There are a few historic truisms about cannabis: It sells itself, and it’s recession-proof.
The latter has proven to be the case in 2020—despite the devastating impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the U.S. economy, legal weed has had a record-breaking year, most recently with a single-day high on Green Wednesday.
But as anyone in the industry will note, there’s skill involved in moving product, even one as desirable as ganja.
With that in mind, we’ve gathered some of our favorite marketing, which includes virtual activations, TV shows, out-of-home displays and purpose-driven packaging, in a best-of list that highlights the cannabis industry’s innovation, nimbleness and smarts. And for context, check out the top-of-2019 compilation to see how the business and its consumer communications have evolved.
Charlotte’s Web went big in the heartland—the equivalent of 57 football fields in McPherson, Kansas—to make a statement about wellness and hemp with a visually stunning farm-art project. The pioneering CBD brand’s summer activation spanned more than 3 million square feet and took a lone wheat farmer a solid week to mow, aided by GPS and collaborator Precision Mazes.
The design came from Shepard Fairey’s Studio Number One as a follow-up to fall 2019’s slightly more traditional (yet still giant) out-of-home displays in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Seen in its full glory via aerial photography, “Trust the Earth” snagged some 258 million earned media impressions and boosted brand awareness by 30%.
These TV projects are not technically commercials, but they underline two solid trends in the weed industry: Hollywood celebrities flooding the space (not for the first time) and major media outlets devoting increasing levels of airtime to the subject.
With an entertainment bent, the loosely scripted Growing Belushi follows the actor-musician’s work on his 93-acre cannabis farm in southern Oregon, which includes family drama, failed crops and skinny-dips (with strategically placed pixellation) in the Rogue River.
Belushi has help from his famous friends, namely weed maven Captain Jack and comedian Dan Ackroyd, as he launches a Blues Brothers-branded strain. Despite his support, he knows he’s wading into an area already rife with hip-hop artists, former pro sports stars and other Hollywood types.
“A celebrity cannabis line can’t just be a pretty box with a recognizable name on it,” Belushi told Adweek. “It’s got to be real and authentic, it’s got to have a story and a why. That’s what I’m doing with this show. I’m educating the audience about my relationship with cannabis. I believe in the message and the medicine.”
Producers for the series are in talks for a potential second season.
On the documentary side, Smoke: Marijuana + Black America features cannapreneurs like B-Real, Al Harrington and Ricky Williams talking about the failed war on drugs, racial disparities in criminal justice and barriers to entry for budding business owners.
Narrated and executive produced by rapper Nas, the program puts a painful spotlight on past and present inequities, but it’s an ultimately hopeful vision of the future.
Eaze, the largest cannabis delivery marketplace in California, rebranded itself this year for the first time since its 2014 debut, moving away from discrete “wink-wink” ads and unapologetically embracing weed loyalists.