TheRealCannaBus: Giving ‘Marketing Vehicle’ a New Spin

TheRealCannaBus hits the road in style.

Enlighten hero-shot-1
TheRealCannaBus (Photo: Enlighten)

The term “marketing vehicle” typically refers to a platform or tactic. In the case of Enlighten’s TheRealCannaBus, the phrase applies to an actual vehicle: a forty-two-foot-long customized bus built on a Freightliner chassis. The coach stands out not only because it’s unabashedly violet, but also because it’s a fully equipped dispensary on wheels.

Enlighten may not be the first company to engage in vehicular marketing — busses, trolleys, vans, and even family cars have served as mobile billboards for decades — but TheRealCannaBus takes the idea to a whole new level by providing an immersive, interactive experience, drawing in potential customers with the promise of something unique.


From digital to the real world

The Kentucky-based company is best known for developing the industry standard for in-store digital signage and menus. TheRealCannaBus serves as a unique mobile showroom for the company’s products, as well as a platform for branded activations. Built to evoke a plush, modern dispensary and intended to showcase Enlighten’s displays at trade shows, TheRealCannaBus was primed and ready to launch before COVID-19 brought the global event calendar to a screeching halt.

TheRealCannaBus’s patio (Photo: Enlighten)

“COVID-19 really put the brakes on our original launch plans for the CannaBus,” said Adam Stephens, a spokesperson for the company, “but [the lockdowns] allowed us to build on our offering and reimagine how we could use the bus to showcase brands and retailers.”

Founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Jacobs leveraged his experience developing digital menus and signage for the restaurant industry to design an ecosystem created especially for cannabis retail. After identifying communication challenges between menus and point-of-sale (POS) systems, Enlighten launched SmartHub, which allows stores to benefit from real-time menu updates based on inventory levels.

Enlighten expanded (and continues to expand) the brand-facing potential of its screens, integrating ads, mobile marketing, and educational content, rightly recognizing a customer in a store with their wallet in hand is a prime target for effective marketing. According to Stephens, 83 percent of consumers recall what they see on digital signage, and as many as 59 percent of digital-signage viewers want to learn more about the advertised topic.

TheRealCannaBus was envisioned as a showcase for all of that. “It was almost a mobile trade show booth to demo our products, making them more relatable for potential clients because they could see them in an environment that was familiar,” said Stephens.

Nationwide tour

TheRealCannaBus branding
TheRealCannaBus (Photo: Enlighten)

The bus undoubtedly will be one of the most audacious and talked-about activations touring cannabis trade shows in 2021 and 2022. Outside and inside, the coach looks like the offspring of a star-crossed love affair between a dispensary and a rock ‘n’ roll A-lister’s tour bus.

Inside, the space is elegantly designed and immaculately realized, with custom digital signage showcasing menus or marketing collateral from partner brands, POS systems, and a video network powered by Enlighten’s end-to-end omnichannel marketing platform. The refined aesthetic is further realized by high-tech mood lighting, a lush grass wall, and funky hexagonal shelving units that hide additional seating and can be utilized for a variety of display purposes. The wall panels throughout are a soothing pickled oak, balanced by a chic snakeskin glitter floor and plush custom leather sofas (in purple, to match the exterior). Behind the faux shop floor is a small room built for recording podcasts. TheRealCannaBus also boasts a beefy stereo system and an air filtration system that removes all traces of cannabis waft that inevitably fill the air at dispensaries.

Partner activations

Enlighten’s bus is an engaging, mobile trade booth for the company’s products and services, but it’s also an asset for clients, both retailers and brands. Now that large-scale real-world events are possible again, Enlighten plans to deploy the vehicle as an outdoor extension of retail establishments, providing at once a major eye-catching draw and a customizable space to activate with products and educational opportunities. “Everyone is looking to create a shareable moment—consumers and businesses alike,” said Stephens. “That’s what TheRealCannaBus does. It builds relationships between consumers and brands that are never forgotten.”

TheRealCannaBus interior
TheRealCannaBus’s interior (Photo: Enlighten)

Delivery services also can partner with Enlighten to offer an ordering and drop-off station at non-dispensary locations. “We can take them straight to the ordering app, where they can register everything, order, and then have that order fulfilled by the delivery company on the spot,” Stephens said. (Presently, the service is available only in California.)

At Hall of Flowers in late September, TheRealCannaBus showcased a broad variety of business-facing and consumer-facing cannabis companies, allowing event attendees to engage with products and services away from the chaos. Companies including springbig (SMS platform), EyeRate (reviews), MyHi (water-soluble THC sticks), POS systems Meadow and Treez, and mg Magazine took part in the fun.

“We wanted to pair up with a diverse group of cannabis businesses and brands in order to showcase how diverse the industry is,” said Stephens, “and to be able to show how all of these brands and companies work together to provide an excellent retail experience for the end consumer.”

As for the future? “We’ve got a broad variety of companies and brands coming to cannabis and non-cannabis events,” Stephens said. “We’re very excited to play our part in helping to normalize cannabis use and the retail experience for as many people as possible.”