News reports of a 1.1 billion-dollar decline in US dairy sales correlated with a massive switch to plant-based milk beverages in 2018. And just last week, Vegan celebrity Joaquin Phoenix demonized the dairy industry in his Oscars Best Actor acceptance speech. It could be the public disapproval of arcane practices or the 10-year continued downward trajectory in sales, but the California Milk Advisory Board is rebranding with a recently announced marketing stunt that is hoping to profit by emulating marketing trends in the cannabis industry.
California Dairy’s most recent and strange marketing push aims to sway people back to traditional milk using an aesthetic modeled by adult-use cannabis. For two days only, the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) will be opening the California Dairy Dispensary in the Venice Beach neighborhood of Los Angeles. This idea, as well as a recent commercial campaign depicting tripped-out, blissful people floating through the California landscape with their grilled cheese sandwiches, are the brainchild of CMAB advertising agency Deutsch LA.
The California Dairy Dispensary is a two day pop-up shop modeled after cannabis dispensary marketing and decorating practices. In fact, the shop itself will be located just a few doors away from many of the city’s popular legal cannabis dispensaries. What they’ve forgotten to include, however, is any reference to the decades of prohibition and stigma experienced by cannabis patients and early entrepreneurs.
Currently, over 40,000 Americans are sitting in jail cells for non-violent cannabis crimes while ‘Chads’ who more often than not voted against medical and adult-use laws are running public cannabis companies without having to worry about federal action faced by heirloom growers, patient providers, and activists. This is just one layer of the industry trauma that Big Milk has completely disregarded in their ploy to convince more people to imbibe cow juice.
And the dispensary aesthetic isn’t the only thing that CMAB has co-opted from the state’s hard-won legal cannabis industry. The marketing team is also attempting to rebrand the acronym CBD as ‘California Based Dairy’ which would, at the very least, be a confusing moniker since it is already solidified as how patients and others casually refer to the legal cannabinoid Cannabidiol.
John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB, stated in a public press release, “California-based dairy foods, or CBD for short, not only taste delicious but are a natural way to enter a golden state of feeling everything from bliss to excitement.”
At this dairy dispensary, patrons will be greeted by ‘dairy docents’ who will educate them on what they refer to as the ‘soothing effects of ice cream and butter.’ Milk-based products will be fashioned in the style of cannabis products with a focus on cheese organized by strain and “pre-rolls” made with ice cream. None of which is based on a foundation like the medicinal benefits of cannabis, a plant that has been the only non-addictive relief for epileptic children, severely arthritic elders, and other medical patients who risked everything for safe access to cannabis medicine.
Deutsch LA senior vice president Mike Frank says the stunt is “playing off” the normalization of cannabis, a decades-long fight that was won by health-focused activists and chronically ill patients. However, while the California dairy industry has fun with the dispensary model, they have completely neglected to address the fact that thousands of political prisoners are serving sentences for non-violent cannabis-related crimes.
It’s clear that although the marketing agency thought through many details of this pop-up shop, their execution is beyond tone-deaf to a fledgling industry going through its own growing pains.