How Cannabis Brands Are Preparing for a Christmas Green Rush

Green Wednesday, a nascent holiday in the cannabis universe, came out with buds blazing in 2020, showing triple-digit sales spikes around the country on Nov. 25 and setting the weed industry up for a holly, jolly year-end.

Statistics from that long weekend are fairly eye-popping, with cannabis tech company Akerna estimating that consumers spent $238 million on flower, tinctures, edibles and infused drinks during those four days, with Green Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, becoming the single biggest sales day of the year so far.

The recent rush (see sidebar for data) follows a record-breaking year where the industry was declared an essential business during the Covid-19 pandemic and five new states voted to legalize weed for medical and recreational sales.

Given the tailwinds, and the learnings from Thanksgiving, cannabis execs are heading into Christmas and New Year’s Eve in full throttle mode, bulking up their digital and e-commerce presence, targeting the cannacurious and other “addressable audiences” like soccer moms and older folks, focusing on wellness messages and creating first-time gift cards and goodie bundles.

The digital shift, the marketing dance

Many cannabis consumers have proven in 2020 that they’re buying weed much the same way they’re shopping for fast food, household items and other packaged goods: via online, mobile, click and collect, curbside pick-up and delivery. The industry, mostly cemented in the brick-and-mortar dispensary model, had to shift almost overnight to meet the demand as lockdowns hit in early 2020.

“Having the right digital ecosystem is key,” said Cory Rothschild, senior vp of brand marketing, Cresco Labs, a multi-state cannabis operator and the largest weed wholesaler in the U.S. “Optimizing the online experience is critical when so many people are making decisions before they ever get to the store, or they’re bypassing the in-store visit all together.”

2020 became the year that cannabis “modernized its thinking and shifted with consumer purchasing behavior,” said Chris Lane, CMO of Airfield Supply Company, a San Francisco-area dispensary. “We don’t see those hours-long lines to get into dispensaries anymore. People are aggressively shopping online.”

Smart marketers are putting their money toward digital marketing, investing in targeting and new data segments to reach consumers at home and maximize their holiday campaigns.

—Fyllo CMO Conrad Lisco

The method of buying, coupled with the stresses of quarantine, have made for record-busting basket sizes, according to canna-tech firm Fyllo, with companies meeting consumers where they are to take advantage of the boom.

“Smart marketers are putting their money toward digital marketing, investing in targeting and new data segments to reach consumers at home and maximize their holiday campaigns,” said Fyllo’s CMO Conrad Lisco. “They are also using consumer insights to better advise their future campaigns.”

Federal regulations continue to stymie the industry, which can’t buy media on major platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, so marketers this holiday are leaning in even more on email, SMS, original content and owned channels, Lane said.

The canna-curious population

This holiday season, it will also be more clear than ever that cannabis brands are trying to speak to new and broader audiences, which includes a mix of approachability tactics and moving beyond negative preconceptions about the category.

At Skymint, a popular dispensary chain in Michigan, every new customer receives a package of free THC-infused gummies, worth about $30. That just-launched giveaway joins a “best buds” program that doles out discounts to an existing consumer and his or her first-time-buyer referral.

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