Christmas Halloween Valentine's Day

4/20 for sale: the latest day on the marketing calendar?

By Kevin Meany, chief executive

April 18, 2015 | 4 min read

We're an opportunistic industry. An industry that seizes every possible opportunity or excuse to sell and market more. A look at any Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) or retail marketing calendar tells the story. Looking beyond the holiday block from 1 November through New Year’s Day, by my count there are easily three or more selling celebrations on average every month of the year in the US. Each one provides marketers with a reason to promote, and consumers a reason and rationale to buy.

We’ve turned sports into huge selling opportunities. Countless CPG companies jump on the Super Bowl, the NCAA Basketball Tournament or the World Cup as their chance to sell more pizza, beer, televisions, furniture, balls, wearables---you name it.

Certain categories own specific holidays and have actually diluted, if not changed, the holiday’s true meaning. Retailers and mass merchandisers have transformed the days we celebrate and remember Martin Luther King, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Christopher Columbus and even our Veterans and Laborers. These days are now “sale” days and an opportunity for consumers to buy buy buy.

Some holidays are in play as brands and categories battle for ownership. There is definitely a battle for Valentine’s Day. Fresh flowers may be leading, but the restaurant industry is catching up quickly. I imagine chocolates are slipping, probably a result of our health conscious lifestyles. I think Vermont Teddy Bears are a long shot here. Meanwhile, beer and spirits brands realized a long time ago that while St. Pat’s was good, Halloween could be great, Oktoberfest nice, and Cinco de Mayo even better! Beer or a shot? That battle continues.

Now 4/20 is upon us, and whether you’re an advocate for or against – I don’t think it’s going away. Under federal law the use, possession, sale, cultivation, and transportation of marijuana is illegal, but at the same time the federal government allows states to decriminalize cannabis for recreational or medical use. Recreational and medicinal marijuana has been entirely legalized in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia. Eleven states have medical marijuana and decriminalization laws, nine have legalized medical marijuana, and four states have decriminalized possession laws.

Considering the passion behind the legalization effort and the momentum fueling 4/20, marketers better move fast. 4/20 has the potential to deliver more selling power to relevant brands far greater than some of the more contrived selling opportunities we’ve all created like National Hobby Month or National Ice Cream Month.

A few brands have visibly stepped onto the 4/20 battle field. SweetWater Brewing Company is sponsor of the SweetWater 4/20 Festival in Atlanta, and Ben and Jerry's will offer a “Brrr-ito" featuring two scoops of ice cream topped with crushed chocolate cookies and chocolate fudge, all rolled into a soft waffle cone wrap on 20 April – obviously meeting the munchies market head-on.

The question that remains: how big will 4/20 get, and how fast will it grow? And what brands and categories will find this consumer a profitable target? If I let my mind wander, under the influence of nothing but a strong brewed coffee, the potential is huge.

Ben and Jerry’s makes sense. Maybe McDonald’s should step-up. I mean what better meal when stoned with the munchies – this could save McDonalds! Of course we don’t want stoners driving, so this is a huge opportunity for taxis and Uber.

Hollywood, there could be no better day than 20 April to launch the next great stoner movie – maybe the Big Lebowski #2, or the return of Cheech and Chong.

The wine category may find that certain varietals of wine pair well with certain strains of marijuana. Likewise, beer and spirits go well with weed.

Chocolates may be losing the Valentine’s Day battle, but 4/20? Dude, they could own it.

Kevin Meany is the president and CEO of BFG Communications

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