Weed: The Ultimate Symbiotic Marketing Partner?

Return to Musings On Marketing Index Page

Originally published November 6, 2009

“If you’re going to smoke pot, you’re going to get the munchies, so come to Hapa to eat.”
— Mark Van Grack, owner of Hapa Sushi, quoted in New York Times, 4 November 2009

Mark Van Grack is a marketeer with business savvy. He sells food, so he advertises to hungry people.

Say what you want about the morality of marijuana. In Colorado, it’s legal — for medical use. And, as a recent New York Times articles explains, the medical marijuana industry there has spurred business opportunities for “ganjapreneurs” — printers, publishers, ad agencies and restaurateurs, including Van Grack.

smoking weed“A new print ad — by TDA Advertising and Design of Boulder — for Hapa Sushi, a restaurant chain based in Boulder, features a map of Denver and Boulder with 63 dots. Four dots are red, representing the four Hapa locations, and the remaining 59 are blue, representing medical marijuana dispensaries, some of which, it turns out, are just a stone’s throw from the restaurants. The ad was to appear Thursday in the Denver/Boulder edition of The Onion and in Westword later in the month. “We’re just kind of saying, ‘Look, these dispensaries exist and they’re becoming part of our community, so let’s welcome them in and have some fun,’” said Mark Van Grack, owner of Hapa Sushi, a privately held, 10-year-old chain. “If you’re going to smoke pot, you’re going to get the munchies, so come to Hapa to eat.”

This logic merits the Harry Domb Seal of Approval. As my grandfather used to tell me: “If you want to look thin, stand next to the fat guy.”

The campaign is brilliant for another reason: it counter-programs.

“As in most Hapa advertising over the years, something is conspicuously absent from these ads: food. “Most restaurants show food, but then you’re just one of a hundred,” Mr. Van Grack said. “We think that our clientele appreciates smart ads that grab their attention. By creating ads that people want to talk about, that are creative and maybe controversial, then at least they are talking about our ads and Hapa is top of mind.”

Van Grack also deserves kudos for his ability to successfully “navigate the convergence of PR and marketing.” As the Times reports, his advertising campaigns garner what PR professionals call “earned media” exposure. That is to say, news outlets pick up and repeat his messages, while reporting on the uniqueness of his ads.

More than an amusing read, the article offers food for thought (very punny!) to marketers looking to break the mold. To be successful, follow this recipe: know your market, sell to the needs of your audience, don’t take yourself too seriously, differentiate yourself from the competition, and take advantage of multichannel/multimedia marketing methods to get your message out to the masses.

Return to Musings On Marketing Index Page