Cannabis companies are hiring luxury fashion veterans and communications firms as they look to market themselves in an attractive way to a desirable audience.
Major PR firms are pivoting away from pure fashion clients to provide branding expertise for the emerging market.
Fashion and cannabis retailers have similar challenges when it comes to drawing in new customers and keeping their loyalty.
LOS ANGELES— Fashion marketers, skilled at spinning the image of a brand that few truly need into something highly desirable, are being tapped to usher the emerging cannabis industry into the mainstream.
This potential bonanza is creating new jobs for some longtime fashion brand professionals. New York-based communications firm BPCM this month quietly launched a cannabis division and brought in Lisa Gabor, branding consultant and founding editor of InStyle magazine, to run it. They’re calling it BPCM Cannabis, and early clients include Grass & Co., a cannabis-wellness brand based in the UK.
The division will act on more than public relations, applying the branding acumen that has long served fashion labels to cannabis products and companies in an industry that is still in its infancy.
Co-founder Vanessa von Bismarck says BPCM is focused on the emerging role of cannabis “in the luxury market — a market we know quite well”. She and Carrie Phillips founded BPCM two decades ago, working with fashion clients like Hugo Boss, Stella McCartney and Louis Vuitton back when fashion shows were closed-door, elegant events and the pinnacle of fashion’s marketing cycle.
Like fashion, cannabis marketing — which includes hemp, CBD and related products — is youth-focused. “We are focused on the immense opportunity to help engage and educate Gen Z when it comes to cannabis and how cannabis converges with travel, beauty and fashion,” von Bismarck says. “It’s disrupting the lifestyle industries as we know them.”
“Cannabis doesn’t know how to get into the true, authentic brand space… I don’t know how many meetings we take each week,” says Phillips, mimicking her team’s reactions to much of what they see: “‘Great idea, half-baked, terrible packaging’. They have no idea.”
These fledgling brands are growing ad hoc in an industry that’s still fighting for legalization. New Frontier Data estimates the industry for legal marijuana in the US will be worth $29.7 billion by 2025, up from $13.6 billion in 2019. Despite that growth, marijuana-related arrests are still on the rise as of 2018.
Published: January 26, 2020
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News