Out of the shadows
Earlier this week, as I walked through SoHo in New York City, I was handed a promotional business card, similar to what you might see being handed out to publicize Lyft, FreshDirect, or other growing startups.
Instead of an app to download or a service to try, this one just had a phone number and a green marijuana leaf. It was a promotion for Eaze, the “Uber for weed” that just pulled in $13 million in funding.
The marijuana industry is growing up.Click To Tweet
This move to traditional marketing is just one indicator for what’s to come in the growing legal weed industry. With marijuana legalized in 28 states to some degree, companies are taking steps to remove the shady reputation the product and its distributors have. They’re clearing away some of the smoke, you could say.
Eaze’s street team goes hand in hand with a push to change the way we talk about weed, marketing it as a competitor to energy drinks, teas or coffee, rather than as a once-illegal drug.
By ditching the stoner reputation and trying to remove the negative stereotypes of marijuana, companies hope to grow their potential customers and reach new audiences.
Further evidence is big names in cannabusiness like Snoop Dogg that have shied away from stoner imagery and offer luxurious, modern packaging that looks more like boxes for candles sold at a spa than a package of the sticky icky.
Hold the cheese
The same can be said for 1906, a chocolate-edible company named for the year the U.S. government first cracked down on marijuana, is doing this by changing the names of their products from the traditional goofy, sometimes risque strain names to things like Pause (relaxing) and Midnight (sleep aid). While some potential customers may be reluctant to buy Sour Diesel or Green Crack, they may be less opposed to taking a dose of Present, 1906’s product for focus.
“I think of our competition not as other edibles,” Peter Barsoom, an ex-banker and now the CEO of 1906, told Bloomberg. “It’s that cup of coffee in the morning, it’s the pill of Ambien to help you sleep, it’s that cup of chamomile tea.”
A better angle
Eaze launched in 2014 and with their $13 million in Series B funding from Fresh VC, DCM Ventures and Tusk Ventures increased their total raised to $25 million and became the most-funded start-up in the industry to date. With legal marijuana sales projected to increase to $18 billion in the next four years from $7 billion, according to Arcview Market Research, it’s no surprise investors and ex-bankers like Barsoom are hopping on the weed train. The legal marijuana industry is no joke.
The push to make marijuana a competitor to coffee or tea could be a tough road, but fitting it into a space similar to wine could be a reasonable next step.
While some potential buyers might see marijuana as comparable to other party-products like Four Loko now, big efforts are being made to help the industry mature, and change consumer’s minds in the process.
While there always may be a stigma about weed, who knows how long it will be before we see TV ads or even drive by billboards for the growing range of legal marijuana products.