There are some celebrities that are engrained in cannabis culture. Cheech & Chong and Willie Nelson made cannabis an important part of their public personas as early as the 1960s and 70s. Today, celebrities like Martha Stewart, Rihanna, and Seth Rogen have gotten involved in the cannabis industry. This has broadened the image of cannabis from “stoner culture” to an acceptable place in mainstream media. However, it can be difficult and costly for a licensed producer to partner with a celebrity to develop or promote a brand. The brand’s fate is also tied to the celebrity, which can be an additional risk. Are celebrity cannabis brands worth the investment? Our data suggests that there might be significant advantages for celebrity cannabis brands focused on long-term growth.

Overt associations between celebrities and cannabis brands are essentially prohibited in Canada, so this analysis will focus strictly on brands in the United States.

Top Brands in the US

Looking at the top brands in the US sheds some light onto the power of celebrity brands across the country. There are two celebrity brands among the top 10, Khalifa Kush (associated with rapper Wiz Khalifa) and Chong’s Choice (associated with comedian Tommy Chong of duo Cheech & Chong). The rest of the brands are state-level brands or multi-state operators.

This list of top brands suggests that having a celebrity associated with your brand isn’t a huge advantage. Most of the brands listed were built and marketed without celebrity endorsement and managed to gain broad awareness on their own. This level of analysis might suggest that getting a celebrity on board with your cannabis brand is not worth the hassle and cost.

BrandAided Awareness (Total US)
Khalifa Kush10.2%
Cheeba Chews9.2%
Chong’s Choice8.5%
Humboldt Farms8.3%
Kiva Confections6.5%
Bloom Farms6.3%
Brass Knuckles6.2%

Source: Cannatrack data, “Which of these cannabis brands have you ever heard of?”, March 2019 – March 2020, n=9,083

Top Brands by State

Because of the operational and marketing restrictions in the US, looking at the country as a whole does not tell the whole story. State-by-state analysis is a truer representation of a brand’s awareness and popularity across the country.

CookiesCheeba ChewsCannablissPhat Panda
CannablissGreen SolutionHumboldt FarmsCannabliss
Humboldt FarmsNative RootsKhalifa KushCookies
Khalifa KushWillie’s ReserveCookiesKhalifa Kush
Kiva ConfectionsCookiesSelect OilWillie’s Reserve

Source: Cannatrack data, “Which of these cannabis brands have you ever heard of?”, March 2019 – March 2020, n=6,293

The lists of top brands by state reveal the differences in brand popularity that the national analysis didn’t show. Each state has a different top brand, and some brands appear only on one list. Other brands have broad awareness, like Cannabliss and Cookies, but local brands often outrank than these brands. It’s clear that building a brand across state lines is difficult, even for celebrity brands.

Celebrity Brands Across States

We’ve seen above that celebrity brands don’t always make a splash on the national stage, and local brands rank highly at the state level. Where does that leave celebrity brands?

Celebrity brands seem to suffer less from state-locked operations and marketing than other brands. Consumers are also aware of celebrity brands at a fairly consistent rate across the most established legal states. As well, they all have brand awareness above or well above the average awareness in each state.

BrandTotal USCaliforniaColoradoOregonWashington
Khalifa Kush10.2%11.6%8.7%8.0%9.4%
Chong’s Choice8.5%9.1%10.5%6.7%8.9%
Willie’s Reserve5.8%4.6%14.3%5.7%9.4%
Leafs by Snoop5.4%5.4%8.9%5.1%5.2%
Marley Natural4.5%4.9%5.0%3.9%5.2%
All Brands Average3.3%3.9%3.9%2.5%3.1%

Source: Cannatrack data, “Which of these cannabis brands have you ever heard of?”, March 2019 – March 2020, n=9,083 (Total US), 4,195 (CA), 664 (CO), 565 (OR), 869 (WAD

Do celebrity brands have an advantage?

Celebrity cannabis brands have more consistent awareness across states than non-celebrity brands. Also, they usually have above average brand awareness compared to non-celebrity brands. We believe this is because they have an effective marketing tool (the celebrity persona) that can organically promote the brand without state-level restrictions. This platform can also seed awareness in states where cannabis is not yet recreationally legal. If you are a licensed producer who is in it for the long haul, partnering with a celebrity could set you up for major success if/when recreational cannabis becomes legal at a federal level. Chong might be taken, but Cheech is still free.

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