Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer
When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?
A client from a prior business unrelated to cannabis was the EA to the CEO of Privateer. She relayed, “I see all of the decks. I see all the deals. Nobody is doing anything for women or anything with design-forward thinking.” Well, we were at dinner and the owner of the restaurant – who is a friend – asked us what we were so intensely speaking about over our meal. To which my client immediately replied, “I’m trying to convince her to launch a luxury cannabis accessories brand!” Said owner offered to provide seed capital on the spot.
”In 2016, little of the day’s cannabis-related merchandise reflected a woman’s style or spoke to her specific needs and how cannabis addresses these needs in a uniquely positive way.
As a designer by training, I launched Van der Pop with the intention of creating accessories to store, smoke, and share cannabis for the design-minded. What I very quickly found was the plant works with women’s bodies in very specific ways so, as a brand, we shaped our messaging to talk to the consumer we knew best – women.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?
My goal is to always serve the needs of women who consume cannabis. After Van der Pop’s acquisition, I made the decision to depart Canopy Growth in February 2019. Immediately came inbound requests from CMOs at well-known and well-positioned cannabis companies looking to “speak to women.” Of these particular half-dozen, mostly California-based cannabis brands, the decision-makers at the top were – and remain – male founders. If I’m being generous, men are simply unaware of the health challenges women face and how anecdotal evidence overwhelmingly points to cannabis as a better solution to most other options – past and present.
”While there are exceptions, a male founder/CEO rarely has vision that fully appreciates the priorities of women. This, of course, impacts decisions that are made at every step of the supply chain.
The results of this inequity show up in, for example, product R&D related to women’s needs throughout the healthcare sector. The trend is true for cannabis as well with male-led companies. Although data and headlines prompt companies to “speak to women,” efforts have proven to be largely all talk. Cannabis is no longer just for medicine (MED) or for fun (REC). Rather, appropriately, it serves a myriad of needs for ‘adult use,’ which includes the 50% of cannabis consumers who identify as a woman. The challenge persists to sell a room full of men on the opportunity to support women’s cannabis journey. The solution is more women in positions to influence these decisions.
If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?
As one of the few Americans who worked in Canada leading up to and after federal legalization, I learned firsthand the advantage of less restrictive language and packaging. In the U.S., we have a finite amount of time to market weed without restriction – again, both language and packaging. I hope American regulators see that creativity and responsible usage are not mutually exclusive.
In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?
The decision to launch a podcast was informed by the knowledge I gained working in Canada during the period before and after legalization. The exact period American cannabis is in today – whether you see it coming or not. These facts informed my decision to invest in audio as a primary marketing channel:
- The U.S. allows for more permissive language and messages. Seven percent of our listeners are from Canada and the population of Canada is 9% of the U.S. so we’re effectively – and legally – reaching consumers across the border. Advertising on our podcast is a side door, let’s say.
- Social media offers low conversion and restricted advertising. Audio has a discovery challenge but once they find you…
- Listeners are 6x more likely to look up a brand they heard advertised on a podcast. As we all know, consumers report a lack of trusted brands and sources for information.
What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to people looking to enter the cannabis industry?
Throw out the rule book you brought from whatever industry you left to “give cannabis a try.” The customer profiles that work in established vertices simply don’t hold true. You have to get to know them by being a consumer. This holds true when hiring vendors – if they have never worked in cannabis then they will not get you the results you’re looking for because they’ve yet to learn the difficulty in connecting with cannabis consumers. Don’t pay them to learn on the job. I cannot stress this enough: If you work in cannabis, consume cannabis. If you hire for cannabis, hire from cannabis.
A big thank you to April for participating as this week’s Trailblazer! Stay tuned for another interview with a cannabis marketing Trailblazer next Thursday in the ADCANN blog.
Interested in working with one of these talented cannabis marketers? Check out our Agency Directory for a list of all the agencies that specialize in working with cannabis companies.
Last Updated on January 7, 2021 by ADCANN