Responding to coronavirus, marijuana firms shift to virtual 4/20 celebrations with online concerts, giveaways

(This story has been updated to correct one misspelling of Anna Shreeve’s name.)

Cannabis companies that were planning to host elaborate monthlong celebrations around 4/20 have been forced to change plans and are turning to virtual parties that include specials and giveaways.

Gone are large gatherings of people celebrating the unofficial April 20 cannabis holiday.

The pivot has proved costly and forced companies to scramble.

Some marijuana businesses, for example, have already forked over thousands of dollars for events and concerts that no longer will happen.

Others had ideas percolating but had not yet spent much time or money executing them.

The ways cannabis businesses plan to celebrate the monthlong 4/20 celebration this year include:

  • Virtual parties and concerts.
  • Giveaways of cannabis accessories and swag.
  • Discounts on products, such as companies offering a coin for a large purchase now and special deals for the rest of the year.
  • Using social media influencers to spread their message on Instagram and Facebook.

Anna Shreeve, managing partner at The Bakeréé, which has two recreational and medical marijuana retail stores in Seattle, said she’d spent about $20,000 planning a concert that would have featured rapper Lil Tracy.

She put down a deposit on the venue and lined up sponsors. Shreeve said she was able to get the artists to agree that if The Bakeréé finds a date in the future, they would be paid the remaining deposits they are owed and perform.

“We are shifting to a daily value-oriented proposition for our customers via digital advertising with PrograMetrix,” Shreeve said, referring to the Seattle-based data-driven digital advertising agency. 

Eighty-five percent of our consumers are (ordering) off their mobile devices, so we have targeted mobile users through PrograMetrix.”

The Bakeréé is using PrograMetrix to create a digital marketing campaign that provides its customers with an incentive to order online and pick up products curbside.

Capitalizing on social media influencers’ audiences

Denver-based Higher Celebrations, a cannabis gifting company and creator of the BirthJay, brought a quarantine-friendly Dabvent Calendar promotion to Instagram to celebrate every day in April, much like an advent calendar is used for a December countdown to Christmas.

Higher Celebrations’ Dabvent Calendar promotion.

Planning for the Dabvent Calendar began in November, when Higher Celebrations founder and CEO Michael Scherr came up with the idea.

Higher Celebrations partnered with 20 cannabis brands whose products are represented in the calendars, which contain small products or swag items that will be given away this month.

Cannabis social media influencers and thought leaders are receiving the calendars as a promotional tool to inform consumers about how to enter to win a prize via their respective Instagram handles. Higher Celebrations’ brand BirthJays will announce daily contest winners on Instagram Live at 4:20 p.m. MT through April 20. BirthJays are pre-rolls that look like birthday candles.

The products include smoking devices, accessories, CBD-only products and other items that celebrate the 4/20 culture.

“It’s creating this community around influencers who align with our brand and the brands that we’re partnered with,” Scherr said.

Another company that’s using influencers to help celebrate 4/20 is Long Beach, California-based Moxie, which planned influencer marketing and in-store retail programming before the landscape changed because of the coronavirus.

The company had not yet invested heavily in its campaign, Moxie founder and CEO Jordan Lams said.

However, the company is launching its 4/20 “Moxie coin.” Customers who spend $100 will receive a coin that gives them access to discounts on Moxie products throughout the year through delivery and at participating retailers.

Coin days will happen sporadically, and the discounts will vary, so people who have them must follow Moxie’s social media feeds to find out the dates.

“We haven’t deviated substantially from that plan, as our focus has always been to work directly with our retail partners to help drive consumers to their stores,” Lams said.

Social responsibility

Lightshade, a vertically integrated Denver-based marijuana company, pulled back on 4/20 celebrations several years ago, so it wasn’t sponsoring any large events this year anyway, said Lisa Gee, the company’s director of marketing and corporate social responsibility.

But this year, when it seems as though celebrations could remain limited, Lightshade is planning a virtual live music event.

“In response to the inability for the industry to join together and share their fellowship on 4/20, we decided to launch a virtual 4/20 party,” Gee said.

“It will be an all-day streaming event on Twitch. Right now, we have Sublime (with Rome) lined up. We were going to do a post-4/20 Sublime with Rome for a meet-and-green, but now we’re taking all that virtual.”

Lightshade will have an embedded Venmo account for participants to make donations to charitable organizations such as the American Red Cross or a fund that will help people in the service industry.

“This is more about social responsibility than it is about hosting an event,” Gee said.

Oakland, California-based Nug, a vertically integrated cannabis business with dispensaries in Sacramento and San Leandro, had planned to host parties in both Northern and Southern California until the coronavirus pandemic prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to issue a stay-at-home order for the state.

Fortunately, Nug had not gone too far with those plans or paid out any money before that order, Nug Chief Business Officer Mike Werner said.

Instead, a family happy hour with about 50 people in attendance gave Werner the idea of hosting a similar virtual-smoke session to celebrate 20 days of 4/20, Werner said. 

“We will probably run some kind of contest where we give out a gift basket to entice people,” Werner said.

Other ways cannabis businesses are celebrating 4/20 amid COVID-19 restrictions include:

  • Denver-based Coda Signature is focused on helping its dispensary partners build traffic – with proper social distancing – so that they can still generate revenue without their 4/20 events. The company is working on a social media virtual promotion in partnership with a retail outlet in which it plans to ask consumers via Instagram how they plan to celebrate 4/20 for an opportunity to win a special gift pack from a partner dispensary.
  • Las Vegas-based DaVinci is selling its Miqro device for $99 – the first time it’s offered a vaporizer for less than $100. The company wants to encourage cannabis consumers to own their own personal vaporizer because sharing devices could prove dangerous amid the coronavirus outbreak. 
  • Aurora, Colorado-based Spherex is promoting responsible consumption while staying at home using a hashtag campaign, #stayhomewithspherex. The campaign highlights certain strains from Spherex’s Mood line and associates them with at-home activities. On 4/20, Spherex will be a sponsor of Lightshade’s virtual 4/20 party with live video DJ sets.
  • The Clear, based in Denver, is cutting back in-store pop-ups and shifting to happy hour promotions with its retail partners. For 4/20, The Clear is planning to ramp up its social media channels to steer consumers to partnered dispensaries. The company will be running promotions and giveaways of branded swag at partnered retailers.

Margaret Jackson can be reached at [email protected]

For more of Marijuana Business Daily’s ongoing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the cannabis industry, click here.

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