Perhaps the single most universal factor in people’s experiences with cannabis comes down to a humbling acknowledgment that “your mileage may vary.” Virtually everyone who has gotten stoned has at some point faced a situation where two or more people consume the same product in the same manner and experience varying results. Two of you are on the sofa and thinking about going to the beach while a third friend sits in silence on the floor because it feels safer down there. Not ideal.
At the California-based cannabis company Canndescent, one of the main goals of research, product development, and marketing is to give consumers a more personalized control of their high. While cannabis connoisseurs may know enough about different strains and genetics to curate their use, newcomers and more cautious or casual consumers need help. As a result, guidance at the point of purchase looks like a critical place for companies entering the adult-use market to educate and care for their customers. At Canndescent, they refer to this goal as their commitment to “The Art of Flower.”
As a cannabis “brand house,” Canndescent grows, packages, and markets four distinct product lines, each designed to appeal to a different segment. Canndescent is California’s number one overall supplier of pre-rolls, and, with its Canndescent line, it is its top-performing premium or “luxury” cannabis company. As such, it wields significant influence over the future direction of an entire industry. On a recent morning in Montecito, I sat down with Canndescent CEO Adrian Sedlin — over coffee, not cannabis — and listened as he outlined some of the ideas driving the company’s success.
The extraordinary proliferation of strain names is perhaps the most widely known feature of traditional cannabis marketing, second in importance only to the Sativa-Indica distinction. These dauntingly obscure, often goofy monikers are a sure-fire way to elicit snickers from non-users. “Have you got any Purple Urkle? How about some Bob Saget OG?” Apart from the comedy value of this method of distinguishing among what are often quite different flowers, there are many objections to using either the names of celebrities or terms borrowed from sweets and candies to market psychoactive substances. Ask the folks who tried to sell fruit-flavored vape cartridges how that worked out. Still, for a particular segment of the population, this type of fun and games with names remains a functional and appealing aspect of the culture. The other day I saw a pouch labeled “Sleepy Joe OG.”
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When I asked Sedlin what Canndescent’s strategy was regarding this marketing challenge, he began by acknowledging that there’s a high degree of responsibility involved in what he called “curating someone’s headspace.” In a matter of a few moments, he’d drawn a simple diagram for me that articulated his understanding of the range and specific requirements of the different segments of the cannabis market. I guess that Harvard Business School gives you these kinds of tools. In any case, it worked. I got what he was saying.
The key idea is that there can be winners in every category across all the divides he described in that simple set of four boxes — rural versus urban, value versus premium, etc. In creating Canndescent, the company’s top-shelf premium line, they considered every aspect of the branding and packaging, from font and color to the glass container’s size, shape, look, and feel. The result is a gorgeous little box, inside of which sits an equally appealing globe containing your premium weed. Looking at the line from a strictly aesthetic standpoint, it sits on the shelf somewhere between Hermès and Veuve Clicquot.
Ultimately though, the real breakthrough in Canndescent’s marketing strategy takes place at the level of what Sedlin characterizes as the product’s “user interface.” Rather than frame the purchaser’s decision as a choice among competing strains, or even the industry-standard distinction between Indica and Sativa dominance, each of Canndescent’s pre-rolls are labeled with a verb. You choose what effect you want to experience by thinking about what you plan to do. Are you looking to relax, soothe yourself, or maybe even sleep? That’s CALM. If relaxation is still your goal, but you aren’t quite ready to settle down, try CRUISE. For people who find that they enjoy cannabis as an element in their preparation for activities like drawing, playing music, or even gaming, there’s CREATE. When it’s time to share your high with friends or a partner, Canndescent recommends a product called CONNECT. And finally, for the increasingly large segment of the cannabis market that’s highly active when actively high, there’s CHARGE, a blend that will boost your appetite for movement.
Whether or not these products can deliver the desired effects to the same extent to different individuals remains an open question. Still, the simple fact that Canndescent is looking at the premium cannabis market this way, in terms of choosing an outcome and pursuing it through strains engineered to accomplish it, must be considered a big step in the right direction.
To learn more about how these products work, consult the information about genetics and dominant terpenes for each available on canndescent.com. Those who wish to learn by doing can find Canndescent products in Santa Barbara at the Farmacy.