Tweed Marijuana’s new deal with weed-smoking rapper Snoop Dogg is a hit with marketing experts who say the partnership has already generated plenty of free publicity for the company and could pay off handsomely if the drug is legalized.
Snoop Dogg is the latest shareholder of Tweed Marijuana.
The Smiths Falls-based medical marijuana producer announced last month it has inked an agreement that will give it exclusive rights to some of the Long Beach, Calif., native’s “content and brands” in exchange for cash and company stock. The three-year deal has an option to be renewed for two additional years.
Local branding executives and professors praised Tweed for finding a creative way to raise its public profile, adding the firm is clearly preparing for the day when marijuana is legally available to everyone.
Soon after the deal was announced, for example, Snoop’s Instagram account featured a photo of him in Toronto wearing a Tweed T-shirt during the NBA all-star game festivities, an image that was seen around the world.
“There’s some very specific (advertising) restrictions for the medical marijuana growers,” noted Gordon McMillan, CEO and chief creative officer at the Ottawa marketing and branding agency that bears his name.
“They can’t do online advertising, so having images of Snoop with their T-shirt on and going to certain things like the NBA (all-star game), it starts to really allow them to not break the rules and get their brand out there.”
While Tweed is currently allowed to sell its product only for medicinal use, he said it’s already looking ahead to a day when it’s available to a much wider market. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has vowed his government will legalize and regulate the sale of the drug in Canada.
“Presumably, some of the individuals who are looking at the medical marijuana situation might appreciate the connection with Snoop Dogg, but it seems to me that it’s a pretty specific reference to a broadening of what legally will be allowed in the future,” said Mr. McMillan, whose firm came up with the Tweed name. “That seems to be the direction things are going, obviously, so it probably makes sense to do this.”
Michael Mulvey, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management, said he thinks the association with Snoop could be a “step forward and a step back simultaneously” for Tweed.
“When you make a partnership with a celebrity as prominent as Snoop Dogg is, you’re certainly going to get on the radar and you’re going to get some attention,” he said. “Clearly, this is a step into the anticipated recreational use market. This really helps put Tweed not just on the national stage but also on the international stage as a player in the game because they’re dealing with an international celebrity.”
At the same time, Mr. Mulvey said, the deal could present a “branding issue” for Tweed, which has worked hard to cultivate an image as a reputable provider of pain medication, albeit an unconventional one.
“Their biggest challenge was trying to establish legitimacy as a medically endorsed pain medication or treatment,” he said, noting Tweed’s overriding message to date has been “much more serious in tone, it was professional, it was very scientific with lab coats and rubber gloves and all the trappings of a pharmaceutical model.”
That image now appears to changing, he suggested.
“Where does Snoop’s value lie? It’s the epitome of a lifestyle,” he said. “The hip-hop lifestyle is part of the meaning that he brings to the table – the chillin’ in California, lounging by the pool – that’s a big part of the brand identity that Snoop brings to the table, and I think that the cannabis offering is sort of along for the ride there.”
Snoop, whose real name is Calvin Broadus, has had well-publicized brushes with the law in the past. Though he’s now a successful entrepreneur with his own cannabis line in Colorado and a marijuana-focused venture capital fund, that old “bad-boy” image could alienate some customers, Mr. Mulvey said.
“Although … he’s a family man now, he still sort of has that history and some might argue the volatility that goes along with that. I wouldn’t want to make a forecast either way for Snoop as a particular case, but anytime you deal with celebrity endorsers, there’s always that volatility. You’re exposing your medical brand to some of that risk.”
Jayne Van Dusen, co-ordinator of Algonquin College’s brand management graduate certificate program, agreed the alliance with Snoop appears to “make sense” for Tweed on some levels. But, she added, it could also backfire.
“Are they going after markets that are really into Snoop Dogg and perceive themselves a bit like him or living that lifestyle? If so, that makes a lot of sense,” she said. “But … as marijuana just becomes another product out there, audiences will be quite diverse. Not all of those segments are really going to respond to that kind of personality for their brand.
“Marijuana’s becoming, it would appear, more legitimized and more socially acceptable. I just wonder what that’s going to do for a mid-life woman who decides she will try this medical marijuana for her fibromyalgia or something. Is she going to relate to Snoop Dogg, or would she prefer to buy into something that’s got a brand persona like Coach bags or something? I’m not saying it’s a wrong decision. They must have pretty clear ideas of who their audiences are.”
Mr. McMillan acknowledged there are “pluses and minuses” to working with someone with Snoop’s history, but he thinks the upside far outweighs the potential pitfalls.
“Just the nature of his career, he’s been a little bit of a natural bad boy,” he said. “From that point of view, it kind of protects (Tweed) a little bit because if he says something that’s a little outrageous, consumers are already, ‘Well, that’s Snoop Dogg. Of course that’s what Snoop would say.’ It’s quite different than a situation like Tiger Woods, let’s say, where his reputation was built around a certain expectation of good behaviour.”
He said the move helps position Tweed to become a “global brand” in a world where more and more jurisdictions are legalizing its product.
“He has a global following and they’re going for a global spokesperson,” Mr. McMillan said. “I think it’s a pretty smart move.”