When Industries Collide
When I told folks we were relocating to the desert, they’re response was: “are you retiring?” True, many of my new neighbors are what we affectionately call “active seniors.” They golf, play tennis or pickleball and take brisk walks on magnificent trails. There is plenty to do in the Coachella Valley if you are retired. But I’m not there yet.
The desert is also a hotbed for the cannabis industry. Figuring that our core competency of strategic communications could be transferred to this burgeoning industry, I’ve immersed myself in classes (one of the best is Sagelogica), webinars, zoom meetings. Then I binged on memberships in a plethora of associations whose initials are challenging to keep straight (e.g., CVCAN, NCIA, NACB, NORML, CMA).
The biggest takeaway from all this research is the cannabis industry is about the people. It’s an industry where you can pretty much be who you want to be. Innovative entrepreneurs are drawn to this space with good reason.
The cannabis plant itself offers a spectrum of medicinal qualities, psychotropic qualities, and a panoply of physical care components that are organic and effective. Because of the numerous positive attributes of weed, and as it becomes more widely accepted, the once stealth pot business is coming into the light. The cannabis industry is a maturing teenager with unlimited possibilities.
From my vantage point as a communications professional predominantly concentrating in the timeshare resort and hospitality business, the parallels between the two industries are striking. Three decades ago, timeshare was scorned; it was almost embarrassing to own one and often to work for one. But that is no longer even close to a reality. One of the strongest sectors of the hospitality industry to stay somewhat afloat during the pandemic, timeshare, according to Jason Gamel, President and CEO of ARDA, is resilient because owners and users love the product. However, at the start of the customer journey, no one says “let’s go buy a timeshare today.” After they own, they are glad they made the decision.
As opposed to timeshare, the cannabis business is completely consumer/patient driven. A sought-after medicine, sleep aid, ointment, health and beauty care product, a mood enhancer, weed is perfectly aligned with a mindful population migrating toward more and more plant-based products to support their health and well-being.
Just as timeshare tried to call itself by a more global moniker “vacation ownership”, marijuana is now moving toward a more inclusive word, “cannabis”.
It is no surprise that older folks, especially women in their 40s, are the fastest growing market in the space. As Dan Berman, Founder, Chairman, CEO of CannabisBPO, said in his recent blog “Health care vs. Self-care”, “The proper cannabis prescription includes a healthy dose of education…Doctors are only being forced to learn about cannabis because their patients are pushing them. If a doctor doesn’t know or doesn’t understand how to guide a patient who is interested in cannabis, that patient will find other resources including non-healthcare practitioners”.
With its progression to mainstream acceptance, the cannabis industry is charged with re-educating the public about the uses of various characteristics, strength, and qualities of the plant. As cannabis comes out from the shadows, consumer, physician, and politician education are most important.
Years ago, we PR professionals subscribed to the tenet that a primary benefit of traditional earned media was education. Today, despite various modes of communication, that adage still holds true. The cannabis industry can follow the path of the resort/hospitality industry: building brand loyalty, crafting signature experiences, and offering an information platform to help consumers understand the plant. As weed laws are moving more toward uniform legalization, the need for strong communications strategies becomes even more relevant.
There are a few very strong professional PR companies and single practitioners already working for the good of cannabis, social justice reform and brand awareness. We look forward to being counted among them one day soon.