4/20: Should Your Brand Join the Conversation?

420Calendar

By Thomas Zukowski

Brace yourself—weed references are coming. Piles and piles of them, spilling across your newsfeed.

Chances are you already know this, but April 20th has become the unofficial holiday for all things marijuana. As legalization gradually spreads across America, an increasing number of brands and social media marketing companies have joined the conversation in search of engagement. 

Here's what you should know before jumping in.

The Times They Are a-Changin’

Just a few years ago, brands acknowledging 4/20 were slim pickings. In 2015, giant corporations like PepsiCo and McDonalds were nodding to (even encouraging?) smoking the green with seemingly no risk.

The rapid change in perception is astounding, and social media provides plenty of evidence. Scanning through Denny’s Twitter feed is like studying a chronological history of weed’s acceptability. From 2009 to 2012, it was business as usual. In 2013, a subtle nod to the munchies was posted... at 4:20pm EST. 

Judging by the comments, fans got the point. Last year, innuendo went out the window with a single obvious (yet clever) tweet.

So all bets are off, right? It’s open season? Slow your roll there, partner. Before your brand tweets on 4/20, consider a few choice tips:  

Be Relevant

Consider whether or not your brand is "4/20 friendly." Since the munchies are a frequent topic of the day, fast food and snack brands are an obvious fit. Check out last year's onslaught of tweets from Totino's pizza rolls, a go-to for the hermetic stoner. Music and television brands that cater to younger demos should apply as well, as evidenced by Beats by Dre, Spotify and Comedy Central

When a half-baked attempt to exploit 4/20 seems out-of-character, it feels cheap. In an effort to promote flights to Colorado, Spirit Airlines laid it on thick with three pot references and some stale green clip art.

SpiritAirlines

Be Subtle

On social media, a little wit goes a long way. The most effective 4/20 posts are somewhat tongue-in-cheek, acknowledging the day without being overtly referential.

Take Pepsi’s breezy Vine from 2015. This fun animation encapsulates a hazy mood, but wouldn’t seem out of place on any old spring Monday.

On the contrary, Carls Jr. got a case of the try-too-hards (or perhaps they were feeling lazy).

Placing “4.20” in bold text over a giant biscuit (with a “mile high” reference to boot) isn’t exactly subtle. Then again, subtlety is not their modus operandi.

I’m holding out for some redemption in 2016.

Target Specific Audiences

Let’s say you want to join the conversation, but you’re feeling a little paranoid; you don’t want to offend a portion of your consumer base. Run that 4/20 content through highly targeted channels, allowing it to be seen by your intended audience while the others have their heads in the clouds.

To play it safe, consider targeting states where recreational marijuana use has been legalized. Colorado and Washington are the obvious ones, while Alaska, Oregon, and Washington D.C. recently joined the fray.

Nineteen other states allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

 

Despite our nation’s rapidly shifting attitudes, marijuana is still illegal under federal law. It’s unique then that on 4/20, well-known brands participate in and even drive the conversation around an illicit substance. How do you feel about brands seeking engagement on 4/20? Tell the Likeable Media team in the comments below!