If you search “Citidank,” Google asks, “did you mean: Citibank?” But the entire first page of results has nothing to do with the multi-billion dollar banking giant. Instead, the search returns customer reviews, Facebook pages, and social media accounts for a southern California cannabis superstore. Citidank, the popular and highly-rated dispensary based in Cathedral City, is clearly riffing off the name Citibank. And now, it’s the dispensary under fire for similar name and logo as national bank.
California Cannabis Superstore Draws Ire From New York Megabank
Those who’ve been following the growth of the legal cannabis industry expected branding wars were an inevitability. Few anticipated, however, that brand battles would involve a national bank that has nothing to do with marijuana.
For whatever reason, puns are a particularly desirable commodity among the cannabis-inclined. They just seem to write themselves. And if you happen to find one especially funny, it’s too easy to run with it.
To wit, Citidank. In fact, there’s a lot about this cannabis superstore that resembles the banking giant. The dispensary boasts of offering not just the highest-quality products, but the largest selection in the Valley.
Even Citidank’s advertising copy mimics the language banks use to attract new customers. For example, Citidank celebrated its grand opening last month with a full-page ad in Coachella Valley Weekly.
The ad listed Citidank’s offerings, such as early bird specials, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. happy hours, and for the lucky first fifty through the door, a “special gift.”
And when the ad says that Citidank caters to “all your danking needs,” the fact that the dispensary is riffing off Citibank, tongue firmly in cheek, is hard to deny.
At some point, the cannabis store’s cheeky branding caught the attention of the New York Post. Then the magazine reached out to Citibank to see if there was a connection.
The Post received a reply from Citibank spokesperson Danielle Romero-Apsilos. “Unless you are as high as a kite, you know that Citi isn’t affiliated with this business in any way,” she said.
Citibank Asks Citidank Dispensary To Cease And Desist
Taking a look at the Citidank logo, there is only a fleeting resemblance to the bank’s branding. The dispensary’s logo emphasizes the “dank” and replaces the red arch connecting the “i”s with a broad pot-leaf.
But the marijuana aspect of the logo is so pronounced that even someone “as high as a kite” would probably be able to tell the difference.
Nevertheless, Citigroup has requested that Citidank proprietors stop using Citi’s name and logo. Given the litigious nature of the banking giant, going for a re-branding might be the dispensary’s best option. According to the Post, Citidank did not return a request for comment.
One can be forgiven for thinking that Citigroup is taking a disproportionately tough stance on the dispensary’s creative branding campaign. But federally-backed banks have to be particularly careful about their proximity to cannabis businesses.
The ongoing federal prohibition on cannabis has, of course, created a well-documented banking crisis in states with legal marijuana programs. National banks have largely refused to offer services to state-legal marijuana businesses for fear of violating federal law.
So it makes sense that Citibank would want to distance themselves from any connection with one of California’s largest cannabis stores.
The Final Hit: Dispensary Under Fire For Similar Name And Logo As National Bank
At the moment, it’s unclear whether Citidank will re-think its name or wait and see if Citibank pursues any legal recourse for trademark infringement. Meanwhile, the internet is certainly having fun with the whole thing.
“I’m sure the bank ruins lives more effectively than pot ever can,” one poster wryly quipped. How about opening an edibles company called “Goldman Snachs,” offered another.