“What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been!”
The recent press release announcing that Rolling Stone and MSO Curaleaf have formed a licensing deal for a branded Rolling Stone strain, to steal one of the many cliches about rock n roll, for those of us who grew up with the magazine, shows “What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been!”
When Jann Wenner published the first issue in November of 1967, not only did he change journalism, he changed the way that advertisers and subscribers interacted with a publication; to attract early new subscribers, Rolling Stone, embracing their readers love of Cannabis, offered a roach clip as a gift with purchase as Wenner knew his audience better than anyone.
He also knew what he didn’t know and that was how to work with advertisers outside of the music industry, who until then, had comprised the majority of of the magazine’s advertiser base. Lucky for him, as the core reader entered the workforce and started earning serious discretionary income, he brought in the kind of ad sales/marketing pros like Joe Armstrong and Kent Brownridge to break into more lucrative ad categories like cars, fashion, beauty, high end consumer electronics and film and television.
The breakthrough was creating what has become an iconic B2B ad campaign called “Perception/Reality.” While acknowledging where their readers came from on the Perception side, such as the classic execution with on the perception side was an old VW bus and a very hippyish looking person, the Reality side had them driving a high end foreign import with clever copy lines celebrating the Boomer generation as it aged. There were many variations of that which targeted key ad categories and played a very vital role in growing the brand. It’s also in the Advertising Hall of Fame.
At that point in the company’s history, however, the one thing Jann stayed away from was maximizing the value of its name through licensing and merchandising opportunities that would have generated millions for him. Thinking it would cheapen the integrity and credibility he had built, during my 6 and a half years there, he walked away from opportunities that other publishers would have died for.
Reality took on a different meaning a few years ago when after selling Us Weekly and Men’s Journal to American Media as the publishing world went digital, the writing was also on the wall for Rolling Stone. Selling to Penske Media and leaving his son Gus to operate it, Rolling Stone started stretching its power; tv productions, the creation of a new revenue stream with the Rolling Stone Culture Council – in full transparency, I’m a member – and now the ultimate tie in with this Curaleaf deal.
Advertisers always loved Rolling Stone branded promotional items, from t-shirts to hats to getting their picture on the cover. But now, you can bet those ad reps are going to be asked by clients in legal states the definitive premium long associated with the Rolling Stone brand. Perception has become reality and it’s about time!