A Product Management Challenge: Pot

by drjim on July 20, 2015

Marijuana is now a product that needs to be managed

Marijuana is now a product that needs to be managed
Image Credit: David Trawin

So you think that you have a tough job, eh? Just imagine how hard it must be to the product manager who works for one of the new firms that has just popped up to start legally selling marijuana! In the United States, a handful of states now allow marijuana to be sold either for medical or for recreational purposes. This means that there is a legal market for consumers. Just exactly the kind of situation that calls for a bit of help from a skilled product manager with a well-thought out product development definition.

The Problem With Pot

In the United States, the state of Colorado has legalized the recreational use of marijuana. However, change happens slowly and right now how consumers can get the marijuana that they want has not yet caught up with the new demand for the product.

What this means is that the pot dispensaries that are currently the only places where people can legally buy pot are not really places that you’d want to go. They are dingy, poorly lit, and have bars on the windows. The staff behind the counter wear hoodies and look like they smoke as much pot as they sell. All in all, this is not the type of place that most law abiding citizens would really like to go.

An additional challenge comes up when customers attempt to purchase marijuana. Currently, the product that is available to consumers goes by names like “Big Buddha Cheese” and “Green Krack”. Just exactly what is being bought here?

Making Cannabis Cool

The product managers who have been brought in to transform Colorado marijuana from an illegal street drug to an everyday recreational activity have their hands full. Somehow they have to transform the process of buying pot and make it more like going to Walmart.

The first step in the process is to change where marijuana gets purchased. The new dispensaries now have clever names like “Mindful” and they are trying to modernize the selling of cannabis. In these new stores, employees wear uniforms and the company logo is everywhere. If product managers can rebrand pot successfully, then they’ll really have something to add to their product manager resume.

The final step in the rebranding of pot is to try to work it into more of everyone’s everyday life. What this has meant in Colorado is having the Colorado Symphony host shows called “Classically Cannabis” and holding cannabis cocktail parties. Not content with those efforts, a new yoga class called “Vape and Vinyasa” has been introduced along with a new smartphone app that allows the placing of online pot orders.

What All Of This Means For You

Marijuana has become legal to sell, buy, and consume in a number of places in the United States. Now that there is a product to be sold and consumers who can legally buy it, it’s time for the product managers to step in. However, pot has been illegal for so long, what’s a product manager to do with this new type of product in order to make it a success? Our product manager job description never told us how to handle this situation!

In Colorado, the new companies that have started to grow and sell marijuana have discovered that they have a problem. There is no efficient way to distribute their product. The few stores that currently sell pot are very seedy looking and are staffed by people who are really best suited to interacting with people who use illegal drugs.

The new marijuana company product managers are starting to make changes in order to grow their market share. They are rebranding a number of ways that people refer to marijuana in order to make it more palatable to a larger audience. They are also starting to cross marijuana with other activities that their target audience is participating in.

It’s still early on in this new product field. The pot product managers have a lot of work ahead of them. They have to recast the image of their product from forbidden illegal drug to desirable recreational pastime. The good news is that it can be done. Now it’s just up to the product managers to find out how to do it.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: If you were a pot product manager, would you ever give away free samples?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Many product managers are placed in charge of multiple products. Often, among these products certain products will start to perform better than others. When this happens, it’s very natural for our focus to become fixated on the products and the product development definitions that are doing well and we start to ignore the other products in our portfolio. However, things can change and when that happens, we need to shift our attention. This is exactly what’s happening at the mobile phone firm Blackberry right now.

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