Women and weed: Targeting the anti-stoners

The importance of women's role in the cannabis-legalization boom.

Weed is everywhere. It always was, of course, but now it is out in the wide-open air. In fact, when we are traveling, and my son catches a whiff he says, "woah, smells like Brooklyn here!" Add to that the countless edibles, teas, infusions, tinctures, lotions, lubes and lozenges and you’ve got a smorgasbord of options for everyone from your stoner nephew to your geriatric granny to your stressed-out self.

Especially if said self is a woman.

Fancy just wrapped up a brand positioning project for an emerging cannabis brand within a large medical cannabis company -- and it was fascinating. The research we did opened our eyes not just to the many ways public perception of the plant is changing, but to the importance women play in the cannabis industry.

Branding challenge
There is big money in this business, too. Constellation Brands is not playing around with their $4 billion stake in Canopy Growth. Coca-Cola, in talks with Aurora Cannabis, wants to get in on the action, and you can believe Big Pharma is pretty interested as this summer the FDA approved a cannabis-derived drug for the first time.

Independents are jumping in, too. Everyone’s trying to establish a foothold, and women are claiming their space -- in the cannabis world they make up 26 percent of owners and founders, whereas women make up only 20 percent of owners and founders across all industries. 

While the industry gets its bearings, and the USA looks to Canada’s recreational market opening on October 17, regulations around the country vary state to state and seemingly week to week. On the one hand that makes advertising for the many brands difficult to do (hello Facebook!), but on the other hand, establishing your brand with a clear point of view on who you are and what you stand for is critical as the market prepares to be flooded with companies hoping to profit from the new Wild West.

Female focus
And a focus on women seems like a good place to start. Even the plants are female! The ladies we saw grew tall and full, blooming lusciously in their girls-only clubhouse.

We met with two physicians (both women) who prescribe cannabis now. One doctor has a background in cardiology. The second doctor is in pain management and has used cannabis to transition many patients off opioids and chemical antidepressants. She does not specialize in women in particular, however women’s health benefits in many ways from cannabis products. It helps with menstrual pain, perimenopause and menopause symptoms. It reduces anxiety, improves sleep, enhances skin. And then there is sex. And there’s more where that comes from -- we met women who won’t have sex without their favorite cannabis product!

Women appear drawn to the kind of branding that seems to be emerging. Cleaner, more modern, less stoner-y. Something that feels less illicit and more like the rest of their regimen of self-care products, because that’s really what this is.

We visited a dispensary that was clean, modern, and brightly lit. Ultra-welcoming, it felt way more like a gathering place than either a purely transactional commerce center, or a shady head shop. This was a place you could bring your mom.

And speaking of moms, there’s a lot of discussion and debate around swapping mommy’s special sippy cup for a sub-lingual spray. Cannabis and pregnancy, cannabis and nursing, cannabis and toddlers (for mom, not the toddler!), cannabis and every aspect of what it means to be a mother in 2018. As cannabis becomes more and more legal in more and more places, it becomes more socially acceptable, and whispers turn to shouts.

A woman’s influence
We all know that women influence 70 to 80 percent of consumer purchases, so in all likelihood that will be the case here, too. Women’s use will help mainstream the category in both medical and recreational settings. So the brands that are able to target her properly, build an actual relationship with her, appeal to her many facets will be the ones that create conversation. And by creating conversation we are normalizing the conversation. And by normalizing the conversation we are making a positive difference. For her and for everyone.

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