Marketing Cannabis through the Repeal of Prohibition

2017 is looking to be an incredible year for Cannabis. With many states implementing some sort of Cannabis policy, and billions of dollars being flooded in to the market, “how are we going to differentiate ourselves” is a question on every cannabis company’s mind. With the federal government still criminalizing cannabis, many marketing channels available to other industries are simply unavailable for cannabis businesses. This creates an interesting problem when companies look to step forward in to this massive new market in hopes to take home their own little piece of the gold rush.

How do you get your product to stand out? To begin finding this answer, a good question to start asking yourself is “Who are we and what’s unique about us?” Only once you have an answer to this, and it better be a damn good one, can you begin to look for your tribe inside this diverse industry.

A Medicine Box farmer tending to his crops

Now, we have a huge issue facing cannabis marketing in 2017, and that issue lies with the current stance digital marketing channels have with cannabis. Facebook is still shutting pages down “siding with the federal government,” and you can’t buy Google Adwords for recreational cannabis. So … how the hell do you reach these people?! We can’t just pay for advertisements specifically made to target them (for now), so that means we must create things that are of interest to them.

You need to tell a captivating story that has them wanting to try your product; you need to gain their trust. Either your tribe is asking for you by name, or you spark the interest of the casual observer walking in to a random dispensary. Are they going to see you in High Times, or did they find you on Instagram, or were the referred to your blog from Facebook? Is your product’s presentation unique enough to capture their attention?

Cannabis with lady bug

This was a question we had a few different answers for with our client Medicine Box, a cannabis company rooted in California’s Gold Country, whose “From Soil to Oil” philosophy focuses on mindful cultivation and innovation. They had a few different goals that we looked to reach together during our yearlong marketing campaign, with the primary goal of building a diverse set marketing materials for use throughout their launch year of 2017. We started gathering content in May of 2016 and began to formulate a content marketing strategy together, with our initial efforts focused on unveiling Medicine Box to the world at the National Cannabis Industry Association event of 2016.

Their booth was centered around a table crafted by Andy Cline and his team at Roundwood Furniture, using wood reclaimed from old piers of Lake Tahoe, capturing Medicine Box’s essence. Their sign, as well as the chairs for the booth, came from a particular design style Cline created using different pieces of reclaimed wood from other fine woodworking projects, backlit by experimental electrician Josh Root to give the booth an all together different ambiance and glow. At the back sat a TV playing a video we specifically crafted for the event, showcasing the creation of the very product that visitors could taste in front of them. The team also had tablets available with photographs we captured of their whole operation.

We gathered this content for a variety of uses going forward. Everything was repurposed for the website, social channels, and expanded upon later with new footage, incorporating alternate angles and other ways to diversify the content to the application and story. Our foresight allowed Medicine Box to get more from their investment simply by shaping what we captured in the field for a variety of future applications. One of our alternate uses of this content was to create a few series of weekly features that would become keystones for bolstering their tribe. A weekly infographic feature called Terpene Tuesday would highlight the different properties of the specific terpenes found in a variety of cannabis strains.

Terpene Tuesday Linalool for Medicine BoxTerpene Tuesday Caryophylene for Medicine Box

Our designer, Chris Ullman, created these features holding tight to Medicine Box’s branding, bringing a unique aesthetic to the already established #TerpeneTuesday tag. The popularity of this content prompted us to expand with a new feature called Tincture Thursday, highlighting the herbs used throughout their different tincture products.

Chaga Mushroom Herb Spotligh

For Tincture Thursday, we opted to use imagery from the herbs rather than the herb, keeping true to the style we’ve built together, while limiting the cannabis imagery. Since herbal tinctures have a broader application than just within the cannabis industry, this content allowed us to reach in to different groups who may have not seen Medicine Box otherwise. An additional bonus: by not promoting cannabis directly, focusing on informing people about the herb’s health benefits, we could promote the content through ads on various channels. We tapped in to a whole different market of likeminded individuals AND put some money towards promoting the content to our carefully crafted audience profile.

Throughout our year long campaign together, we created a plethora of unique content for Medicine Box. We created an interactive product catalog for their website that allows both wholesalers and individuals to see their test results, recipes, and learn more about their value. Medicine Box was featured in the February 2017 issue of Dope Magazine as their “Garden of the Month” and we made the most of this opportunity by including two pages directly following the feature, totaling to a four page spread giving viewers a taste of everything Medicine Box has to offer.

Medicine Box Dope Magazine Feature

We created an assortment of stickers and other promotional content that would bolster their style and packaging. Medicine Box is a team of fellow innovators, and they envision cannabis to become more and more like fine wine as the industry moves forward. Budtenders will become increasingly like sommeliers, especially as more companies begin to use appellations correlating to specific strains of cannabis when they’re creating their products. One of the ways Medicine Box does this is with their signature strain, Gold Country Afgoo, grown right in the perfect appellation of California’s Gold Country. Paying homage to the styles of the classic cigar box with the informative properties of a wine label, MB created a wholesale box of Pre-Rolled joints, complete with a variety of strains noting their appellation and vintage. For this container we created a series a stickers that resembled old cigar box stickers, highlighting the terpenes found in these strains, and their corresponding medical uses. This allows dispensaries to put these “Cigar Boxes” right on the shelf in a beautiful way, showcasing Medicine Box’s style to the retail customer, while informing both the budtender and customer as to the properties found in the product.

Terpene information for Myrcene

These are just a taste of the content we produced over the course of the year with Medicine Box. The reality of marketing your Cannabis company throughout 2017 and beyond lies in the same truth that every company faces in the new world of digital marketing: telling your story as honest and raw as you possibly can. Find your true self and focus all your efforts on being as authentic to yourselves as possible, while telling a story that resonates with your tribe. There are a few interesting hoops you must jump through, but they will only help you find how you wish to present yourselves to the world. The industry is aching for individuals to come forward, shake things up, and bring their authentic selves to the table, so be the change you wish to see in the cannabis industry and start telling your story, for your tribe, as authentically and interestingly as humanly possible.

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Viscerah has been able to creatively pursue my vision in the way I articulate it and assist in developing a healthy social media presence. Evan and his dedicated team have worked alongside me in constructing overall brand awareness with fine detail and accountability.

Brian Chaplin, Founder - Medicine Box

Evan has an amazing ability to understand another's vision and at the same time layer in his own surprising interpretation using his own extremely versatile style. Evan relishes a challenge. Working with him feels easy, spontaneous and joyful. He is forever my 'go to' guy when it comes to all projects involving filmmaking.

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Evan was the perfect addition to our Yoga Retreat. He joined in on all the activities to capture all footage requested and fit right in with all the yogis of all ages! His video creations were amazing!! Exceeded all expectation. Highly recommend Evan! I hope to find other projects for him so I can have another opportunity to work with him.

Tiana Duvachelle, Founder - Benicia Yoga House

It was really dope working with people who actually understand our culture. I felt like I was able to get genuine feedback from dudes who didn't need to be told what's cool.

Trever Maur, Director - Dog Dayz