The tobacco industry learned the importance of branding early on. They discovered that having a consistent product with an appealing brand was the key to driving sales.
The first known advertisement in the USA was for the snuff and tobacco products of P. Lorillard and Company and was placed in the New York daily paper in 1789. In the years since, the big tobacco companies have relied on a bevy of celebrities to help sell their products, including sport stars such as Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Jackie Robinson; Hollywood celebrities including Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Fred Astaire, Humphrey Bogart, and Ronald Reagan; and many more.
Now, the leaders of the cannabis industry are following suit, with major brand endorsements announced by Tommy Chong, Willie Nelson and the Bob Marley family.
Today, Bud Genius, a company out of Southern California, announced that they have acquired licensing rights for Tommy Chong brand cannabis products in California, and will provide a variety of related services, including testing for quality control, packaging, brand development, and product distribution.
Chong already has deals in place with major cannabis manufacturers, including Futurola – a leading European manufacturer of smoking accessories – and has other products in the works such as hemp water, Smoke Swipes, and actual cannabis strains.
Chong will go head-to-head with Willie Nelson and the late Bob Marley in the battle for customer’s hearts and pocketbooks.
Earlier this month, Seattle-based Privateer Holdings reached a licensing deal with Marley's heirs to offer marijuana strains as well as weed-infused lotions, creams and various accessories.
Willie Nelson is the latest to the scene, but his plans are a bit hazy at the moment.
For now, the Chong camp seems to be winning this race to put quality, branded products inside dispensaries and collectives. And if backers are successful in getting a legalization measure on the 2016 ballot in California, the Golden State, with its already outsize medical-pot market, could soon be entering a Golden Era of commercialized cannabis.
Bud Genius, the public company that controls the Chong brand in California – by far the single largest cannabis market in the USA – is one of the companies with the most to gain as this industry continues to grow and mature.
Other companies to watch are Privateer with their long-dead Bob Marley celebrity endorsement, but that is a privately held company. It remains to be seen what the Willie camp will do.