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Cannabis Branding: Who is the New “Adult Use” Consumer?

In 2016, Californians passed Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). The term “Adult Use” had been chosen over “Recreational”, as it seemed less scary to “soccer moms” and other vocal opponents of full legalization.

Now that legal cannabis is the norm in California and a growing number of other states, the term “Adult Use” is no longer useful, certainly not for marketing purposes. All it conveys is that the new consumers are not children. That’s good! (And a legal requirement of Prop. 64.)

In other words, we can say “recreational use” now, and that’s good too! We no longer have to pretend that every cannabis user has a medical condition – it’s OK to use (and market) cannabis purely for enjoyment, just like alcohol or chocolate.

Cannabis consumers can be segmented according to why they are using cannabis. At one end of the spectrum are medical users treating serious conditions, at the other end we find purely social consumers. I would argue that this is a continuum, where the largest segment is the “wellness” area that lies in between.

How does this affect cannabis marketing?

It means that marketers can finally be honest, sophisticated, and creative in developing cannabis brands.

The first step towards developing a brand is to identify your perfect customer, often called the buyer or brand persona. This fictional person is the one who would most want and benefit from what you’re selling. For example, Trader Joe’s famously describes their target customer as an “unemployed college professor who drives a very, very used Volvo.” Of course that doesn’t describe all of TJ’s customers, and maybe not many of them precisely, but it is part of a vision that captures the brand.

To hone in on your brand’s persona, ask questions like:

  • Who is your ideal customer? Consider gender, income, age, personality, hobbies, education level, etc.
  • What need are they trying to meet? Are they treating a serious or chronic condition, or just looking to relax at the end of the week? Or are they somewhere in between?
  • How does your offering meet that need better than other alternatives? Think broadly by considering all their options, not just other cannabis products.

Your brand persona might be a middle-aged mom with anxiety who doesn’t want to inhale anything, a 20-something male with a big beard who wants to get as high as possible, a senior citizen with arthritis who definitely does not want to get high, or a cannabis tourist who just wants to try this new legal stuff.

Ultimately, marketing is about storytelling. Consumers want to identify with a product in a way that’s relevant and meaningful to them. Figuring out your brand persona is key to making your story authentic and compelling!

Want to talk more about developing or refining your brand? We’d love to help! Contact us at for a free consultation!

Leslie Stern is a partner at Ingrid Marketing. With over 25 years of marketing experience, Leslie specializes in brand development, product marketing and launches, strategy, communications, and project management. You can reach her at