Weed dealers used to be easy to spot. But today, they are underwhelmingly normal, taking up jobs in local dispensaries, living normal lives working in a thriving and legal industry. (Way to become another cog in the machine, man.)
But this apparent normalcy of the weed industry is still disregarded in advertising media, even five years after Washington voters approved recreational marijuana, says Keegan McClung, a marketing manager for Cinder, which is among the largest marijuana retailers in Eastern Washington.
"One thing that I didn't like about cannabis was I didn't feel like the advertising represented who I was as a person. I'm not a hippie," says McClung. "I thought I could come in and market towards the 'normal' person."
McClung tells stories about the business and products (mostly through multimedia) to the more modest stoner. After graduating from Eastern Washington University in 2012 with a major in film, McClung worked at KHQ as an editor and photojournalist and then later as a producer for the 12 Tribes Colville Casinos and a marketing agency before working at Cinder.
Though not many marijuana businesses employ marketing managers, McClung expects that to change as the industry becomes more profitable and, ultimately, legal. (Data on marijuana ad sales is limited, likely due to its status as a federally prohibited drug. But where it is legal, the industry raked in $9 billion in sales in 2017, and growing).
He spoke with the GZQ about what his job is like in the industry. The responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
GZQ: So, who is your target audience as a marijuana marketer?
McCLUNG: My target market is just anyone who is looking — I don't know how to say it — for something new. There is so much happening, if someone had tried it when I-502 just happened, they're going to have a much different experience. I'm trying to show that it's just your normal typical person who does this stuff.
What does a day in the life look like?
My biggest job is trying to keep Cinder in people's mouths: Trying to manage the social media presence — it's hitting social media more and more. It's coming up with video ideas. Shooting the video and editing video. The content creation is going to be the biggest thing I do all day.
Video is sort of the thing that sets [Cinder] apart. Not a lot of other dispensaries are really creating much video content and that's what people are really looking for.
A lot of people are focused on the product, but not a lot of people are focused on letting people know about the product.
Are there any misconceptions about your job?
It's a totally normal business. Everything that everyone does, that's what I'm doing. It's like I have a lot of work to do [laughs].
It's just a normal job, it's just a different product that's a lot of fun to sell.
What is your favorite part about going to work?
Honestly there's probably too many things to list about what I love in my job, but the amount of freedom that I've been given is easily my favorite thing. ... There's no roadmap to look at to make a successful cannabis brand since this is a brand new industry, so everyday I get to blaze my own path with the only limit being how creative I can be. ♦