4/20 Roundup: How Brands Are Marking Marijuana’s Increasingly Mainstream Holiday

From safe rides with Lyft to trippy tips for pot(ting soil)

Wingstop turned a classic drive-in animation into something ... else. Wingstop
Headshot of T.L. Stanley

The origin story has gone from urban legend to the Oxford dictionary: A group of high school stoners in Northern California in the ’70s birthed the concept of 4/20, and their friendship with the Grateful Dead helped turn an afternoon burnout activity into a legitimate (though illicit at the time) movement.

Now 4/20 is an unofficial national holiday, gathering steam as states across the country continue to legalize marijuana for recreational sales.

There aren’t any Hallmark cards to commemorate it (yet) but there are plenty of ways to celebrate, from the High Times Cannabis Cup (in suburban Los Angeles) to the Mile High Block Party and Snoop Dogg’s Wellness Retreat (Denver) to far too many Cheech & Chong movie marathons to count. Meanwhile, more than 10,000 Mary Jane-loving people are expected to gather in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

And one thing is certain: brands want in.

For the past several years, they’ve been sidling up to the April smoke day as a means to get close to the millennial cool kids—and maybe their Gen X parents and boomer grandparents. Pepsi, HBO, Denny’s, Carl’s Jr, Ben & Jerry’s and plenty of other marketers have used their social channels to reefer, um, refer to cannabis culture. But so far they’re keeping it light, possibly to diffuse any potential backlash.

MedMen, the largest marijuana retailer in Southern California, recently launched its most extensive ad campaign ever, and other endemic brands are predictably hot boxing the holiday. Mainstream companies aren’t far behind.

Here are a few standouts this year:


The best piece of branded content we’ve seen so far comes via Wingstop, which turned a classic drive-in theater animation into something both hypnotic and mildly unsettling:

Lyft and Super Troopers 2

Lyft and Fox Searchlight have launched a joint promotion (not literally) for Super Troopers 2, the follow-up to the goofball cop comedy from 2001 that went from micro-budget release to sleeper hit to cult classic.

The new flick, a U.S.-versus-Canada border romp with plenty of ugly American references, opens Friday and comes from the original team, the Broken Lizard comedy troupe, with partial funding from an Indiegogo campaign.

Lyft plucked all the main characters, who return as hapless Vermont State Troopers, for a shenanigan-filled PSA about driving while high. In a word: Don’t.

“The idea of leveraging a film’s IP to communicate a socially driven message is very new to us,” said Ari Avishay, Lyft’s director of entertainment marketing. “But this made perfect sense. It’s a way for us to tap into culture, lean into comedy and start a conversation.”

The Super Troopers 2 program could open the door to more movie tie-ins for Lyft, given the “rich territory” and crossover between entertainment consumers (aka partiers) and ridesharing demos, he said.

In markets where recreational sales are legal, Lyft created out-of-home ads and wild postings, and there’s in-car swag like stickers, buttons and safety guides. An in-app takeover allows users to opt into Super Troopers mode for Easter eggs and movie character cameos.

“There’s a lot of fan support behind this movie,” Avishay said, “It was an incredibly appealing partnership at a culturally relevant time.”


Ben & Jerry’s

The famously earthy brand actually did its best work a day early, posting a perfect tweet at 4:19 p.m. on 4/19:

Comedy Central

Need an easy edible recipe? Comedy Central has you covered:

The network is also promoting the launch of a free-to-play Broad City game called “High Score.”


Burger King

Mighty Blend

In what may be the trippiest ads ever for potting soil, a ukelele-playing gal named Aunt Mary blows our minds with some indoor gardening tips for Mighty Blend. The tutorials come from Havas Montreal.

@TLStanleyLA terry.stanley@adweek.com T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.
Publish date: April 20, 2018 https://stage.adweek.com/brand-marketing/4-20-roundup-how-brands-are-marking-marijuanas-increasingly-mainstream-holiday/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT