How One Taboo Represents New Value For Brands

Chris WrenJune 21, 20183 min

Just recently, Canada became the second country in the world to legalize marijuana. Last year on Branding Strategy Insider, we explored the evolving cannabis movement, From Contraband to Desired Brand in which we highlighted several aspects of the emerging trend, not simply as a product, but as an ingredient in cosmetics, food, and wellness.

Another look reveals where the trend is taking brands. Did you know that Netflix partnered with Alternative Herbal Health Services, or AHHS, a West Hollywood marijuana dispensary, to distribute 12 strains of marijuana based on 10 of its shows? They created unique strains and sleek packaging to go along with Netflix content including: Disjointed, Lady Dynamite, BoJack Horseman, Orange Is the New Black, Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later, Mystery Science 3000: The Return, Arrested Development, Grace and Frankie, Chelsea and Santa Clarita Diet.

While Netflix didn’t technically sell the marijuana, its lawyers worked with the state of California and the city of West Hollywood to sort out how it could distribute weed. Speaking to Adweek, Jonathan Santoro, executive creative director of Carrot (the agency responsible for the brand activation) said, “It was essentially a no-brainer to create a pop-up that truly distributed marijuana that we would curate.”

What’s interesting about this is the unexpected union of a major global brand, and an old taboo that is increasingly finding acceptance in some countries around the world. A new report from JWT Intelligence highlights a growing number of cannabis-themed tourist experiences that coincide with the gradual legalization of marijuana all over North America.

Not only are we seeing the advent of privately owned pot tour operators, but also a cultish community, like a new phenomenon called ‘bud and breakfast’ providing a list of more than 400 marijuana-friendly properties. As Laura Powell notes, “Maine Greenyards in Auburn is one of the first such properties in New England. The ‘cannabis-themed boutique accommodations’ are set amid a garden where various strains of the plant are grown and the owners are on hand to provide cannabis education.”

But where it gets interesting is in hotels, that are partnering with celebrity chefs and different product lines to bring the experience to customers. In Los Angeles and Hollywood, The Standard hotels are collaborating with Lord Jones, a manufacturer and distributor of CBD-infused products. The hotels already offer CBD-infused gumdrops and body lotions in minibars for California locations, and there are plans to expand the offerings to hotels in New York City and Miami. Lord Jones is also launching its retail flagship within the Hollywood property later this year, selling cannabis-infused products to guests and the local community.

Portland Oregon is one of the most progressive cities in the US and it’s no surprise that cannabis-driven business has momentum. The 81-room Jupiter Hotel is proudly promoting that it is marijuana-friendly, offering guests an ‘Everything but the Weed’ kit, including coupons for dispensaries and related businesses. According to spokesperson Sarah Schnur, “When marijuana first became legal, the conversation opened up with our team on how we can make it easier for our customers.” The hotel, explains Schnur, wanted to make it clear to guests that accessing legal marijuana is permitted. “We decided we wanted to embrace this and promote conscious consumption. The package has continued to be one of our best-selling since its launch.”

What Does This Trend Mean For Other Brands?

It’s more evidence that unexpected partnerships fuel brands, as Paul Bailey detailed just a few days ago. What I hope it also shows is that before you go develop a chat bot, or bolt on some augmented reality gimmick for the trade publications, think about what unexpected intersection your brand might find with something else, even something that might be a little taboo.

Remember that brands are never finished and the journey to creating value for the customer never ends. New value is often found down the side streets of culture.

The Blake Project Can Help: The Brand Positioning Workshop

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

Connect With Us