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Why cannabis company Curaleaf wants to ‘integrate into culture’ to build its brands

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Why cannabis company Curaleaf wants to ‘integrate into culture’ to build its brands

Early on in his music video for his song “Light My Fire,” Sean Paul showcases a package of edibles from the cannabis brand Select.

Getting the brand featured in the video, which was released last month, is part of Select parent company Curaleaf’s effort to make its brands more normalized and part of culture, according to Sydney Chernish, vp of brand marketing for Curaleaf. 

Working with celebrities like Paul is “ becoming more and more of a marketing tool we consider,” explained Chernish as it can help the company “transcend some of the intricacies of the state-to-state” cannabis advertising regulations. Though Curaleaf products are now available in 22 states, each of those states have their own regulations on what is possible for cannabis brands when it comes to advertising, making it difficult to run traditional advertising and marketing efforts. With that being the case, finding ways to be part of culture has become more appealing and an important business imperative. 

We definitely are looking for more opportunities to integrate into culture whether that’s with celebrities or other ways of reaching new consumers,” said Chernish. “ [We are also looking at] partnerships with other brands or celebrities who are building brands.” 

It’s unclear how much Curaleaf spent to work with Paul to sponsor and be featured in the music video as Chernish declined to share those figures. Chernish also did not share how Curaleaf breaks out its advertising budget as it has to do so state-by-state given the different regulations. That said, Pathmatics data found that Curaleaf has spent $114,000 on advertising so far this year and spent $174,200 on advertising last year. The majority of that was spent on desktop digital display ads.

As far as ad spending strategy, Curaleaf plans out monthly budgets for each state based on the revenue of derived from that state. Those budgets are not set in stone – should Curaleaf need to move budget to different locations based on new initiatives the company will do so.

Curaleaf is one of a number of cannabis brands aiming to take a CPG approach and normalize cannabis while dealing with advertising restrictions as the industry continues to grow. As previously reported, cannabis brands like Slang Worldwide and Cresco Labs have sought to normalize cannabis amid regulatory headaches.

Working with celebrities like Paul to normalize the brand and make it part of culture via a music video can help a cannabis brand to stand out. “Celebs can work if it feels real,” said Duane Brown, founder of performance marketing agency Take Some Risk when asked about the approach. “[It will only work if] the person uses that product, or a product in the space, and it is not just a pay-to-play type deal.”

Given the complexity of the state-to-state regulations, Curaleaf takes a similar approach to that of big global brands.

“We create assets at the central level that then need to be highly localized and tailored for the specific legalities of each state,” said Chernish of the approach. “In some of the more established states like California, we have many more traditional marketing avenues available to us. You can see things like billboards, digital marketing, magazine advertising, things like that. In other states, we’re incredibly restricted and can really only have in-store point-of-sale merchandising. It varies incredibly from state-to-state.” 

Taking that kind of approach to ad strategy makes sense for a brand like Curaleaf, according to Brown. However, “seeing how that is actually executed would be where rubber meets the road,” said Brown. “A lot can go wrong with this from an execution POV.”

Even so, that kind of approach can help Curaleaf stand out in the long run. “The market is so fragmented with so many smaller players,” said Allen Adamson, brand consultant and co-founder of Metaforce. “The winner will be a brand that can get some scale. Figuring out how to do a high level of brand messaging and adapt it is smart. It’s not easy, but it’s smart. Brand recognition will allow [a brand like Curaleaf] to beat smaller brands and get scale. Scale matters because there will be a shake out — in the end it’s about who will get big and do it right.”

https://digiday.com/?p=459974

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NASA Says Hurricane Didn’t Hurt Artemis I Hardware, Sets New Launch Window

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NASA Says Hurricane Didn’t Hurt Artemis I Hardware, Sets New Launch Window

NASA’s Artemis I moon mission launch, stalled by Hurricane Ian, has a new target for takeoff. The launch window for step one of NASA’s bold plan to return humans to the lunar surface now opens Nov. 12 and closes Nov. 27, the space agency said Friday. 

The news comes after the pending storm caused NASA to scrub the latest Artemis I Iaunch, which had been scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 2. As Hurricane Ian threatened to travel north across Cuba and into Florida, bringing rain and extreme winds to the launch pad’s vicinity, NASA on Monday rolled its monster Space Launch System rocket, and the Orion spacecraft it’ll propel, back indoors to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. 

The hurricane made landfall in Florida on Wednesday, bringing with it a catastrophic storm surge, winds and flooding that left dozens of people dead, caused widespread power outages and ripped buildings from their foundations. Hurricane Ian is “likely to rank among the worst in the nation’s history,” US President Joe Biden said on Friday, adding that it will take “months, years, to rebuild.”

Initial inspections Friday to assess potential impacts of the devastating storm to Artemis I flight hardware showed no damage, NASA said. “Facilities are in good shape with only minor water intrusion identified in a few locations,” the agency said in a statement. 

Next up, teams will complete post-storm recovery operations, which will include further inspections and retests of the flight termination system before a more specific launch date can be set. The new November launch window, NASA said, will also give Kennedy employees time to address what their families and homes need post-storm. 

Artemis I is set to send instruments to lunar orbit to gather vital information for Artemis II, a crewed mission targeted for 2024 that will carry astronauts around the moon and hopefully pave the way for Artemis III in 2025. Astronauts on that high-stakes mission will, if all goes according to plan, put boots on the lunar ground, collect samples and study the water ice that’s been confirmed at the moon’s South Pole. 

