With $2 Million Ad Push, Cannabis Retailer MedMen Hopes to Finally Ditch the ‘Stoner’ Cliche

Will also launch quarterly print magazine called Ember

MedMen hopes its campaign will help 'move beyond dated labels that don’t reflect the realities of today.' MedMen
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Just in time for 4/20, the largest marijuana retailer in Southern California is launching its most significant marketing push to date with a campaign aimed at busting 1970s-era, Cheech-and-Chong stereotypes of cannabis users.

MedMen, with 18 locations in three states and a reputation as “the Apple Store of cannabis,” is using the spring date (and unofficial ganja holiday) to debut “Forget Stoner,” a continuation in theme of its January campaign that showcased a breadth of modern marijuana customers. It’s not just Snoop and Kumar, the marketer says again, but your neighbor, your boss and maybe even your grandma.

“Forget Stoner,” in the vein of the previous “Faces” campaign, features a police officer, former NFL player, triathlete, physicist, nurse, entrepreneur and teacher, among others, in a series of clean and simple portraits against warm red backgrounds. So ‘grammable!

There’s been a sea change since marijuana’s legalization in terms of who’s using it and more people have come into the fold because of increased awareness of the health benefits of cannabis and CBD products, said the brand’s CMO, B.J. Carretta.

“Our campaign is all about celebrating that diversity and broad level of interest,” Carretta said. “There is something for everyone, and it is time to move beyond dated labels that don’t reflect the realities of today.”

MedMen plans to spend at least $2 million on the campaign, which will include billboards in tony spots like Beverly Hills and wallscapes along the Santa Monica Freeway in gentrified downtown Los Angeles. Wild postings, print and other out of home ads will support “Forget Stoner,” running through the summer.

Traditional media is still difficult or impossible to buy, but Carretta said the company’s learning as it goes and getting “smarter in our approach the conversations.” The goal—to go more mainstream—may happen in inches, not miles, though MedMen did crack the iconic Sunset Strip with its January ads wrapped around the famous Whisky a Go Go nightclub.

As part of the new advertising, MedMen and Paper magazine are premiering a quarterly print pub, called Ember, with coverage of the cannabis lifestyle and culture. Carretta said it was an easy call to get into the media business because “campaigns that don’t include impactful and relatable content don’t move the needle.”

The first issue of Ember has stories on Scott Campbell, celebrity tattoo artist and founder of Beboe, singer-songwriter Kacy Hill and chef-restaurateur Neal Fraser.

For 4/20 specifically, MedMen has special product bundles, discounts and other incentives on tap for consumers. The brand, which also has facilities in New York and Nevada, has seen triple-digit increases in revenue and traffic in its West Hollywood flagship store since California began allowing the legal sale of cannabis for recreational purposes.

@TLStanleyLA terry.stanley@adweek.com T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.