Marijuana companies have a marketing problem. Whether they sell bespoke edibles, laboriously refined concentrates or weed with a celebrity’s name on the box, they are all selling products that deliver THC. When most customers can’t tell the difference between one product and the next, it’s difficult for companies to develop brand loyalty.

In most consumer industries, this is a solvable problem: Brands can spend lots of money promoting their product. Yet this approach isn’t an option for cannabis companies, which don’t have marketing budgets anywhere near that of a giant multinational company. In addition, most legal states restrict where and how marijuana companies can advertise.

Yet there is an unconventional solution to marijuana's marketing woes: emojis.

According to AdWeek, 92 percent of online users employ emojis, and new company KushMoji is capitalizing on the trend. The company’s app, which it says will be available in March, allows users to communicate using pot-themed icons, including ones that promote 50 different cannabis brands. Instead of sending a joint image, or a generic blissed-out smiley face, users can send images such as the incredibles logo.

KushMoji co-founder Olivia Mannix says the app is a way for brands to gain exposure, including in states where their products are not yet available. The app also offers customers — the cannabis companies — various tracking and promotional opportunities. They’ll be able to know “who's using the brands and who may want to make a purchase,” Mannix says.

Mainstream brands such as Pepsi have rolled out their own emojis in the past, but while those augment the company’s existing marketing juggernaut, KushMojis may help companies establish a connection with customers who can't be reached by more conventional methods. 
Mannix is a cannabis marketing specialist who attracted notice in the industry in 2014, when the then–25-year-old executive told The New York Times that her firm, Cannabrand, is “weeding out the stoners. … We want to show the world that normal, professional, successful people consume cannabis.” Mannix says that while different packages will be available, she expects companies could pay $2,000 to $3,000 monthly to have their emojis on the KushMoji platform.

As with many pot companies, only adults 21 and over will be allowed to download the app, though it relies on users being honest about their age. “Everything can be criticized to some extent,” Mannix says, but she says the service as “definitely tasteful.”

KushMoji’s beta users include Mary Jane’s Medicinals, a Colorado-based topicals brand selling non-psychoactive cannabis ointments and lotions. “I’m a old fart but I trust Olivia,” Mertens says. “We’ll see how it goes.” 

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