The hurricane-related Artemis I rollback follows two other launch delays, the first due to an engine problem and the second because of a hydrogen leak.

Hurricane Ian has been downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone but is still bringing heavy rains and gusty winds to the Mid-Atlantic region and the New England coast.

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What You Get in McDonalds’ New Happy-Meal-Inspired Box for Adults

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What You Get in McDonalds’ New Happy-Meal-Inspired Box for Adults

You’ve pulled up to McDonald’s as a full-on adult. You absolutely do not need a toy with your meal, right? Joking. Of course you do.

The fast-food chain will soon sell boxed meals geared toward adults, and each one has a cool, odd-looking figurine inside. 

The meal has an odd name — the Cactus Plant Flea Market Box — that’s based on the fashion brand collaborating with McDonald’s on this promotion. 

According to McDonald’s, the box is inspired by the memory of enjoying a Happy Meal as a kid. The outside of the box is multicolored and features the chain’s familiar golden arches. 

The first day you can get a Cactus Plant Flea Market Box will be Monday, Oct. 3. Pricing is set by individual restaurants and may vary, according to McDonald’s. It’ll be available in the drive-thru, in-restaurant, by delivery or on the McDonald’s app, while supplies last.

You can choose between a Big Mac or 10-piece Chicken McNuggets. It will also come with fries and a drink.

Now about those toys. The boxes will pack in one of four figurines. Three of the four appear to be artsy takes on the classic McDonald’s characters Grimace, Hamburglar and Birdie the Early Bird, while the fourth is a little yellow guy sporting a McDonald’s shirt called Cactus Buddy.

In other McD news, Halloween buckets could be returning to the chain this fall. So leave some room in your stomach for a return trip.

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Why companies like iHeartMedia, NBCU rely on homegrown IP to build metaverse engagements

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Why companies like iHeartMedia, NBCU rely on homegrown IP to build metaverse engagements

To avoid potential blowback from a skeptical audience, retailers as well as media and entertainment companies are learning to invest in their homegrown intellectual properties while building virtual brand activations inside Roblox or Fortnite.

Take, for instance, when they get it wrong.

Earlier this week, Walmart launched its own Roblox world — called Walmart Land — and was roundly mocked for it across social media given the announcement’s disjointed brand message and apparent lack of life. In one viral tweet, a Twitter user described a clip of Walmart CMO William White introducing the Roblox space as “one of the saddest videos ever created.”

This video of Walmart’s chief marketing officer on a stage in Roblox talking about its new “Walmart Land” experience is one of the saddest videos ever created. pic.twitter.com/HtIIToShKs

— Zack Zwiezen (@ZwiezenZ) September 26, 2022

To some extent, this sort of criticism is to be expected during the early days of the metaverse.

“Walmart is an iconic brand; when you see them coming into a platform like Roblox, people are going to be 10 times more critical of what is being launched,” said Yonatan Raz-Fridman, CEO of the Roblox developer studio Supersocial.

But Walmart’s size is not its only disadvantage as it dips its toes into Roblox. Although Walmart has a widely recognizable brand, it owns few intellectual properties that users are actually interested in experiencing virtually — a shortcoming reflected by the somewhat cavernous emptiness of Roblox’s Walmart Land.

Provided by NBCUniversal

The success of other recent brand activations is evidence that media and entertainment brands are better equipped to build metaverse spaces that can dodge online skepticism, thanks to their wealth of owned IP.

“They are having to reinvent themselves, to a certain degree, but that is in their DNA,” said Jesse Streb, global svp of technology and engineering at the agency DEPT. “So they have a unique advantage over, say, some kludgy company that sells lumber, or a construction company.”

For example, iHeartMedia’s Roblox and Fortnite spaces were inspired by the mass media corporation’s wealth of popular real-life events, such as the Jingle Ball Tour and iHeartRadio Music Festival, with virtual versions of musicians like Charlie Puth performing pre-recorded concerts that allow real-time audience interaction.

“There’s a strong brand association with the IP, down to a station level — you’re in the New York area, you probably know Z100,” said iHeartMedia evp of business development and partnerships Jess Jerrick. “The same is true for the event IP, or the IP that we now have in the podcasting space, and of course our radio broadcast talent. So there’s no shortage of really strong IP we can bring into these spaces.”

Translating real-life properties into the metaverse is also an enticing prospect for brands that view metaverse platforms as an experimental marketing channel, allowing them to bring tried-and-true IP into their virtual activations instead of designing them from the ground level. This was part of the strategy behind the recent Tonight Show activation in Fortnite Creative, which was designed in collaboration between NBCUniversal and Samsung. “We’re looking at it holistically — how do we find fans in new ways, and use IP that fans love in new ways?” said NBCU president of advertising and client partnerships Mark Markshall.

Since opening on Sept. 14, iHeartLand has already enticed over 1.5 million Roblox users to visit. The company aims to retain that attention with a schedule of virtual programming featuring popular musicians and personalities.

“At our core, we are essentially an influencer network; our broadcast talent are some of the most connected, most engaging influencers at work in media today,” said Conal Byrne, CEO of iHeart Digital Audio Group. “That gives us this sort of superpower, to be able to go into new-ish platforms, like Roblox or Fortnite, because we talk to our listeners through those influencers.”

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