Those of us who make a living in digital marketing are well aware of the concept of lifestyle branding. Brands that successfully employ it associate themselves with a particular lifestyle, be it more business-like or more leisure focused. The question for this post is whether lifestyle branding is appropriate for medical cannabis?
Beehive Farmacy in Salt Lake City, UT, carries the Cookies brand of medical cannabis products. They describe the brand as representing “a lifestyle of excellence, quality, and taste.” For the record, this branding message comes directly from Cookies. It is not something Beehive Farmacy came up with on their own.
We get lifestyle branding for things like beer and athletic wear. After all, so many consumer products play a direct role in the lifestyle consumers lead. But isn’t medicine supposed to be about health? Yes, it is. Yet you could also make the case that good health is an integral part of living the lifestyle you want to live.
What is that lifestyle?
It is pretty clear that an alcohol brand wants to sell itself based on a lifestyle of leisure. You have seen the commercials yourself. They feature things like sunny beaches and close friends playing volleyball. It is all about having a good time which, incidentally, is made possible by purchasing and consuming their products. But what is the lifestyle one is trying to promote with medical cannabis?
This is the most confusing part for many of us. For the record though, medical cannabis brands are not alone in deploying lifestyle branding. Big pharma utilizes the same strategy. How many TV ads have you seen featuring ‘families’ that are spending time doing happy things together, time only made possible because one of the family members is taking the advertised drug?
What do we know about the drug?
Lifestyle branding does what it is intended to do: associate a particular brand with the lifestyle its customers want to live. But at the end of every lifestyle brand commercial, we are left no better informed about the product in question. That’s just as true of pharmaceuticals and medical cannabis as any other product.
In terms of pharmaceuticals, what do we know about the drugs after watching TV commercials? Nothing, with the possible exception of people who make a sport of reading the fine print that try to catch all the potential side effects. But the average person has no idea what a particular drug does, how it works, or any other pertinent information that should otherwise be of value.
Medical cannabis does enjoy a bit of an advantage in that we know of no serious side effects observed in large numbers of consumers. Medical cannabis users can use their medicines with little fear of adverse reactions. The same is not true of so many other prescription drugs. Nonetheless, lifestyle branding doesn’t tell us anything about why a person would use medical cannabis. It doesn’t say anything about efficacy, appropriateness, and so forth.
Does anyone have an answer?
Lifestyle branding in the medical field is a tough question. Does anyone have an answer? Probably not. On the one hand, we like to think that we take things like medical cannabis more seriously than alcohol and sportswear. On the other hand, medical cannabis can help people live a type of lifestyle that would otherwise be illusive to then.
Marketing is a strange entity all by itself. Brands need to find a way to reach customers with their particular messages. Whether it is medical cannabis or the latest pair of sneakers, lifestyle marketing has proven to work. So why not use it?