How cannabis culture is becoming a bigger part of Jack in the Box’s marketing strategy

As cannabis usage becomes more mainstream, fast-food-chain Jack in the Box is fanning the flames of its cannabis-friendly marketing strategy, further catering to late-night snackers, to drive traffic and ultimately boost sales.

The California-based food chain is pushing the envelope further, building off of previous cannabis-friendly campaigns, in response to recently relaxed cannabis and CBD regulations across states like Minnesota, Delaware and New York. Advertising platforms like Twitter and Google have also relaxed bans. 

Last week, in celebration of 4/20, Jack in the Box rolled out a partnership with WeedMaps, a marijuana-focused online platform, allowing people to map out locations to food truck activations and their nearest Jack in the Box location. It’s the first time Jack in the Box has officially partnered with a cannabis brand.

This builds on prior activations dating back to 2013 when the fast food chain launched its Munchie Meals, its partnering with Snoop Dogg in 2017 and its Jack Loves Trees campaign in 2022.

“We’ve gained equity with this community with craveable snacks available all night long,” Ryan Ostrom, Jack in the Box CMO, said in an email to Digiday. “Legalization has made campaigns like these more accepted in many of our markets.” 

It’s unclear how much of Jack in the Box’s media spend is going toward cannabis-friendly marketing as the company declined to offer specific figures. However, Ostrom said of the partnership with WeedMaps, “the partnership occupies a very small fraction of our total spend for the campaign.” Those dollars were spread across social media platforms and with influencers partners to boost reach and awareness, Ostrom added. 

“We have a wide range of consumers, so ultimately this is a small portion of our budget, but we feel this investment is a great place to secure brand love, favorability, and engagement from a specific segment — the cannabis consumer,” he said. Outside of the 4/20 campaign, Jack in the Box spends its ad dollars of social and digital media, radio ads, out-of-home and digital navigation ads to reach consumers on the go.

In January of this year, the fast food chain spent $6.5 million on media, according to Vivvix, a Kantar company, including paid social data from Pathmatics. Last year, Jack in the Box spent more than $74 million on media. That figure is significantly less than the $119 million the brand spent in 2021. 

Historically, cannabis and marijuana marketing has lived in the fray, barred from mainstream brand partnerships and direct response marketing channels, like social media or paid search. Although it remains illegal at the federal level, more than 21 states have legalized adult-use marijuana. Ad restrictions on Google and Twitter have laxed. And according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 88% of U.S. adults say that marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use. Agency experts say they expect to see more partnerships between mainstream brands and cannabis or marijuana brands as it becomes more normalized.

“As cannabis becomes legal in more states and increasingly embraced (or at least tolerated) by most Americans, we can expect to see a rise in non-endemic brand partnerships between cannabis and mainstream brands that just make sense,” Lisa Weser, founder and CEO of Trailblaze marketing agency and evp of Acceleration Community of Companies Advisory, an in-house strategic marketing consultancy, said in an email to Digiday. 

Overall, there’s a shift happening in what Americans consider to be taboo, and per Ostrom, Jack in the Box plans to continue growing in that space along with the audience segment. 

“We’ve been playing in this space for a while,” he said, “but as more brands follow our lead and try to latch onto the trend, we’ll look to stay at the forefront of cannabis culture and continue to find fun, innovative ways to serve this community in ways that only Jack can.”

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