Marketing cannabis as a lifestyle brand

A marketer’s job is to create products and experiences that are meaningful to consumers. That break away from being a commodity into something different, distinctive and important. This has been the goal for many cannabis brands since legalization – to pivot from the historical stigma to being a normal and valued part of the lives of their consumers. Brand building is part of the equation; however cannabis companies have had to take traditional brand building one step further to stand out from competition.

Lifestyle brands embody the values, aspirations, attitudes and/or opinions of a group or a culture for marketing purposes. They seek to move people to purchase and guide them in the path to purchase. Cannabis companies have leaned heavily in the direction of building a distinctive lifestyle for their brands, increasingly moving away from talking about the product itself. The regulations in many jurisdictions have helped this shift – handcuffing marketers with regards to how to speak about product features and benefits. But it’s also because there is a need for a perception change from cannabis as simply ‘weed’ to cannabis as a conduit to much more – relaxation, health, and mental wellness. The regulatory restrictions and historical consumer perceptions have forced marketers to be more creative and lean into a highly emotive space. After all, functional benefits in some cases are unproven, and in many cases untested (especially within the high-interest category of CBD). Some of the best work is being done by the dispensaries.

An example of one company breaking cannabis stigmas is Native Roots. They are a Colorado-based chain of over 20 dispensaries and they are the epitome of cannabis culture in that ground-breaking state…#LiberateHappiness:

Choosing your own path in life isn’t just a mindset — it’s a movement. We’re advocates of each and every lifestyle choice because it is the ability to choose that truly defines our freedom. Fundamentally, we exist to liberate these moments.”

Burb is another good example; a small BC-based cannabis retailer “where weed, culture and fashion intersect”. Founder and CEO John Kaye:

We want to sell products we’re using ourselves and make high quality apparel that speaks to a new cannabis culture — sans rasta-pot-leaf and inspired by our own environment growing up and living in [Vancouver] BC. Creating a culture one can associate with and lifestyle one can be proud of is our main focus.”

Dispensary brands like Native Roots and Burb prize human connection above all else. They also have an advantage over the cannabis producer brands that they stock given that they have the opportunity to engage one-on-one with customer in their stores, versus the LP’s trying to build their brands solely via the limited marketing channels available to them. More than just pre-rolls and gummies, their educated budtenders offer beautiful vape pens (that are almost a fashion statement) and high-design apparel and accessories that you would normally find in the most exclusive high street retailers. Cannabis, in the hands of experienced marketers, is much more than a stigmatized commodity.

Marketing Cannabis as a Lifestyle Brand
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Marketing Cannabis as a Lifestyle Brand
Is it a product or a distinctive lifestyle? I dive into how cannabis companies today need to be extra creative when it comes to marketing their brand and messaging, ultimately changing the perception of the stigmatized industry.

Opportunities & Challenges for Marketers in the Commerce of Cannabis


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