Uh-oh! MiNDFUL and Cannabrand Split Illuminates “Stoner” vs. “New Canna” Dynamic… From The Cannabist and The NYT:
(Image credit: Olivia Mannix and Jennifer DeFalco of Cannabrand. Morgan Rachel Levy for The New York Times)
Claire Kaufmann | October 7, 2014
Yes, while it was absolutely not okay to compare marijuana dispensaries to “abortion clinics,” I empathize on some level with both parties. Unfortunately Cannabrand has fallen victim to the ever growing hostility evolving between “old school” stoners and “new school” cannabis entrepreneurs. Cannabrands’ DeFalco and Mannix may have bit off more than they could chew. Being successful in this industry takes the wisdom and long-term vision. That kind of patience and wisdom only comes with time, and this is a new, fast-paced industry. In an effort to illuminate and speak truth about the dark corners of our industry, Cannabrand inadvertently alienated its “base.” MiNDFUL was right to set a precedent for all of us. All firms make mistakes, and I am sure that DeFalco and Mannix didn’t have any malice, but the fact remains that in marketing, our words have tremendous power – they can bring us together or they can tear us apart.
In an effort to shed our skin, we can’t risk alienating the very people who helped get us to where we are today. I think about that every time I go to a cannabis conference. I feel like there should be a candle lit somewhere for all the people that are still incarcerated for marijuana. I’m glad we can put pot into a pill and talk about the “green rush” but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We have a lot of learning to do and people are still suffering, let’s not be guilty of arrogance.
In the end, when we divide as an industry we create silos, and we can’t afford to be exclusive right now – not when we’ve barely begun our journey. The solution is to think holistically about the wisdom that can be garnered from various factions of the industry, instead of making it an “us vs. them” scenario.
I was at an event years ago, ironically held under the glow of the Starbucks Headquarters logo in Seattle. The upper deck of the event space was filled with leaders from throughout the cannabis industry. In a way, the event felt strangely final. This is an industry where really no one has “won” yet. We are still pioneers, feeling this whole new world out together. That won’t last forever. We will evolve as will public POV. Let’s be mindful that we stay together and work collaboratively as long as we can, we have enough hurdles to leap in the meantime. We have to honor our past and respect those who have sacrificed so much for what we have. Favor gratitude, patience and strategic collaboration.
The original story from the NYT
By Jessica Bennett | October 3, 2014
Step into a Colorado pot dispensary at random, and you’ll long for the luxuries of the D.M.V.
Metal bars cover windows. Vinyl signs are tacked to walls. Guys in hoodie sweatshirts greet you from behind the counter. Even the act of ordering the product itself is borderline absurd. What grown adult can respectfully walk into a store and ask for an eighth of Green Krack and a nub of Big Buddha Cheese, please?
But that experience is changing, thanks to a new breed of entrepreneur in Colorado — young, ambitious and often female — that is trying to reach a more sophisticated clientele in everything from language to packaging to social events.
“We’re weeding out the stoners,” said Olivia Mannix, the 25-year-old co-founder of a start-up called Cannabrand, an advertising agency devoted exclusively to marketing marijuana. “We want to show the world that normal, professional, successful people consume cannabis.”
Colorado became the first of two states to legalize recreational marijuana sales this year, paving the way for millions in tax revenue, and a new kind of consumer. That is why, on a recent weekend, Ms. Mannix and her co-founder, Jennifer DeFalco, were camped out in Aspen for a pot-themed (and pot-induced) brainstorming session.
The gathering was billed as a “writer’s retreat,” but mostly it involved talking. They discussed edible marijuana and flavor pairings over a meal prepared by Melissa Parks, a chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu (THC-infused truffles optional). They contemplated strain hybrids and herbal remedies, with commentary from a self-described “cannabis sommelier,” as well as the “gangapreneurs” who have flocked to Colorado since pot was made legal, not wanting to miss out on the so-called green rush.
And, of course, they talked about branding: How can the pot industry shed its stoner stigma?
Pot has practically gone mainstream. A majority of Americans now supports legalization efforts. There are coming ballot measures in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia. Yet when it comes to pot culture, the industry remains comically rudimentary.
Dispensaries still “look like underground abortion clinics,” Ms. Mannix said. Advertisements are full of “women with whipped cream straddling bongs,” Ms. DeFalco said. And the old stoner stereotype endures: lazy, mostly men, rolling joints in their parents’ basement, covered in Doritos crumbs.
“The average person, when you say the word ‘marijuana,’ they have a visceral reaction,” said Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, one of the oldest of such groups. “There’s a reason the alcohol industry spends tens of millions of dollars to advertise and market their products. Successful branding pays off.”
The original story from The Cannabist
‘Weeding out the stoners’: How ad agency lost client
The founders of a Denver-based ad agency lost a major client and alienated some industry and activists when they compared certain Colorado dispensaries to “underground abortion clinics” and said they’re “weeding out the stoners” in a recent New York Times piece on legal marijuana’s ever-changing image.
Making matters more severe: The ad company, Cannabrand, deals solely with marijuana clients.
The Times piece focused on the rebranding of legal marijuana in Colorado — something that is happening widely as businesses look to tap a new clientele in a state full of of recreational pot sales. But the tone of the ad execs’ quotes left a bad taste for many.
“We’re weeding out the stoners,” Cannabrand co-founder Olivia Mannix told The Times. “We want to show the world that normal, professional, successful people consume cannabis.”
Other quotes from The Times piece: Mannix said dispensaries “look like underground abortion clinics.” Her business partner Jennifer DeFalco said pot-rooted advertisements are full of “women with whipped cream straddling bongs” — and she added that “baby boomers are smoking, stay-at-home moms are smoking, business executives are smoking. But for so long, they’ve done it behind closed doors. We want to bring them out of the shadows.”
Colorado dispensary group Mindful, formerly known as Gaia Plant-Based Medicine with three stores on the Front Range, terminated its relationship with Cannabrand after seeing The Times piece.
“Mindful has parted ways with Cannabrand due to recent statements they have made that clearly conflict with our company values,” Mindful’s CEO Meg Sanders said in a statement. “We understand that these comments were hurtful and insulting to the industry and to the many that have fought so hard for years in the name of patient rights and safe access. We remain committed to serving our community, patients and customers with dignity and compassion.”
Cannabrand’s founders Mannix and DeFalco declined an interview but offered this statement on Monday.
“In the recent NYT article there were several quotes that did not clearly convey our stance,” the statement reads. “Please let us clarify; We support everyone in the marijuana industry, and it’s unfortunate that those statements do not accurately portray Cannabrand or our community. Cannabrand’s mission is to broaden the cannabis consumer demographic and to welcome more people into this vibrant industry, which veteran cannabis leaders have readily established. We aim to further public acceptance of marijuana, in hopes that this will advance the ongoing support and legalization of cannabis.”
The original comments set marijuana activist- and industry-connected social media and message boards afire.