This week’s Trailblazer is David Schwede, CEO of Premium 5, Canada’s preeminent cannabis concentrate supplier, which was recently acquired by Heritage Cannabis.
Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer
When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?
My initial experience in the industry was working for one of the major Licensed Producers in product development prior to the legalization of recreational cannabis. Honoring my entrepreneurial spirit, I felt that there was no better time than now to be a part of something innovative and unprecedented. Now, the legal cannabis industry continues to evolve and is set for exponential growth.
Through the inception and launch of Premium 5, I’ve been able to continue to apply my passion for supporting business growth to this industry. Cannabis has now taken root in different sectors including consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, health care, and more, which allows for this industry to truly foster an entrepreneurial mindset.
With the recent merger of Premium 5 and Heritage Cannabis, we intend to combine our innovation and execution with the Heritage infrastructure. I feel that this creates a limitless potential for growth in the cannabis industry both domestically and internationally.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?
When it comes to marketing cannabis, one of the biggest challenges is truly understanding the regulations and using that knowledge to interpret the types of marketing and communication materials that are and are not permitted. This uncertainty has promoted a large volume of product marketing that hesitates to push the boundaries of the “status quo”, which, in turn, leads to similar product branding across the board.
Companies must find a way to simultaneously market their product and appeal to their customer base while operating within the law and communicating their brand in an effective way. As a cannabis brand/company, Premium 5 wants to adhere to the carefully set regulations, but strategically brand ourselves to still stand out from our competitors.
If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?
In a perfect marketing world, there would be less restrictions on the variety of branding opportunities for cannabis companies/brands. With the limitations set for branding elements, there is an inherent struggle to demonstrate product variety, design elements, branding, colors, and packaging options, all which have an effect on consumer-choice. With a full understanding that these regulations are to promote public safety, there is a double-standard when it comes to alcohol, which offers an extensive variety of branding opportunities, but has fewer safety measures established.
”Our products are double child resistant and tamper evident and we adhere to the marketing limitations for the cannabis industry; yet, for the most part, alcoholic products don’t exemplify the same safety measures, and they are provided with a vast amount of creative marketing opportunities.
Ideally, there would be less of a disparity between alcohol and cannabis marketing moving forward. Alcohol marketing offers more comprehensive visual marketing opportunities which, in turn, allows companies to better differentiate themselves from other brands. I firmly believe that cannabis branding would benefit from more advertising rights, while still being able to adhere to the safety guidelines.
In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?
Instagram has proven to be an extremely effective channel for marketing our brand. This platform allows us to push our creative side and incorporate colorful visuals and enticing content while providing lot by lot product information as a reference point for our consumers. For us, Instagram goes beyond just visuals as it acts as a communication platform that our customers can engage with and learn valuable insights from. Ultimately this helps with brand recognition and awareness while building an active community to engage with.
Are there any other Trailblazers in the cannabis industry that you follow?
Cannabis marketing is a new frontier for all of us, and it truly has been a trial-and-error process for many companies and brands in the industry when it comes to communication and marketing solutions. For that reason, as a company that’s pioneering the concentrates category, we derive inspiration from businesses in other industries that have taken simple ideas and turned them into an innovative and exciting contribution to the market. It’s been motivating to learn the successes of other industries to apply their forward-thinking and inventive ideas to our business and the cannabis industry.
A recent example of inspiration for myself comes from the book by Robert Iger, “The Ride of a Lifetime”, which speaks to Iger’s success in the multitude of positions that he held with Disney leading to his rise as the CEO. The book delves into his success he held with the company and how his creativity and leadership skills helped establish Disney as the international success that it is today. After I finished reading, I was in complete awe of the integral role he played in branding Disney into something far beyond anyone’s expectations. This groundbreaking success of Iger is inspiring in itself, but the way he was able to drive change, harness the power of technology, and build a lasting culture is motivating to work towards for Premium 5, and the cannabis industry itself.
What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to people looking to enter the cannabis industry?
Be daring! Push the limits without crossing the line or breaking any of the regulations. As a marketing professional in the cannabis industry, it’s necessary to find creativity in the midst of a regulated market in order to maximize consumer attraction and brand awareness.
A big thank you to David 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.