Marijuana companies used 4/20 virtual events to drive sales and build community amid coronavirus crisis


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The biggest cannabis celebration of the year typically falls on 4/20, with music festivals and parties driving sales and promotions for marijuana businesses. With the coronavirus pandemic leading to stay-at-home orders around the U.S., large gatherings were not allowed this year. But that didn’t stop some cannabis companies from organizing their own virtual festivities.

Marijuana Business Daily Cultivation and Extraction Reporter Bart Schaneman spoke with several businesses about how they pivoted and still managed to have a little fun on the holiday. Here’s what they had to say.

Lisa Gee, director of marketing & corporate social responsibility at Lightshade in Denver: We hosted a virtual 4/20 party with up-and-coming Colorado-based artists, DJs, a comedian and a cannabis chef and drove considerable interest in the media to the event as well as tracking over 25,000 participants across an international audience. We are thrilled with the results of this virtual event and have received a lot of inquiries about whether we will continue to host virtual artist sessions through the duration of the shelter-in-place order/safer-at-home order.

Katie Mattox, director of marketing and promotion at Spherex in Denver: In response to the restrictions from COVID-19, and in lieu of traditional 4/20 gatherings, Spherex sponsored the virtual 4/20 party hosted by Lightshade. The online event was held from 2:30 to 11 p.m. on 4/20 and featured a handful of Denver DJs along with comedians and cooking classes hosted by Dave Hadley, “The Cannabis Chef.” Users were able to tune in for free from the comfort of their living rooms to celebrate online with the cannabis community. The digital party showcased mesmerizing visuals complete with a chat room platform so followers could communicate directly with the artists and other attendees. 

As a sponsor, Spherex featured a 30-second commercial that played between sets. We also showed support to the artists by sponsoring them with Spherex products so they could enjoy cannabis throughout the event.

From a marketing standpoint, we were most excited to see our commercial air. Because cannabis companies are unable to utilize traditional modes of advertising, real-time viewership is not often something we have access to. It was a pivotal moment and gave us a hopeful glimpse into the future of cannabis advertising.

Sam Boyer, co-founder of 99 High Tide in Malibu, California: We had a very awesome and ambitious eight-hour livestream, “99 High Tide’s Virtual Smoke In,” on both Instagram and our own site, where we had musicians, spirit channeling, yoga, breath work, herbal lessons, videos and DJs.

Raul Molina, chief operating officer at Mint Dispensary in Phoenix: We did several virtual events from drawings to online daily bingo. We had a great turnout and have been asked to continue to do the bingo after 4/20.

Troy Dayton, co-founder and chief strategy officer at The Arcview Group in Oakland, California: Arcview threw a four-hour complex event with over 35 people on-air, a “consumption lounge,” an “exhibit hall” and an academy to celebrate the progress in our ongoing shift from being an illegal industry to an essential one and to celebrate 10 years of deal making at Arcview. More than 1,600 participants joined us. We mixed deep analysis and predictions about the industry with lighthearted banter, New Year’s Eve-style countdown celebrations, raising money for advocacy organizations and sharing pioneering stories about the early days of this market. 

Tracey Mason, co-founder and CEO of House of Saka, Napa Valley, California: We held a 4/20 Virtual Toast with our customers, friends and families in partnership with our friends at Garden Society, the Wine & Weed Symposium by Wine Industry Network, with the toast itself led by The Herb Somm, Jamie Evans.

We were truly touched and left in amazement – although not entirely surprised – at how the cannabis community has come together through this crisis. Our team has had more positive interactions with colleagues, consumers and even competitors in the last month than ever before. The toast was a perfect exemplification of that, toasting to health, happiness and to one another. We also wanted to take the opportunity to thank all of the industry’s essential frontline workers keeping patients and consumers well-stocked during this crisis.

John Ford, vice president of customer experience at Chalice Farms in Portland, Oregon: Chalice Farms did a collaboration with Tokeativity on women and cannabis live on Instagram TV. It was a new and collaborative way to partner, grow a new audience and to create conversation and community. (It’s) definitely something we will engage in again.

David Elias, founder and CEO of Lowell Herb Co. in Los Angeles: To celebrate the “Higher Together: Sessions from Home” livestreamed event from Weedmaps on 4/20, we collaborated with two-time Grammy-winning and multiplatinum selling recording artist Billy Ray Cyrus. Inspired by his new project, Mama Kush, the country and alternative rock legend debuted his new single “Ballad of Jed,” along with an accompanying animated music video. 

We were honored to work with the Cyrus family on this collaboration and thrilled by his acoustic set. For Billy Ray Cyrus to be wearing his Lowell shirt, singing “Old Town Road” and “Achy Breaky Heart,” plus premiering his music video, was a very special moment for us.

Harry Kazazian, CEO of 22Red in Los Angeles: Our founder and bassist for System of a Down, Shavo Odadjian, participated in several Instagram Live events. These events were hosted by some of Los Angeles’ cultural leaders and cannabis advocates. As a brand, we thought it was still critical to recognize the importance of the day and show up for a community that has supported 22Red from the very beginning.