April 20, 2020

Budding Opportunity for the Cannabis Industry?

Although Americans are stockpiling marijuana, regulatory and legislative tensions around the industry persist. The marijuana industry was excluded from federal aid under the CARES Act in March. But last week, the bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus urged the federal government to include it in the next relief bill, noting the industry employs roughly 240,000 Americans and created nearly $2 billion in state and local tax revenue in 2019. Nine states have deemed marijuana dispensaries essential services during the COVID-19 shutdown–and over half of Americans agree. California’s decision to do so drove an initial increase in Twitter conversation on March 20. Conversations about medical marijuana have been louder than they were pre-pandemic, with some urging states to open dispensaries for Americans who rely on marijuana for medical reasons, including anxiety relief. Tweets about medical marijuana reached peak volume on April 8 with tributes to Charlotte Figi. The legislative path for legal marijuana is still unclear, but history could offer a hint. After the Great Depression, the federal government lifted its alcohol prohibition to generate tax revenue. Could marijuana follow suit?

Getting the Bands Back Together

You might be enjoying your favorite tunes in your home office all day – but the recording artists and songwriters making that music are among those taking the pandemic on the chin. In the era of streaming, so much of musicians’ income streams come from touring revenue and public performance royalties. And with that revenue fully cut off or significantly diminished, musicians’ rights groups and industry trade organizations in Washington are seeking new ways to support musicians across the country. The Recording Industry Association of America spearheaded the launch of a new resource website that helps affected artists understand how to access relief opportunities created by the CARES Act stimulus bill. Songwriter groups like ASCAP, BMI and SESAC also donated money to a new COVID-19 relief fund to benefit music creators administered by The Recording Academy, the group that hosts the GRAMMYs every year. It’s a welcome tune for musicians, especially with prominent local leaders like Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti forecasting last week that large concerts may not be able to return until 2021.

COVID-19 By The Numbers

The More Things Change…

Have you noticed lately that every brand is “here for you”? The Internet has taken to mocking the similarity of ads in the age of coronavirus. Soft piano music, soothing narration and poignant scenes of empty spaces are all part of the formula. But at a time when Americans want to see empathy from corporate entities, how can a brand stand out? 

  1. Tell the public how you’re helping–and help in a creative way. While many brands are shifting to manufacture PPE or consumer masks, USAA and other insurers are offering premium rebates on auto insurance since people aren’t driving as much–an offering that stands out. 
  2. Authenticity matters. Google and Verizon’s recent spots aren’t very different from other COVID-19 ads, but they are true to these brands’ voices, making them memorable
  3. Make sure your message is distinctive: Something only you would say. Look for the uncommon feeling that’s true to your company. Maybe it’s hope, or joy or simplicity. Whatever makes your brand most unique, bring that to the table.

So be useful. Be yourself. And be quick—those lagging behind are already being judged.

For Retailers, Challenges in Store

Neiman Marcus is preparing to file for bankruptcy, making the Dallas-based company the first major retail casualty of the coronavirus pandemic. The luxury department store closed all 43 of its locations on March 17 and moved operations entirely online. But pivoting to e-commerce and furloughing in-store workers wasn’t enough to ease the company’s long-term financial strain. Neiman Marcus was already hampered by sizable debt, competition from direct-to-consumer brands and changes in consumer spending habits. The pandemic’s economic fallout was simply the last straw for a company that has struggled over the last few years. Neiman Marcus is the first to fall, but it almost certainly won’t be the last. Other major department stores like Macy’s, JC Penny and Nordstrom are also grappling with the pandemic’s devastating effects on the bottom line. The “retail apocalypse” has been underway for the last ten years, but the coronavirus has undoubtedly accelerated it. If stores across the country remain closed for much longer, more retail brands – both big and small – may follow in Neiman Marcus’ footsteps