Is anyone else tired of marketing swag — branded t-shirts and keychains and pens, for example? These freebies have reached astronomical proportions and has even started its own entire multi billion dollar industry turning out quick prints and foam tchotchkes for any old conference, expo, or company picnic imaginable. The cannabis industry is no different, and in fact may be an even worse offender of pawning off unsustainably made and completely random goods just to get their brand out there.
After all, the marketing restrictions placed on cannabis are numerous, sampling has even been nixed in California, so there are limited ways for cannabis brands to spread awareness, especially at mondo events with dozens of other cultivators or product lines. If you can’t put an ad on Facebook or hand out a free joint to someone already in a dispensary, but you can dole out hats and sunglasses, it may seem like a no brainer.
But cannabis knows better. An entire industry corralled for decades by backwards science and racist politicians that is finally getting some legitimate innovation. Cannabis cultivators used to put value in environmental salience, but now the desire to grow capital seems to have taken the lead.
We asked Brad Bogus of Confident Cannabis, a software developer that helps both cannabis businesses and consumers have better experiences. He thinks right now the things that companies provide should be as thoughtful as any other marketing strategy. He told us, “ We want you to walk away with a freebie that you will actually find useful in your daily life. We might see scrutiny from regulatory bodies on what kinds of “useful” swag is allowed; for instance, we may not be able to offer smoking tools or paraphernalia in the future. I doubt it, but I wouldn’t put it outside the realm of possibility.”
Though it’s a semi-viable strategy right now, consumers may hold the cannabis industry to a much higher standard. Bogus said this is all worth considering, “Most companies should consider a swag-free existence. Very few of them actually have people that want their swag, whatever it may be, and it’s hard to strike the right balance between cost, desire, and ROI [return on investment]. Plus, most swag is just garbage, contributing to our never ending waste problem and culture of disposal; these are very important issues to consider. The drawback to making the choice to go swag-free is merely having to figure out other strategies to get your name top-of-mind to your customers.”
Maybe some people like freebies of this nature, but frankly, textile and swag pollution is on par with the throwaway stuff we buy every year to ‘celebrate’ major holidays. It pollutes the earth, it’s often made with unfair labor, and its primary purpose is marketing, not the function of the item itself.
When you add up every doob tube and printed pen, you’re getting piles of plastic and junk that is swiftly catching up with our other wasteful industries. Bogus said that to companies, “It only makes sense to think of your marketing spend holistically, and to know the impact of making the right choices, even if they aren’t the cheapest.”
Cannabis marketing is harder because of the government’s slow progress on cannabis, but it can also be easier because people simply want to buy it. There’s truly no need for all the literal bells and whistles, and it endangers our future.