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'By the Way' Branding and the Rise of 'Medical' Marijuana
By: Emory Brown
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Have you ever watched a pharma commercial? I know you have! We all watch them. Viagra commercials are hilarious. We see the older guy who once had a problem in his lower region suddenly become a bedroom rock star! Yet, after this moment of triumph is over, suddenly comes the reality...side effects. These often dangerous and in some cases inhumane side effects can cause additional health problems to consumers. 

However, it’s not really the fact that drugs have side effects; all of our classic household medications, such as aspirins or cold medicines, can wield death-dealing blows if they aren’t administered correctly. The overlay for the underlay lies in the fact that pharma spots sell people hope for a better life with the potential consequences of danger. What’s disturbing is that it’s sold in a “by the way" fashion. It’s like a good friend of yours saying, “I just bought a yacht and we’re going to the Bahamas…by the way, I don’t have a life boat or life preservers, so if we have to abandon ship we’re screwed.” The pharma industry spent 2.4 billion dollars on advertising last year telling the world it’s OK to deal with some side effects.  

Unfortunately, this is all legal, but there’s something to this “by the way" branding system that is a bit intriguing. This same method of branding is building an illegal-but-legal multi-billion dollar industry right before the government's eyes: pharmaceutical weed! Weed growers are popping up all over the United States, ignoring the federal government and partnering with state government to sell Mary Jane under band names. We’re talking everything from food products to pipes to weed sodas…all one needs is a license to grow or a medical card to buy and it’s all branded "pharmaceutical." Seventeen states have legalized it! I have to call Nucky Thompson and let him know bootlegging is for suckers! Rebrand weed and become a millionaire...it’s the new American dream!  

So with that being said, how do brands like High Times magazine exist? They aren't a pharmaceutical industry trade mag. Their audience is composed of true weed enthusiasts. Isn't that illegal? Well, Dr. Dre sold millions of records of an album called “The Chronic” and rappers smoke weed on “World Star Hip-Hop” all the time. Wouldn't that be considered promoting an illegal substance? These brands alone have encouraged millions of law-abiding citizens to take a toke of the good smoke. So is weed legal? No. Pharma-weed is legal!

Moreover, it has a guerilla marketing system in place that is driving sales through the roof because it is so entrenched in our culture. Movies promote weed. Songs promote weed. California weed stores promote weed. Yet, if you’re an inner-city kid without a growing license or medical card, you can get locked up for possession because you never took a class in pharma-weed branding. Watch out, weed-heads nationwide; the man is coming for Mary Jane. She’s a bad girl that knows how to make a lot of money...by the way!


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About the Author
Emory Brown is an award-winning creative director/writer whose mission is to spread the gospel of what great marketers can do when they put their heads together and work together for the greater good and not the bottom line. Working with many esteemed clients, his portfolio of work ranges in genre from conservative to ultra-modern including American Family Insurance, United Airlines, Mazda 6 and RX-8, Illinois Lottery, Tyson, Miller Genuine Draft, Nike Air Force 1, and Mercedes Benz, to name a few.  
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