This week’s Trailblazer is Ashley Keenan, Canada Editor at Leafly, the leading online destination to learn about cannabis, shop local dispensaries, and keep up with news and lifestyle.

Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer

When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?

I first started working in cannabis around legalization and I was a medical patient for a few years prior to that. My motivation was and continues to be to educate, empower, and entertain anyone interested in adult-use or medical cannabis.

I have freelanced as a marketing & communications consultant, as well as a journalist and medical cannabis advocate, since 2018. Now I use that experience as an editor at Leafly, where I am responsible for all of the Canadian content.

It’s funny to look back, I thought I was jumping into this “new” industry at its inception. I was quickly humbled by the decades of experience before me and I take a lot of pride in elevating those voices.

What has been the biggest marketing challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?

Authenticity. Brands and cannabis companies can underestimate the intelligence and savviness of their potential customers. In many cases, these consumers have been enjoying cannabis longer than brands have even existed. They aren’t afraid to call brands out on their bullshit. Even new consumers possess a level of media literacy that can keep brands honest. I’ve helped a couple of key players create effective and authentic marketing campaigns.

If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?

Let us talk about it! We live in a legal era where consumers can’t see/touch/smell a majority of products. They rely on media to describe effects, flavours, and aromas but we are restricted to the last two. Marketers are verbally dancing around effects to remain compliant. This is why we get product marketing where we have to write 500 words on how a cultivar is like walking into a forest of fresh flowers bathed in sunshine instead of just being straight about felt effects and therapeutic uses.

In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?

In my experience, it depends on what kind of connection you are looking for. Facebook still reaches the masses, Twitter is full of highly engaged cannasseurs, Instagram I love for giveaways and visual campaigns, and Reddit is a goldmine of consumer research. (Of course, this only holds true if the account manages to not get shadowbanned or full-on deleted.)

Are there any other Trailblazers in the cannabis industry that you follow?

I follow thousands! A few that come to mind for Twitter, which is where I find myself most engaged:
Ashleigh Brown @AshleighSheCann
Rachel Colic @rachelcolic
Jenna Valleriani @jennav5
Matt Lamers @matt_lamers
Whats my Pot: @WhatsMyPot

What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to marketers looking to enter the cannabis industry?

Go to the stores, try the products, talk to budtenders, and find out what products people are buying. Figure out what is working and why. From there, network with people in the industry – recruiters, other people in marketing, brand managers, decision-makers. Get out and go to all the conferences you can, that’s where the magic happens.

Cannabis Marketing Trailblazers

A big thank you to Ashley for participating as this week’s Trailblazer! Stay tuned for another interview with a cannabis marketing Trailblazer next Thursday in the ADCANN blog.

Last Updated on May 9, 2022 by ADCANN

Spencer Tropea

Spencer Tropea

Spencer Tropea is a seasoned creative and certified cannabis sommelier with 15 years of experience in PR, design, and photography. He's worked with several prominent cannabis brands across North America, using his unique skills to craft engaging narratives that breathe life into the industry and the passionate people invloved.