Is Colorado’s Brand Becoming the “Stoner State”?


And, if so, is that a bad thing?

Colorado has completely legalized marijuana for recreational use by adults. Although Washington state has  done the same thing, Colorado seems to be getting all the national media attention. Coverage , on balance, looks to be positioning the state as the pathfinder  for what many believe will ultimately be marijuana legalization in almost all 50 states (nationally, 55% of US adults are said to favor legalization).

We’ll  see.

One of the attendant issues, and I believe one of the more interesting ones, is will Colorado’s action significantly alter perceptions of the “state brand” in the near and long term (or at least until a greater number of other states legalize). Said another way, what will be the effect on perceptions  by two distinct groups: 1)current state residents and officials and  2)those outside the state who may at some point relocate into it or interact with it in some way (e.g. governmental, law enforcement, financial, etc.). CONSIDERATION OF LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES GOES HERE.

First off, people who already live in Colorado, let’s call them the “Internals”, probably split relatively evenly between those for and against.Those FOR it probably see legalization as evidence of a favorable and progressive development, while those AGAINST see it as having a number of potential downsides, with some seeing it as just the first step to perdition. My sense of it is that this divide will pretty much wash out over time … so no harm, no foul.

The more perplexing state brand audience are those I’ll call “Externals”. These are people who might have (or can in the future have) varying connections to Colorado for business, recreation, relocation, etc., but they don’t live there. This audience will to a degree rely on their perceptions and what they’ve heard about the state, rather than a large base of empiric learning or research. These folk have recently been bombarded by media newscasts, late night comedian riffs, internet blogs, even advertising promotions for airlinesrestaurants, who knows what. My view is that national awareness of Colorado’s legalization action, while probably not over 30-35%, is surprisingly high (no intentional play on that word; forgive me).

Although myriad things can go into a state’s brand perception, Colorado’s has probably historically had one including, fresh air, mountains, ski resorts, and western independence.  Now, a new plank has been added to the platform upon which the Colorado brand rests….and that is something we could label the “the Liberal/Progressive choom gang”.

Once again, advocates for legalization may see this development as being what they think is representative of the state getting even better and leading the way in social progressivism.  On the other side will be those that see legalization as a huge step downward and one that makes the it less attractive to their company, its employees, their families and children.

Where the balance point comes out will not be known for a number of years, but it will be interesting, that’s for sure. Would love to do some baseline Awareness & Attitude research on this and then follow up three to four years later; but I’m not so we’ll just have to wait and ultimately … deduce…

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