Where there’s smoke

To be ‘blunt,’ the cannabis industry in the US has long been a topic of strong opinions and contentious debate. However, since the legalization of cannabis in four states following the 2016 election, 1 in 5 Americans now lives in a state where it is legal to smoke marijuana without a doctor’s note. With this comes an array of new industries, products, and inevitably, consumers. But what does this mean for marketing and marketing research when a ‘budding’ industry and its consumers aren’t exactly legal in the eyes of the federal government?

A recent Yahoo News and Marist University survey found that nearly 55 million American adults currently use marijuana. Of that 55 million, a staggering 52 percent of users are everyone’s favorite love/hate generation – millennials. Which begs the question, has cannabis gone mainstream? And if so, what does that mean for marketing and marketing research? Do standard millennial CPG profiles fit the standard millennial cannabis profile?

While questions of a deeper understanding of cannabis consumer journeys and segmentations may still be far in the future, industry branding and re-branding are in full swing. A recent AdAge article surrounding 4/20 discussed the industry’s focus on educating consumers and raising the bar for branding, which is crucial for the cannabis industry brands due to their limited options when it comes to advertising. Traditional channels like TV, newspapers, and billboards aren’t real options and neither are some digital platforms with Google and Facebook both rejecting cannabis industry ads.

With a rise in consumers and limited advertising options, the cannabis industry very well may be immune to traditional product dependency on advertising campaigns. While cannabis companies may not have to overcome the hurdle of launching a new product into the marketplace, they will instead have to define their individual brands while navigating how their products fit into their consumers’ daily lives. Additionally, firms and agencies will have to decide if and how to from a ‘joint’ venture with an industry that is vulnerable to say the least.

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