A new brand called Smarty Plants will take you down a time-sucking rabbit hole of vintage commercials, 80s pop culture, fantasy, music and sci-fi on its colorful website, which is decorated with digital UFOs.
The “Get Smarty Plants” Instagram feed contains thought-of-the-day-style gems like “Betty White is older than sliced bread” and “Vending machines kill more people than sharks.” Meanwhile, outdoor ads show pictures of bears and kittens with taglines such as “Knowledge is happening even when it isn’t.”
The content—designed to appeal to nostalgia-loving, Twitch-obsessed Rick and Morty fans everywhere—contains no description of a product or service.
So, Smarty Plants is selling…what, exactly?
The answer is cannabis. And the tactics aren’t without precedent in the booming industry, as THC-infused beverage Cann and luxury CBD brand Lord Jones have recently debuted their own highly stylized campaigns.
And the approach is proving to be successful for Smarty Plants: It has become one of the fastest-growing flower brands since it debuted this winter in about 80 dispensaries in California.
The mystery and subterfuge, with no mention of weed or overt calls to action in any of the brand’s communications, means Smarty Plants has been able to launch much like a traditional consumer packaged good. It occupies coveted places and spaces like Facebook and Spotify, while not bumping up against direct competitors or running afoul of strict regulations on cannabis advertising.
“The reaction to us not talking about the plant or THC—and not including photos of grow rooms and ‘nugg’ shots—has been overwhelmingly positive and a huge help to our marketing efforts,” said Ryan Goldstein, Smarty Plants founder and CMO of Petalfast, an accelerator that spawned the brand.
In other words, since the proudly geeky blog and social media posts don’t promote sales or consumption, they work seamlessly as pure content and as paid ads without violating any “community standards.” Smarty Plants’ kitschy billboards, to the casual viewer, could double as album release or streetwear ads.
Even its swag can comfortably circulate in mainstream crowds, since it features a purposely subtle logo “instead of a big green pot leaf on a black shirt,” Goldstein said.