• Shelby McDaniel

The "Sex Sells" Method is Dying

When I started out in the cannabis industry, I interviewed at a place that was about to open not far from where I lived. Since the store was still under construction, the interview took place in the coffee shop across the street. It was by far one of the oddest interviews I have ever been in.

My perspective employer gave me a brief 5-minute history of his drug usage then went on to explain how he wanted his workers to dress in uniforms much like what a perverted version of a catholic school girl would wear.

He wanted my opinion on skirts. I politely explained that having a short skirt could impede a girl's ability to do her job (not to mention wardrobe malfunctions) and white button-up shirts might be a bit hard to keep clean, especially if we were working with flower. All the while alarm bells went off in my head.

Needless to say, I did not get the job.

There is a part of the cannabis industry that has adopted the "sex sells" method. While this might appeal to the War on Drugs stereotype of cannabis users, it actually misses the mark by a mile and a half where the major consumer demographic is concerned.

In an October 2019 market report of Cannabis user trends by Headset, millennials make up more than half of the cannabis consumer population. Why is that important?

Millennials look for authentic brands that are transparent and align with their core values. According to the California Business Journal, "This generation has all the information they need at their fingertips. They’re bombarded by marketing messages every day. To cut through the noise, you need to remain transparent and authentic."

But what does that mean to your business?

With the current social climate, brands should be aware of what their customer's beliefs are. Millennials and the upcoming Gen Z groups rely more on what message a company sends rather than what they actually sell.

Let's take a look at Netflix. In recent news, Netflix released a controversial show called 'Cuties' based on a French film. In a September 17th tweet, Antenna released data showing that Netflix's increase in subscription loss with the debut of the controversial show. And according to Statista, the majority of Netflix subscribers are millennials and Gen Z. Of course, this is one example of how a brand's stance on a subject can impact revenue and hurt their relationship with consumers. There are multiple other brands, such as Coke, South West Airlines, and McDonald's, that have run transparency campaigns with resounding success.

While the "sex sells" method may work for a niche part of the cannabis market, it can alienate the majority of its consumer population. Millennials are more socially conscious, eco-friendly, and concerned with a brand's message rather than a good deal. Brands who want to survive will focus on transparency and authenticity rather than cheap gimmicks.

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