Whether or not you partake of cannabis, you’re probably aware of what “4/20” is: The code for “International Pot-Smoking Day.” And while the story of how the name came to be is a mini-epic in and of itself—centering on a group of rule-breaking early-‘70s high schoolers—there should be no confusion over what it’s come to mean: For cannabis dispensaries, the single highest-grossing day of the year—especially if they make use of creative 420 campaigns.
So, what are you doing to prepare for 420? Though it’s become the world’s de facto cannabis day, that doesn’t mean your stock will sell itself. While each state imposes its own specific restrictions on cannabis advertising, there are still plenty of ways to get the word out about your dispensary, its culture, the educational resources you possess, and any other number of aspects of your business.
With that in mind, we’d like to share some of the most creative 420 campaigns from recent years. If you’re itching for a little creative juice but coming up short, let us take you on a virtual tour.
Foottraffik’s Top Creative 420 Dispensary Campaigns
BarkBox, “Spinach & Science”
BarkBox, the monthly subscription service for pet owners, has always taken a rather cheeky take towards dog toys. But according to the company, even they were taken aback by the success of their only slightly disguised cannabis-themed dog toys. The campaign, featuring some rather inebriated-looking pups, has become a touchstone for their legions of fans. The company, meanwhile, keeps up the straight-man act with perfect aplomb:
“You know, April 20th: a normal day in which your dog should get to play with normal toys, made by normal people. Have a good, normal day.”
Ben & Jerry’s: “4/20 for Cannabis Reform”
It’s no secret Ben & Jerry’s is 420-friendly: With flavors like “Cherry Garcia,” “Half Baked” and “Willie Nelson’s Country Peach Cobbler,” the iconic ice-cream maker teases fans with flavors that sound as if they’re already infused with cannabis. But the company takes 4/20 to new heights with a strong focus on social justice. With high-profile reminders of the disproportionate number of BIPOC who are incarcerated for drug offenses, Ben & Jerry’s demonstrates that sometimes the best marketing approach doesn’t actually involve any marketing. Oh, and that cannabis-infused ice cream? Don’t worry, it’s on the way.
Impossible Foods, “#Happy420”
Last April 20th, the cutting-edge plant-based food maker threw in a subtle but unmistakable nod to cannabis culture with this fun animation. Other food producers and chains to jump on the 4/20 bandwagon include Denny’s with their low-energy but praiseworthy text-based tweet and Qdoba, who at least included a compelling image in their subtle but unmistakable nod to this most special of days.
H&R Block, Canada: “Cannabis and Your Taxes”
Not even the financial sector is immune from 4/20 fever. The Canadian branch of the tax-preparation giant—which, with no fewer than 12,000 retail offices, is hardly a young upstart—made reference to the potential write-offs associated with medical cannabis. Combining a piggy bank and a bong, it’s definitely a trailblazer in the little-explored cannabis-and-tax synergy department, one that can only grow in scope.
Netflix’s “Cooked with Cannabis”
In fewer than 25 years, the streaming giant has expanded from a novel DVD-by-mail service (remember DVDs? remember mail?) to the most-nominated studio at the 2020 Academy Awards and Emmys. That year, it released “Cooked with Cannabis” to coincide with 4/20. That wasn’t even its first cannabis-themed cooking show; that honor went to the short-lived “Cooking on High” from 2018. Based on early reviews, “Cooked” is more background noise than must-watch TV, but it’s a positive sign that cannabis culture has solidly breached the mainstream.
Kiva: “The Secret to Kiva’s Chocolates”
Already hailed as perhaps the most respected chocolatier in the cannabis-infused edibles sector, California-based manufacturer Kiva went splashy last 4/20. Their 75-second video—made by LA-based film production company Biscuit Filmworks and featuring voice actor Jamie Hill—goes flashy and high-production, so to speak. But it also delivers a subtle tweak to many of the tamer mainstream takes on 4/20, including a bleeped-out F-bomb and subversive take on might otherwise be a prim and fussy product spotlight. Sure, most dispensaries lack the resources to front such a production, but they can take a page from Kiva’s irreverent and winning approach.
P.E.T.A.: “Eat Your Veggies”
Long-running activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has shared 4/20-themed material on social media before, but their collaboration with Grammy-nominated DRAM takes the cake in our book. A reference to his hit song “Broccoli,” it features the rapper hanging out with some friends and enticing them to “try his new greens.” To everyone’s surprise, these greens are legal in all 50 states. It’s a perfect example of a partnership with an influencer that fans will want to share over and over again.
The New York Times “Wirecutter”: “Best Portable Vaporizer”
While not strictly a marketing campaign, the New York Times’ product recommendation website released an exhaustive comparison of portable vapes last 4/20. Again, it’s a notable stamp of approval from a publication with one of the nation’s, erm, highest readership.
The pizza-snack maker has been rolling—ad campaigns, that is—referencing 4/20 for several years now; here’s one recent example. The campaign’s creative director Justin Wright shares a few of his thoughts behind the push to brand the pizza-esque rolls as the “Official Meal of 4:21.”
Chipotle: “Sometimes You Need a Huge Bowl”
The popular fast-casual Mexican outlet is known—and sometimes reviled—for its reliance on saucy tweets. But the chain’s 4/20 post from back in 2016 relied more on stoner humor than gratuitous references, for which we’re profoundly grateful.
Lagunitas Brewing: “The Waldos’ Special Ale”
Remember the backstory of 4/20 we mentioned at the top of this post? One California brewer has enshrined those naughty high schoolers—the “Waldos”—with a special ale. Released every year around April 20th, the brew, as reviewed by the Washington Post’s Fritz Hahn, smells and tastes fairly unabashedly like cannabis. As you know, the hops used in beermaking share many terpenes—including myrcene and humulene—with cannabis, so no surprise there. With an alcohol level exceeding that of many wines, it’s a brew to be approached with caution.
For one recent 4/20, the streaming music provider shared fun and distinctly trippy image celebrating the links between cannabis and music. Too bad the original tweet has been deleted, as the animation was extra-groovy.
Comedy Central: “Pot-ato Skins”
Okay, so the laugh-oriented cable channel didn’t stretch themselves too hard coming up with this cannabis pun. But including explicit cannabis flower imagery in their 4/20 tweet from a few years ago is noteworthy in and of itself, especially in a field where most businesses are leery of appearing too explicitly cannabis-positive. Can you do this with your dispensary’s social media account? No. You can not.
Creative 420 Campaigns from Complex Sneakers: “When the Space Jam Hits”
Let’s face it: Sneakers are complex to lace up when you’re not quite straight or sober. The “everything sneakers” media channel featured a hard-to-misinterpret 4/20 tweet and reportedly sent the “#Happy420” hashtag trending (as if it needed any help).
Entirely Pets: “4/20 Flash Sale”
Possibly taking a page from aforementioned cheeksters BarkBox, Entirely Pets is known for its 4/20 flash sales, which feature images of some very, um, happy-looking pets as well as hefty (but time-sensitive) discounts on already popular products. Take note of the brief window of opportunity: It’s a great strategy for building buzz and excitement, all the while reminding your customers that communications from your brand aren’t to be ignored.
Wyoming, MN Police: “#Happy420”
No, we’re not kidding. The Wyoming, Minnesota police department got in on the act with this actually quite funny 4/20-themed tweet. Though the Land of 10,000 Lakes is currently a medical-only state, many observers expect that to change in the near future. In which case the Wyoming PD will have to up their game yet again.
Ready to launch your own creative 420 campaigns? Hit us up to learn how to best promote them!