(Willie’s Reserve is one of the companies featured in The Power of a Brand: Lessons From 20 Top Cannabis Companies, in the June issue of mg Magazine.)
The Willie’s Reserve brand story is fueled by country music legend Willie Nelson’s decades of devotion to the cannabis community. In legal states, the brand appears in homes, rehearsal studios, backstage at concerts, and on Nelson’s tour bus—the same places where the legend of “Willie’s (not so) secret stash” grew during pre-legalization days.
The company Nelson founded keeps the legend alive. “Many of the musicians we’ve met really relate to the idea of Willie’s Reserve carrying on a tradition so woven into the fabric of American culture and music,” said Vice President of Brands Elizabeth Hogan. “It’s that same spirit our marketing teams bring everywhere they go, to create a welcoming environment, bring great people together, and make sure everyone has plenty of weed. After all, it’s always worked for Willie.”
Unlike some other celebrity-backed brands, Willie’s Reserve has not struggled to find a significant consumer base. A singular focus on authenticity reflects Nelson’s own persona, a “my stash is your stash” ethos the icon has presented since well before legalization. (A lengthy rap sheet attests to his penchant for sharing.) Now that cannabis is legal in many places, a broader swath of the American public can discover what all the fuss has been about. The brand also leverages Nelson’s outspoken support for family farms by partnering with small growers in local markets.
The company offers a range of products including flower, vapes, accessories, gear, and edibles, enabling Willie’s Reserve sales teams to work with each store to tailor the right product mix for their customers. “As budtenders know, it really comes down to offering the right option for what brought the customer into the store in the first place, and we aim to have plenty of options,” Hogan said.
In keeping with the brand’s identity, the Willie’s Reserve design team takes inspiration from Nelson’s albums and art. While there’s a lot of innovation in the cannabis world, the brand perceives a “lack of ritual.” That’s what Willie’s Reserve taps into, Hogan said: a sense of timelessness, of memories and associations that already have meaning to people.
“Willie’s Reserve pays tribute to this tradition of sharing, caring, and toking,” she said. “Now that the cannabis revolution is well underway, it should come as no surprise that Willie is one of its most enthusiastic and committed supporters. His vision guides Willie’s Reserve.”