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If you haven’t noticed, Generation Z loves weed. Compared with just about every other age group, Gen Z has embraced cannabis as their recreational drug of choice. Yet, strangely, the cannabis sector has been slow to make any serious Gen Z branding effort.
Since legalization, the industry has neglected Gen Z, instead focusing its marketing efforts on Millennials and Boomers, the legacy customers. But now, almost a decade into recreational cannabis, isn’t it time to properly serve the first generation to grow up in a world of legal access?
To find out how to get a Gen Z branding strategy right, we spoke with Mario Naric, CEO & founder of Motif Labs. The recent launch of their latest label, Rizzlers, proves Naric and the team at Motif Labs deeply understand the Gen Z psyche and have nailed the assignment.
The Untapped Potential of the Gen Z Cannabis Consumer
Generation Z isn’t just a ‘new’ cannabis consumer. They also happen to be the demographic with the highest consumption rates. According to the latest Gallup poll, “Age is a significant driver of the likelihood of smoking marijuana,” with their survey finding that a full 26 percent of young Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 smoke cannabis.
Now, compare that to other (older) demographics: Only 18 percent of people between the ages of 35 and 55 reported cannabis use and just 11 percent of those over the age of 55. Gallop discovered that the older you are, the less likely you are to consume cannabis.
Yes, Millennials still represent the largest segment of the cannabis consumer market, but we cannot forget that Gen Z is just getting started. This segment is still aging in the legal market. Given time and a subsequent increase in disposable income, they are quickly on track to overtake the purchasing power of their Millennial counterparts.
Cannabis Industry Slow To Understand Generation Z
Yet, so much of cannabis marketing and product branding completely ignores Gen Z. Mostly, the products lining retailer shelves are focused on the legacy consumers (those who were consumers before legalization). There is still a hyper-fixation on Boomers and Millennials. Cannabis marketing has hopelessly fallen into a stagnant series of tropes: the high-potency legacy stoner, the wellness-focused, and the small-batch craft-obsessed.
But do these stories speak to Generation Z? Their relationship is fundamentally different. You’d be hard-pressed to find a 22-year-old who connects with a Bob Marley-inspired logo or wellness products marketed for soothing relief. Remember, Gen Z is the up-and-coming cannabis consumer who grew up with legal weed. From their perspective, it’s always been widely available and socially normalized.
According to Think House, an agency entirely focused on youth culture, these are “people who grew up as children seeing their childhood idols like Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and One Direction being slapped on the wrist for weed scandals regularly have evolved from observers to imitators, without the judgement.”
Mastering the Art of Gen Z Branding: Rizzlers by Motif Labs
How do you crack the Gen Z branding code? No, you can’t just start a TikTok account or somehow convince a D’Amelio sister to rep your goods. To speak to Gen Z as a consumer, you must understand their unique worldview — and Mario Naric, CEO and founder of Motif Labs, is one of the very few cannabis leaders to do so successfully.
Naric and the team have just dropped Rizzlers, a new label nested under the broader Motif family umbrella (Boxhot, DEBUNK, and Boondocks). The first Rizzler product in this line is a garishly-colored, closed-loop vaporizer that screams Gen Z.
Clearly, the name is the first tactic targeting this demographic. Naric explains that the “terminology is funny and on the nose, clearly targeting people in their early 20s.” Rizzlers is a play on the word rizz, slang so ubiquitous among Gen Z that it is now famously the 2023 Oxford Word of Year.
(For everyone over 30, this is shorthand for charisma; under the Oxford definition, it’s “style, charm, or attractiveness; the ability to attract a romantic or sexual partner.”)
But a trendy name is the lowest-hanging fruit for speaking to Gen Z. In my conversation with Naric, I learned that Rizzlers developed from a genuine understanding of what it’s like to exist as a 20-something today.
Gen Z Sees Cannabis Through a Different Lens
Unlike Boomers and Millennials, Naric says Gen Zers “aren’t necessarily fixated on what they used to buy from their drug dealer back in the day.” Their core cannabis memories aren’t from legacy products. Instead, for Gen Z, their relationship with cannabis came from within a legal framework.
Which means this younger demographic is looking at cannabis through a completely different lens than Millennials or Boomers. They aren’t chasing the past or even building off it. Ultimately, Gen Z just wants to have a good time. They want something that will get them there in the easiest, least complicated way.
This core desire is what drove the Rizzler design process. It’s a stupidly simple, closed-loop system that, unlike a traditional 510 threaded vape, “[y]ou don’t have to thread it on. Once you snap it [the cart] in, the temperatures and everything have been dialed in,” as Naric explained. “It’s about simplicity, right?”
Gen Z Use Accessories as a Means of Self-Expression
McKinsey Insights has described how Gen Z views “consumption as an expression of individual identity,” forcing brands to rethink products as a type of personality statement.
Naric and the team specifically approached the Rizzler design with this understanding. For Gen Z, the accessories they carry around daily aren’t just necessities but a chance for them to stand out.
Naric paints the picture: “You have your glasses, your keys, your AirPods, your phone, all sitting on the desk in front of you — and all those things say something about you.” A vape is just another accessory for Gen Z and, crucially, another opportunity to express themselves.
Therefore, Motif Labs has made the Rizzler hyper-expressive. It’s brightly colored with psychedelic branding. Its flat surfboard shape and snap cartridges are entirely different from other vapes on store shelves. Motif has quite brilliantly designed Rizzler “hardware as a branding moment.”
Gen Z Lives Under Challenging Economic Pressures
Naric inherently gets how hard it is for Gen Z from an economic perspective, which was refreshing to hear from a cannabis CEO. He understands how the broader macroeconomic picture is currently playing out for this demographic. Whether it’s stagnant wages, grim prospects of homeownership, or reduced wealth accumulation, the situation often feels dire for this younger generation.
With this in mind, Naric knew that products designed for Gen Z must fit their current budget realities. Realistically, few people in this younger cohort can (or even want to) shell out hundreds of dollars for a vaporizer. In his words, “It’s not necessarily being cheap for the sake of being cheap,” it’s about optimizing basket price for the realities of the target audience.
Gen Z Cannabis Culture: Rizzlers Gets it Right
The Gen Z branding strategy demands a distinct approach. They can’t just become an afterthought to the legacy consumer because they are already driving growth and could soon make up the largest customer segment.
Rizzlers by Motif Labs exemplifies just what happens when you drill down to understand an audience at its core. Designed around simplicity, self-expression, and affordability, Rizzlers speaks to Gen Z’s values and sets a precedent for how the cannabis industry can evolve to meet the needs of its newest and most dynamic consumers.