We all know cannabis is hard to market. Social media platforms hate the plant, Google won’t accept ads, and companies are all competing for the same place in potential consumers’ minds. So it’s worth noting when a company takes a creative route that stands out, and even more importantly, is effective.
It helps when the product being marketed is exceptional. When it’s made with real fruit, vegan, kosher, and free from most common allergens, the dedication to creating feel-good edibles shines through.
If this description doesn’t make you think of Fruit Slabs, let us introduce you to a company that does things a little differently. From their personable, imaginative marketing tactics to their dedication to dietary restriction-friendly edibles, the team has set a high standard for the California edibles market. Their products are now also available in Washington, and a CBD version of their fruity slabs are available across the United States.
For consumers with dietary restrictions or those seeking an experience as close to real fruit as they can get, Fruit Slabs checks all of the boxes. The fruit leather-esque products were the first vegan and kosher-certified THC edible to hit the California market and are made from an ethanol-extracted THC distillate with a rapid onset. Influenced by CEO Brandon Dorsky’s numerous dietary restrictions, the company takes pride in cautiously producing their allergen-friendly products on equipment used solely for their production. As someone with numerous dietary restrictions myself, this factor is particularly important, because finding a tasty, fruity edible without gelatin, added sugar, or other ingredients isn’t always easy.
To get a better understanding of this brand’s tactics and creative endeavors, I spoke with CEO Brandon Dorsky and CMO Maggie Wilson.
Talking tarot cards with Maggie Wilson
Fruit Slabs’ Chief Marketing Officer Maggie Wilson operates in novel and sometimes mystical ways. Take for example her Metaphysical Cannabis Oracle Deck, which is an impressive showcase of her ability to seamlessly combine passions — this time, a longtime love for tarot and cannabis — into one beautiful product.
Wilson recently crafted a cannabis oracle tarot deck filled with accessible cannabis education for curious users. Published by Liminal 11, the deck utilizes cannabis imagery in an interactive manner, with different cards representing different ways to use the plant. The deck reveals the talent of two Black women: Maggie Wilson, who wrote content for the cards, and Ejiwa “Edge” Ebenebe, a fantasy illustrator who enlivened the writing with detailed imagery.
“She just turned my words into these incredible masterpieces of art, and I’m still shocked,” Wilson told me. “I look at it every day and I’m like, ‘I can’t believe that I wrote this and she turned it into this.’ She’s amazing. We work so well together.”
As someone who has only been the recipient of a few tarot card readings, one of which was done on a questionable Youtube channel (How does that even work?), I found myself intrigued by this combination of tarot and cannabis. Fortunately, Maggie has a knack for bringing clarity and character into any discussion.
“I like to use cannabis before I communicate with the tarot,” she told me. “Using the tarot is like connecting to something else that’s bigger than you. And that’s what we’re doing with cannabis, too. We’re connecting with something that’s bigger, more infinite than us. I feel like cannabis makes us a little more intuitive, so we may work with the cards in a different way.”
The oracle deck provides more than just education and a whimsical visual experience. It also serves as an unconventional marketing avenue for Fruit Slabs. Under the “edibles” card, users will see a reference to Fruit Slabs in the illustration. “It’s these nice, beautifully drawn little slabs that someone’s making an edible with,” she explained.
The tarot card collaboration is set to be a hit, although it hasn’t officially debuted yet. I spoke with the Fruit Slabs team at the end of this March, and Wilson was already excited about the feedback she’d received through the soft launch.
“As of yesterday and today, it was the number one new release in marijuana cultivation [on Amazon]. And it doesn’t debut or launch until July,” she told me.
Wilson has clearly tuned into her creative side with this project, and it’s just one of many innovative ways the company reaches potential customers in a distinctive way.
Graphic novels, concerts, and other inspired techniques
Beyond the mention in Wilson’s tarot deck, you can find Fruit Slabs in a graphic novel that takes place in a fictional part of Los Angeles. The book features themes of addiction and recovery, and the Fruit Slabs team saw an opportunity to advertise their CBD line in the graphic novel.
“I thought, this is adult content. It’s taking place in California. There’s already drug themes in here. People are consuming cannabis in the storyline,” Fruit Slabs’ CEO Brandon Dorsky told me. “I thought, ‘Hey, this would resonate with people in the industry. Maybe we can do some advertising in there.’”
To pull off a marketing tactic like this, it has to be authentic. You can’t just throw an ad for a cannabis product in the middle of the graphic novel and think readers won’t be put off. But if you incorporate it in a meaningful way that enhances the storyline itself, you can really take the whole marketing thing to the next level. In this case, Fruit Labs chose to incorporate an ad for their CBD line only, since the graphic novel centers around addiction.
“We have some contributing graffiti artists that are putting their own artwork in the back pages that become kind of like a quasi art classified section. It also includes advertisements for plant-based medicine businesses, including Fruit Slabs,” Dorsky told me.
Speaking of authenticity, Fruit Slabs also relies on the personal connections its team makes with potential customers. Their tactic for meeting new people and introducing them to the brand is unlike any I have seen before and centers around cultivating positive experiences and personal connections with the people behind the brand.
“We’re a mom and pop business putting out one of the most expensive edibles, from the cost of ingredients going into it,” Dorsky told me. “As much as we’d like to be ubiquitous and visible everywhere, we don’t have the budget to do that.”
Instead, they lean into who they truly are–creators and lovers of art and music–to build genuine connections. For example, Dorsky and Wilson love live music and would be going to see bands regardless of if there were network and marketing opportunities. So, to get their name out there a little more, they’ll offer an extra ticket to a show, their treat. If someone snags the ticket, the lucky person gets to spend a night out with the pair and meet people behind the brand while sharing a fun experience.
It’s a pretty heavy investment to put in one person, says Dorsky, but it usually leads to some new Fruit Slabs fans. It’s likely they’ll tell someone about the experience, and ideally, they’ll become a loyal customer.
“Worst case scenario, somebody had a good time, we had a good time, and we all got high on Fruit Slabs together,” he said. “Best case scenario? Someone’s like, ‘Oh my God, this is the coolest brand in the game.’”