Amidst the fierce battle between ResponsibleOhio and its opposition, a caped superhero has emerged: Buddie.
Buddie is the newly-revealed mascot for the ResponsibleOhio proposal which aims to legalize marijuana in Ohio. He is a reefer superhero of sorts, with a weed-nugget head, cheesing grin, leafy green gloves, white tights revealing a muscular physique, and a ‘B’ on his chest, superimposed over a pot leaf and an image of Ohio.
“Buddie is going to college campuses only to promote ‘Buddie’s 21 and Up Club’ and engage millennial voters in the process in a new, creative and exciting way,” ResponsibleOhio spokeswoman Faith Oltman said.
It may not come as a surprise that this has sparked quite a bit of controversy. ResponsibleOhio’s opposition has been all over the topic. Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies spokeswoman Jen Detwiler said, “The superhero theme clearly appeals to a younger crowd. A shameless attempt to entice young people.” The move has been compared to Joe Camel, the cartoon camel proven so effective at marketing Camel brand cigarettes to teenagers in the 1990s. The Joe Camel marketing campaign was voluntarily discontinued in 1997 due to legal pressure from a pending court case.
Could this really be the secret purpose of Buddie?
Executive Director Ian James said the mascot is not marketing marijuana but asking for votes — and speaking exclusively to voting-age students. “Buddie only addresses people that are 18 and older, and Buddie works specifically with voters,” James said. “Buddie has no connection with anybody under 18 because anybody under 18 can’t vote.”
Fair enough. But how do they account for the colorful, cartoon-like and permanently-smiling appearance of Buddie?
“They need an attention grabber,” said Casey Newmeyer, an assistant marketing professor at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management. “They need something that’s going to catch young people’s attention to come over and talk to them. Just one or two random people standing on a campus passing out fliers isn’t going to do that.” He added,
“He’s not on billboards, he’s not on clothing, he’s not available for children to see. They’re not marketing him to the masses.”
That doesn’t quite justify the mascot’s look and demeanor for everyone. “The legalization group has paid close attention to what many mainstream marketers have done to create an effective personification of their brands. Tony the Tiger, Ronald McDonald, the Nesquik Bunny, Jack from Jack in the Box — the list goes on,” said Chris Pullig, professor and chair of Baylor University’s marketing department. “Also, it is obvious that many of these characters endorse products that are not always good for consumers. They also are targeted to younger consumers.”
Either way, it seems unlikely that Buddie will change how many people vote on the issue. That decision will more likely be based on the really important factors such as the limits of 10 predetermined commercial growers (which many consider an oligopoly) and only 4 home-grown plants per household.
What do you think of all this superhero nonsense? Leave your comments below!