Behind The Curtain 26: Branding Humboldt’s Finest – September 6, 2010

Monday, September 6, 2010

By Aunt Mary

Eric and Kristen waited for the marketing executive to show up. “Did she say eight?” Kristen asked, fidgeting with the coffee server.

“Eight-ish, I think she said. She talks so fast,” Eric laughed. “She’s New York all the way, you know?”

“I just hope we are doing the right thing – looking into packaging and branding before the laws have changed seems like putting the cart before the horse,” Kristen said.

“Well, that’s just it,” what do we know?” Eric asked, bewildered. “We’ve got as much marketing experience as my Uncle George who parks his truck in front of Jack’s garage to sell his tomatoes!” Eric laughed at his own example.

“Hey, I like the way his truck is painted,” Kristen said defensively.

“And that’s just it,” Eric continued, “we can have our own special paintings; they’ll just be on little boxes.”

The knock on the door came with a high, singing voice,” Halloo? I’ve arrived!” The voice exuding confidence rang out.

Kristen looked out the window and saw the kind of woman she had only seen on television – “Sex and the City,” Kristen turned and half-whispered to Eric. Opening the door, Kristen said, “Welcome to Humboldt.”

Jackie Wellbaum made the trek from New York to the “outpost,” she said, of “the lost north” as she called it, because she “smelled green.”

“Eric, Kristen! – call me Jackie, and know that I am going to change your world forever.”

Eric and Kristen helped bring into the house what seemed like an endless array of bags, and Wellbaum created a virtual computer station with multiple screens set up on coffee table.

While Wellbaum tinkered, Eric told her his tale.

“I’d like to improve my operation, but have no idea where to start,” he said. “I need to keep my wholesale prices up and look to export, or supplying more product to dispensaries, but we just don’t know where to begin.”

“We only know about what Humboldt people like, you know?” Kristen said. You know,  you put it in a zip-lock bag and that’s the end of it. If we’re going to sell to people in San Francisco, what would they like? We heard you can help with that?”

Wellbaum carefully removed her Hermes scarf from her neck and draped it over her Kelly bag. Her eyes were fully on the couple looking to her for answers. She leaned in closer and in a low whisper, said “Tell me about your ladies. How do they make you feel, how do they make other people feel?”

Eric and Kristen looked at each other, and Eric said, “We’ll, we raise some of Humboldt’s finest right here. It’s like any beer or wine maker – taste comes first, then pleasure or relief – depending on what you need it for.”

“When you say ‘pleasure,” is that the ‘high’ part?” Wellbaum asked. “Don’t people also use the word, ‘euphoric’?”

“I think the best way to know what I’m saying is to try it yourself,” Eric said, pulling a redwood carved box out of a drawer filled with papers, lighters, and an ornate glass pipe. “This is some of our best; it’s called ‘AK 47.” Eric rolled up a fatty, lit the end and passed it to Wellbaum.

Ten minutes passed. The clock ticked louder, the music sounded better, and Wellbaum‘s citified edge slowly left the room.

Wellbaum had made pitches a million times before, but never stoned. In many ways, her thoughts were clearer, and she began with new found inspiration.

“I see you creating a product that’s all your own,” she explained. “I’m seeing a handsome young man, smoking your blend on an African Safari, seeing wild beasts for the first time in his life. His girl is with him, but distant. After smoking your safari blend, this guy can finally find his wild beast and get his game on.”

A collective “Wow” could be heard from both Eric and Kristen as they sat wide-eyed, waiting for the next wave of inspiration.

“For advertising, we’ll start with a video on YouTube demonstrating the angst and alienation of a young cubical culture worker in San Francisco, weighted down by student loans, drifting through the foggy streets of the city, wondering how long it’ll be before he’s begging for change like the guy on the corner twitching for more crack. Suddenly, he pulls out his nifty box of Safari’s, your branded blend, takes a drag, and within minutes his bleak black and white existence slowly begins to turn color.”

Eric and Kristen just stare at this vision of make-up, hair and pumps, and are rendered speechless.

Wellbaum continues, not wanting to miss a beat.

“Within minutes a fresh, pretty young woman comes along on a bike with a puppy in the basket!” You know about the puppy in a basket, right?” Blank stares gazed back at Wellbaum. ““Puppies mean love, my friends. L-o-v-e, LOVE!”  Wellbaum said with the confidence of one who has looked an ad campaign in the eye and conquered it.

“Get back you roar!” Wellbaum roared at her captive audience, lifting one six-inch stiletto heel onto the edge of the coffee table.”

“His roar is in our Safari blend?” Eric asked.

“His, hers anyone who tries your Safari blend can find their own roar!” Wellbaum continued.

Eric and Kristen listened like they had never listened before. Wellbaum had them, at least for now, with dreams of pretty people driving fast cars and chasing other pretty people around, all of them roaring with visions of Humboldt’s own in little painted boxes.

Jackie Wellbaum is a real person, a former advertising and branding executive from New York City. A graphic designer, the new Arcata resident has begun proto-types of a series of “cigarette” boxes designed to get people talking.