Why Jack in the Box's Merry Munchies meal is both good and bad for cannabis
We reported last week that after flirting with stoners for years, Jack in the Box has decided to actually go on a date with them, in the form of a munchies meal with a whole bunch of gnarly fast food for the low price of $4.20. The chain has teamed up with marijuana brand Merry Jane to make a cannabis-marketed meal, complete with a weed leaf logo on it.
The cannabis community has responded, and the general consensus is.... mixed. On the one hand, it's great to see Jack in the Box understand what a big deal recreational cannabis will be in California, and if (as expected) this deal does well in the limited market of Long Beach, CA, then odds are good we'll see it go national and/or see other brands "borrow" cannabis as their own.
For advertisers and marketers, this isn't too controversial: It's the old tactic of seeing an audience and appealing to it. Adweek has a writeup of the promotion, and it sounds like even Jack in the Box isn't really here to take a hit -- they just know people who have taken some hits might want their food. "We are about welcoming all of our guests, no matter what they're craving or why they're craving it," says Iwona Alter, CMO at Jack in the Box, clearly hesitant to make this a divisive issue. It all makes perfect corporate sense from their perspective.
From the cannabis community, however, the reaction isn't as generous. Weed News' Johnny Green also has a piece up about the promotion, and he says that while Jack in the Box's meal does represent some progress in "accepting" cannabis as more mainstream, it's just "not that significant." Jack in the Box (and other fast food restaurants -- Taco Bell's late night "fourthmeal" promotion jumps to mind) have always targeted late night stoners or clubgoers looking for a lot of grease for a little dough late at night. The Merry Munchie meal may carry a cannabis leaf on it, but it doesn't mean anything more to the community than those other meals did, and it's certainly not an embrace of cannabis culture.
We don't disagree -- when you think about where cannabis could be marketed or promoted, a late night fast food drive through isn't too far of a stretch (and personally for us, it doesn't exactly promote "elegance" in the way that we're interested in doing so among the community).
That said, however, Green agrees that there's something happening here. "A massive mainstream company is now openly courting cannabis consumers via a very public marketing campaign. That's a big deal."
We agree. Jack in the Box is only the first major brand to try something like this, and it won't be surprising to see more examples follow. And the cannabis community does get a say in these promotions with their wallets -- if you see something promoting something that you don't like about the community (say, that we're all stoners who do Jack in the Box runs late at night), you're more than welcome to stay away and instead go for products that better align with your lifestyle.
That said, we're happy to have Jack in the Box in our corner for now (and the odds are good that we'll head towards Long Beach to grab a meal anyway -- we'll put pictures and a review on the site here, don't worry). "Using" a community to promote your greasy food isn't always great, but this is a nice sign of a major brand understanding that there's a major audience out there, and for that reason, this $4.20 meal is both pretty important.