Not long ago, buying marijuana meant waiting in a dark parking lot to fork over some cash to a friend of a friend in exchange for a brown paper bag filled with illicit goods. But after recreational cannabis was legalized in California in 2016, it quickly became one of the fastest-growing industries in the state. And in Silicon Valley, that means THC—the main chemical in cannabis that causes it’s associated high—gets the full branding treatment.
Place an order with Airfield Supply Co., a recreational dispensary just down the street from Santa Clara University near the San Jose Airport, today and it’ll be delivered to your doorstep in a Tesla. This promotes sustainability and elevates the brand as sustainably-minded, says Airfield’s chief marketing officer, Chris Lane ’08. And as any innovative firm knows, it’s all about branding. At Airfield, that brand is wellness.
“When you can build a true brand narrative around the ‘why’ rather than just the ‘what,’ you get at that deeper, emotional level and you are actually talking to a different part of customers’ brains. You are now talking to that primordial brain rather than a rational, dollar and cents brain,” he says. By focusing on the higher issue (no pun intended) of a customer’s happiness and wellbeing, a brand like Airfield’s is elevated above stereotypes perpetuated by stoner movies of yore. It also doesn’t hurt that Airfield’s boutique features simple, sophisticated interior design rather than cliched pot leaf signs and blacklights.
“One thing I especially love about working at Airfield,” Lane says, “is that I now work right next to where I got my education and have the chance to give back in some way to Santa Clara. Whether it’s through employing grads or through hopefully growing our relationship with SCU, we love being in the fabric of the community. I am an education nerd, and I think constantly about what I learned there in my work.”
He’s not the only one bringing his Santa Clara-education to the business—Kiara Kobayashi ’17 and Michaela Matulich MA ’18 are also on the team.