Weed and candy
What if instead of running from associations with marijuana, candy makers embraced them?
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There are few things scarier to brands than having their intangible assets infringed upon. Branding, trademarks, intellectual property, and copyrights are all intangible, yet possess enormous amounts of value for companies.
For context, Coca-Cola’s brand, the #1 in the world by most accounts, is valued in excess of $33 billion. This level of recognition, not just for consistency and enjoyment in the way products taste, but for other stuff like perceptions of quality, commitment to corporate social responsibility/diversity and inclusion/etc, and some broad raison d'etre, is what imbues a brand with its value.
With that in mind, Halloween can be an especially frightening time for brands at risk of having their imagery riffed upon by bootleg marijuana edibles. The reasoning goes that by co-opting a popular brand, the edible is diluting the original brand’s value. This mostly has to do with the negative connotations the brand believes are associated with marijuana, as well as any potential safety issues that would arise from a child or doofus confusing the two and bringing harm upon themselves. Halloween is candy’s time to shine.
Rather than run from this, traditional treat makers should embrace it? By collaborating, both the traditional candy company and the edible manufacturer would benefit. By harnessing each other’s power, both brand and edible manufacturer could eat into alcohol and tobacco’s market share as America’s preferred drugs of choice.
Brand collaborations by nature are meant to collectively augment brand power and deliver brand awareness to segments of the market that each individual collaborator may not have achieved without the help of the other. Mostly, these efforts are neither here nor there. Sometimes, as in the case of the Slack/Cole Haan shoes, they’re outright stupid. But every once in a while, like in the case of Taco Bell Doritos Locos Tacos, branded collaborations can be a major success. To give a sense of what this success looks like, as of 2017, the Doritos Locos Tacos had generated $1 billion in sales in just under five years, and Taco Bell sells roughly 1 million of them per day.
In the US alone, revenue for alcoholic drinks is expected to be just under $249 billion this year. According to the FTC, smokeless tobacco sales were $4.82 billion in 2020 and there were 203 billion cigarettes sold or given away in 2020. The FTC’s ‘Cigarette Report for 2020’ does not include smoked tobacco revenues for 2020, likely because of some lobbyists' efforts, so let’s just say that 203 billion cigs sold translates to lots of revenue.
Meanwhile, legal cannabis sales in the US were a meager $17.5 billion in 2020, a fraction of alcohol and tobacco. And while the market is expected to accelerate to $43 billion by 2025, that growth could be juiced by collaboration.
Before anyone raises concerns about safety, let me address this by saying that all legal marijuana packaging must include a warning label and be packaged in such a way to make it clearly distinct from candy. In some states such as Colorado, rules even go so far as prohibiting the use of ‘candy’ in the labeling entirely.
One of the major challenges facing edibles is the quality and consistency of the product. As in, the edibles market is flooded with unrecognizable brands, making it difficult to have a sense for how the product you’re purchasing is going to taste and if it’ll taste just as good the next time. Plus, on a state by state basis, there are multitudes of different brands being sold. The issues of brand recognition, quality control, and consistency could be solved via a partnership between, say, Mars Wrigley and Wana Brands. Everyone knows what a Twix is going to be, nobody has any idea what a Wana ‘Assorted Flavors Indica (Rec)’ is going to taste like.
Soda brands of all stripes are already mixed with various liquors in bars and homes the world over. The reason they can’t be marketed together likely has to do with the code of federal regulations governing liquor, more specifically (I read a whole section of this for research, appreciate me) sections § 5.42 Prohibited practices (a)(6) which states, liquor brands cannot be labeled with a brand name of another existing private organization. The point being that liquor advertising is governed at the Federal level.
Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, yet authorities turn a blind eye to states where consumption is illegal. All it would take is one major brand to try making a modified version of its candy to test the waters. Worst case scenario, the federal government cracks down and the company, which likely donates hundreds of thousands to political campaigns and lobbying groups, receives a slap on the wrist. Best case, this forces the hand of the federal government to expedite federal legalization and the daring brand is rewarded with a vast first-to-market advantage.
For now, I’ll have to be content with my 0% THC Ben and Jerry’s.
Don’t be spooked, subscribe. Happy belated Halloween.