Every now and then you get a piece of popular culture that helps redirect society. Maybe it opens eyes to a new reality. Or the result might be nothing more than a new catch phrase that hangs on longer than the original influence did.

It's related to being viral but has a much longer-lasting effect. And that's what the company MedMen wanted to accomplish. The cannabis industry is still just on that side of federal law. MedMen wanted it on this side, which would open new markets and make it easier to operate as well as promote its stock, as the company is public in Canada and available over the counter.

Kind of what it would like to see with many forms of marijuana. Although, presumably, over its counter.

MedMen decided to enlist filmmaker Spike Jonze to produce a two-minute video spot that purported to show the evolution of marijuana in society. You can guess the intent from the title, The New Normal. A video that came out a couple of days before its latest earnings call, which is Wednesday (today, in relation to my writing).

Technically and conceptually, the piece is solid, even if it does blur the lines when saying that people grew hemp in colonial days, which isn't really the same as marijuana.

But that passes quickly enough. You see frozen scenes of African Americans being threatened by police over presumed use, a court trial, a recreation of Reefer Madness, what seems to be a group therapy session where participants will participate in marijuana-fueled medication, businesses based on cannabis and CBD, and then everyday people who, again, presumably use it. Normal.

Except maybe for that last couple walking into a house from a car, the woman wearing heels and the man, barefoot.

MedMen said it "rewrote history" in a press release. It's running spots on television, print and digital ads, and other promotions. But calling this a rewrite of history seems way beyond the promotion.

At the time of writing, the full video had 79,810 YouTube views, or nothing to write home about. A teaser of the video, 801 views. And a behind-the-scenes video, another 244.

MedMen is foiled on two fronts. One is trying to manufacture a viral experience. As much as marketing people and consultants would like to think they can, they can't. While viral doesn't happen by accident most of the times, it also can't be ordered up. And two days of heavy promotion reaping fewer than 80,000 YouTube views? It doesn't seem like it's happening.

But that's a minor problem. The big one is that MedMen is right. Culture has changed. Many states have allowed medical use of cannabis and a smaller number okayed recreational use. More candidates for political office are calling for an end to draconian legal reactions that still have marijuana classified with a drug like heroin.

When something becomes normal in this way, it's boring. No controversy, no conflict. Given how many millions of people could light up or pop a doctored brownie into their mouths, why would they dwell on the new normal? They already live it.

Trying to orchestrate a movement is tricky at best. At worst, you spend lots of money and things settle in and sit. Maybe the real problem is that too many people have partaken and become mellow.

Still a nicely done piece, but not the giant attention getter I suspect they wanted.

Published on: Feb 27, 2019
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