Blunt Talk: Los Angeles RuNT Event Recap
Listen up, creatives: There’s a tidal wave on the horizon, and it’s got your name all over it. Preceded by Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, California is the latest state to join the early adopters in completely legal cannabis, with undoubtedly more to come. Which means products, advertising, branding, and marketing (read: opportunity) where there was none before. In Mathys+Potestio’s recent RuNT event in LA (aptly titled “Blunt Talk”), a panel of the industry’s frontrunners discussed where we are, where we’re going, and what that means for you—the creative class.
Spoiler? It’s gonna be big.
Kicking things off was Sparks & Honey’s Tim Ettus, who estimated that the industry will grow from 2016’s $6.5 billion in legal cannabis sales to $24 billion 2025—and Tim says that may be a conservative estimate.
We’re not dealing with the stereotypical stoner of yore.
Sparks & Honey analyzes the cultural horizon to help companies strategize for the future, and they gather much of their data through social media. In a 30-day period prior to Blunt Talk, says Tim, millions of cannabis mentions and posts revealed a “passionate, informed audience” of diverse interests and backgrounds. And, “It skews older than you’d expect.”
In other words, we’re not dealing with the stereotypical stoner of yore. That means we’ve got a call to action as entrepreneurs and branding professionals: it’s time to elevate the conversation. In order for cannabis to be a successful category of mainstream products, its image needs to evolve from the tie-dye, pot leaf and green-heavy visuals, to speak to its diverse and growing user base.
Perfect example? Krystal Kitahara and Alysia Sofios of Yummi Karma. The CEO and Chief Communication Officer, respectively, created a canna-business specifically to appeal to and empower women. With a focus on beauty, edibles, and topicals, their sleek products look like you might find them at Sephora or an artisanal food shop, rather than at a medical dispensary. And operating under the current regulations surrounding cannabis, they attribute their runaway success to their lean-in branding.
“Packaging is everything!” says Alysia. When all you have to speak for your product is your product, first impressions really matter.
Echoing that sentiment was Eric Eslao, the CEO of Défoncé Chocolatier. We’re not surprised that Eric, an alum of Apple’s iTunes, and his team built an impeccable edible brand from beginning to end. The luxe and meticulous packaging and site are like glimpsing into the future, with a color palette Eric calls “California pastels.”
His take? “The package should speak to what’s inside.”
And the guts of this chocolate bar are just as meticulously designed as the packaging. Défoncé started at the very beginning, partnering with an organic sun-grower and looking to expert chocolatiers to blend and standardize the dosing in each pyramidal section of the bar. “Most people’s first experience with edibles is horrible,” he says, and everything about Défoncé (which means “high” in French) is meant to exchange that expectation for only the positive.
On the other end of the panel’s spectrum was Felix Fang, host of PRØHBTD’s Modern Grower. As an early purveyor of new content creation around cannabis, Felix looks to the source with curiosity and commentary, and a gentle reminder to remember the industry’s literal ‘roots’ as we move forward. Hers was, as many others’ on the panel, a message of positivity and inclusivity.
With the great power of legalization will come a great responsibility.
In fact, there seemed to be a total consensus across the panel and in the audience that with the great power of legalization will come a great responsibility. As one sponsor pointed out, branding cannabis is the first opportunity of its kind since the internet became a thing. So, yeah. Get excited about creating excellent work targeted toward the very real individuals on the receiving end. They’re diverse and they’re ready to learn about what cannabis can do for them.
A million thanks go to WeWork Promenade for hosting, and to TLT Food for providing some absolutely delicious tacos. Coming up in the future: more RuNT Events! Keep an eye on the socials and on M+P’s events page for even more chances to catch ahead-of-the-curve info curated especially for you.
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