Thursday, June 26, 2014

Consumer PR helps Counter Culture become the Mainstream

counter culture marketing

When, in 1974, High Times founder, Tom Forcade, first approached potential investors with his idea for a publication dedicated to teaching and encouraging Americans how to cultivate marijuana, he was met with incredulous skepticism. PR Executive Ronn Torossian asks; Why in the world would you want to tell people how to do something so far removed from the mainstream? Where is the money in encouraging illegal, counter culture behavior?

Well, the answer, it turns out, is in the one unchangeable fact of cultural change. One generation’s taboo is the next generation’s “normal.” Forcade could read the pot leaves, so to speak. He understood, correctly, that the pop culture icons of his day were driving cultural shift that would become both nostalgia and accepted behavior. In other words, the teens who thought they were so counter culture would eventually grow up into, more or less, responsible adults.

Forcade, of course, was right. '90s gave us our first “I smoked it” President, and the 2000s gave us our first, “I smoked it A LOT” President.

Today, 22 states have legalized marijuana in one form or another, and several others will vote on it this November. There is no doubt that consumer PR is driving this cultural trend. People who grew up when High Times was a “forbidden fruit” cannot fathom, and will not countenance, what they consider to be antiquated arguments for pot prohibition. Documentaries have been made and  endlessly quoted on social media.

Powerful political and legal figures have come out in blatant support of legalization. And, now, even Wall Street is getting involved. There has been a move to create a private equity investment opportunity in the marijuana business.

The consumer Public Relations angle in all of this cannot be understated. If the people had not taken the counter culture message mainstream, if regular suburbanites and presidential candidates had not admitted an affinity for weed, the plant would still be the domain of rebellious teens and rock stars. And, anathema to serious investment. But, the market has begun to embrace the reality that Forcade figured out decades ago. If you can give enough people the desire for something and then cultivate that desire, eventually those people can become the majority.

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