Chewing Out ‘The Leaf’ From Cannabis Marketing

Certain tropes used in cannabis marketing materials need to change. Focusing on...

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Dave Barton
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Certain tropes used in cannabis marketing materials need to change. Focusing on...

Certain tropes used in cannabis marketing materials need to change. Focusing on ganja leaves (and other such visual ken) is, frankly, doing a disservice to the stigmas we’re trying to suppress. 

Could we accuse cannabis brands of being… ugly? Not at all. Nuh-uh. Unimaginitive? Perhaps. Anodyne? Occasionally. 

Don’t get me wrong – a lot of cannabis brands are drop dead gorgeous (see list below).

What I’m against, is the triteness that a lot of cannabis companies lean heavily into. You know: the blanket ‘ganja leaf motif’; the red, gold, and green of the Rasta tricolore; faux dreadlock hats – even the very likeness of Robert Nesta Marley himself. 

Remember the ‘Woman Smoking Weed Seductively’ poster that adorned many a teenage bedroom in the mid 90s? (An Athena special… if ya know, ya know). That. Exactly that. Peak Canna-Sleazy. 

Cram in a few neon skull bongs, a ‘Cabbaged Agin’ t-shirt, and a stash Coke (the soda) can, and we’ve hit solid Canna-Tacky gold.

Sparking Up 

Like the denizens of the current ruling political party here in the UK, outwardly these stalwarts of cannabis imagery are consistently naff. But, more worryingly, is the fact that while many may feel they’re being subversive, culturally woke(ish), and that they’re making a positive impact, in fact, they’re perpetuating an outdated stereotypical view of cannabis culture – and therefore, consumers. 

Being under the illusion that you’re driving change when you’re paying lip service to public perception can be a very dangerous thing indeed (just ask our 45-day PM…)

Come on cannabis! We can do better!

In a world where medical claims must be kept at bay, while nebulous legislation roams like bewildered buffalo on high grassy plateaus, it’s tempting to presume that communicating the therapeutic value of cannabis is best left to science brains. But we left-sided brainers can still get a look in when it comes to showcasing that which enlightens the mind – without getting a) too medicinal and b) reliant on overused aesthetics

Some superb cases-in-point:

Yummy – all of it. Each brand is unique and as different to each other as Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart. And each of them complementary to the cannabis cause – more ‘Battlecat’, less ‘Cringer’. 

While it’s clear why a lot of medical cannabis brands champion a generic Rx aesthetic – to enhance legitimacy or perhaps out of sheer necessity and/or compliance – what’s less obvious is why so many wondrous brands settle for one note branding. And while I’m loathe to give examples, truth is, they’re not hard to find; across many different sectors: not just cannabis.

However, harsh reality is that the marketing restrictions currently in place severely impede cannabis brand building. Companies can’t advertise in the way that brands in other sectors can. 

But ultimately, under such conditions, new approaches need to be found – if nothing else to quell consumer confusion over the complexity of cultivars, cannabinoid content, and terpene profiles.

We need low hanging fruit that serves as a shorthand for quality, occasion, and effect. We need to know that the 22% THC sativa is enough to tingle our sensibilities and counter couch-lock, rather than the other way around. And when we can’t explicitly say that, we can evoke it.

Chew Out The Leaf 

So – my message to burgeoning bud brand builders is this: don’t fall back on the same old crap. Don’t assume all cannabis consumers are the same type of person. Consider what your ‘cause’ is. Who you’re talking to. What they care about. What they seek. 

Don’t give them Canna-Corny/Cheesy/Tacky/Sleazy. Or if you do, make sure it’s more tongue-in-cheek than Melty-Face Man getting the midnight munchies. Sure, tropes exist for a reason – we understand them culturally. But let’s not constantly let them lead us into legitimacy.

Blog Author
Dave Barton
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