Drug Dealers Explain Their Marketing Strategies
"A few years ago I started putting my molly in gel capsules with red and white halves and calling them Pokéballs."
Image by Sarah MacReading
Whether you indulge in them or not, illegal drugs have always been big business. A report from the White House estimates that Americans spent around $1 trillion on illicit drugs between 2000 and 2010. And like any major industry, those who want to make the most money have to refine their marketing.
Cartels might not be clambering for TV spots or coming up with jingles, but there is a real art to marketing your product. From branded baggies of heroin and cocaine to finding new markets for clientele, successful drug dealers have to become advertising experts to make it.
Recently, a photo surfaced on Reddit showing Rio cocaine dealers have been stamping the Olympic rings logo on their baggies for sale. Sure, you'll always have your buyers on a mission and regular addicts, but throwaway little schemes like this might very well make or break an impulse purchase.
We asked drug dealers what similar marketing gimmicks they've pulled to drum up sales.
Drug Survival Kit
We used to put together these "survival kits" for music festivals. They included cocaine, a condom, a chopping card with "how to party" instructions printed on it, a straw, a pen cap (for bumps), floss, extra baggies (for splitting their own stuff up), breath mints, ear plugs, and Xanax (for special people only). This was all inside a plastic baseball card deck case. Funny thing was, these wound up going out to far more DJs performing than actual festival-goers. — John, Miami
I knew this girl who worked at Chanel. She owed me a little bread, but wasn't able to pay, so we put our heads together to come up with a solution. I had her go steal me some of the company's labels and then I stuck them on vials. Charged a little more for that coco, even though it was exactly the same as all my other shit. She and I were square after that. — Sam, Los Angeles
Buy Two, Get One Free
I used to know this kid named Richie who went by the nickname "Fats." He had the connections for great coke, so he started selling it. He mainly sold it in $50 half-gram bags, which was about $10 more than standard retail price for my area. It was such great quality, though, that he got away with the premium price. He was selling so much of the stuff that he started doing a deal on the weekends where if you bought two bags you got another half gram on top of it. Weekends were his busiest time of the week, and it was easy for him to go through a couple zips in a weekend under his "promotion." — Harry, Boston
Taste the Rainbow
For my gay customers, I kept an assortment of colorful coke vials. The ones with the little spoons that flip up, you know? I had the whole rainbow spectrum. They would lose their shit picking out their favorite color from the row, talking about how cute it was. And on Pride week those pretty much sold out, but I kinda feel like that was going to happen no matter what color the vials were. — Rich, Oakland
Gotta Catch 'em All
A few years ago I started putting my molly in gel capsules with red and white halves and calling them Pokéballs. Those sold like crazy. People would get an extra one or two just to have it around.
I had no idea Pokémon Go was going to take off the way it did, so I'm trying to track down a way to get more of these caps so I can package my shit like that again. Seems like I'd do even better this time. — Jesse, Houston
When Wiz Khalifa and other rappers started getting their own strains, I thought it'd be funny to "rebrand" whatever leftovers I had as rapper versions of those strains. Told people that this new shit had come in. Some strain the artist was working on out on the west coast or something. So like, extra purple haze was now Pusha Purp. An extra few G's of Trainwreck I was looking to unload became Tyler Trainwreck. That dude don't even smoke and says so in his music. People still bought it though. — Joey, Philadelphia
Follow Justin Caffier on Twitter.
- VICE US
- HOW TO SELL DRUGS
- drug dealers
- music festivals
- Vice Blog
- drug culture
- drug marketing