Ricardo Baca in office



Learn about the key elements of developing stand-out cannabis branding for your business

Table of Contents

As consumers, we all view brands through a lens. 

Whether we’re thinking of logical reasons to support them, their credibility within the given industry, or how much we love the charity work they do, we stand with certain brands because our values and beliefs align with theirs.

Anything from having the lowest prices, all the way to donating a pair of shoes for each pair they sell can be a deciding factor on why a consumer chooses one brand over another.

But what do these concepts have to do with your cannabis brand? A lot, actually.

Although medical and recreational cannabis are still relatively new, that hasn’t stopped entrepreneurs from quickly planting brand seeds and taking root. What started with just a few brands has quickly evolved into crowds of cultivators, bakers and concentrate-makers (among many others), all vying to be the breakout cannabis brand that OGs and newcomers consistently choose over the competition. 

So how do players in the ever-changing cannabis industry ensure their products and overall brand messaging are top-of-mind?

Authenticity: What’s Your “Why”?

When considering what your brand stands for and the true reasons for its existence, take into consideration who the founder is as an individual. 

Think about the “why” behind their business, or the problem they’re trying to solve through the company’s work. When you’re able to answer these questions on a deep and honest level, you are one step closer to making real connections with consumers who share your brand’s values.

Visual Cannabis Branding and Storytelling

In any industry, you want to stand out from the crowd. You want to be the eye-catching poster, the logo that someone glimpses and immediately thinks of you. This is one of the main things people think about when asked about branding. 

Consistent imagery, colors, fonts and so on are incredibly valuable pieces of the branding puzzle. Once those aspects are identified, it’s time to nail down your brand voice and tone guidelines. This framework will serve as a critical base for the development of cohesive, compelling brand messaging across all of your platforms.

A good example of this practice is how 710 Labs has combined confident copywriting with stunning visual branding: a narrow, black font over a brilliant white background, paired with sketchbook graphics featuring figurative puffs of technicolor. Together, the storytelling and bold presentation detail their commitment to rich flavor, being pesticide-free, organically grown and more.

Visuals and copywriting are powerful devices that can convey what people should expect from your brand in a holistic way. You want people to experience your brand art in a way that’s similar to how they experience your product. This cannot be emphasized enough for cannabis branding, specifically. 

Thought Leadership and Credibility

Once you’ve articulated your brand’s why, it’s time to focus on communicating it. How is what you’re doing different or disrupting the current state of the industry? You might consider this a “wow” factor for your brand. 

Think of when Southwest Airlines decided to let people choose their own seats, for example. How is your method different, unique and improving upon what’s already out there?

When it comes to setting up your cannabis brand for success, it’s vital to understand why it exists in the first place. This is a time for creative collaboration. Involve your whole team and take time to think and brainstorm on what it is about your brand that makes it unique and innovative, and why audiences should listen to and do business with you.

So, What Makes a Powerful Cannabis Brand? 

Start with what you and your team stand for. Why are you passionate about cannabis? How is your business unique and fresh? What do you want to leave behind that makes this world a better place? Then identify your visual brand, articulate your tone and voice, and start amplifying your key messaging to targeted audiences. Grow with us! Learn how Grasslands can help your business flourish—drop us a line anytime.