Marketing and Marijuana

Earlier this week, my interactive media class had a guest speaker: Kate Rados. She is currently the marketing director for F&W Media, and for part of her presentation she gave us a case study to test our marketing skills.

Earlier this year, she had created a marketing campaign for the book, “Marijuana is Safer.” The book is about how marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, and although it was published in 2009, Kate started carried out her campaign all throughout 2010—which coincided nicely with California’s Prop 19.

The authors of the book are well-known in the world of people trying to legalize marijuana, so part of the campaign involved blogging, posting, and getting other people who are passionate about legalizing marijuana involved online. And of course there was a very successful Facebook page.

But Kate also took advantage of April 20 (4/20), which anyone with an interest in marijuana will tell you is the biggest smoking day of the year. The publishing company, Chelsea Green, set up a Twitter account, @MarijuanasSafer, and promoted the hash tage #420day for several months before April 20. They also spread the word that for 24 hours on 4/20, the book “Marijuana is Safer” would be free to download, copy, paste, whatever on Scribd (which is considered to be very experimental in the publishing industry).

Turns out, it was a good gamble. They got over 16,000 downloads and over 140,000 people read the manuscript on Scribd. It was so popular, they had to extend their free download window another 24 hours. And even after the deal ended, sales on Amazon and Chelsea Green spiked.

And they’re still getting media attention. On Oct. 28, The Safer Texas Campaign offered $10,000 to anyone who can disprove the claim that marijuana is safer than alcohol, based on the book. The manager, Craig Johnson, said he is confident no one will receive the money. For the full story, go to RawStory.

But back to my class. After telling us the details about her marketing campaign, Kate asked us to give her our ideas, or to add anything that we thought was missing. I immediately thought of the hippies and co-ops in Santa Barbara, and told her about how where I used to live, Earth Day and 4/20 became a combined celebration and was a very big deal. And then my teacher interjected, and with enthusiasm asked, “Where did you used to live?” To which I emphatically responded, “Santa Barbara, California!” (sorry, I’m in love with Santa Barbara).

Anyway, I suggested setting up  tables at festivals across the country on Earth Day to sell the book. After all, there are a lot of people who probably would buy it there. She liked the idea, but unfortunately, the bane of marketing is that there is never enough money to do cool things. So you just have to get creative with the Internet. Some other ideas included making an event on FourSquare, or creating forums for co-op people.

Maybe they can try all this again in 2012.

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