This week’s Trailblazer is Domenic Lisi, an artist, designer and creative director at CRUEL – a creative agency in Toronto. Dom has worked on many brands in the cannabis industry, most notably the 7ACRES brand as it moved from medical to recreational in 2018.

Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer

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

I’ve been an enthusiast and advocate of normalization since I was in high school, but I first worked in the industry in a creative capacity.

In 2016 as I was graduating from university, I was excited to start working in the creative field. Recreational legalization was bubbling, which provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create brands and content in a newly legal industry. I tapped into years of backyard sesh experience while developing our cannabis portfolio at CRUEL and quickly fell in love with the industry.

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

For me, one of the biggest marketing challenges in the cannabis space is working with strategic risk-taking. Interpretations of the Health Canada regulations often leave LPs feeling nervous or hesitant when it comes to marketing tactics. The result is a market where it seems like some brands get away with whatever they want and others seem to not even try.

In the cannabis space, the idea is truly only as good as the people willing to be bold and take calculated risks when it comes to bringing campaigns to life.

CRUEL leadership

Dom and the leadership team at CRUEL

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

I’d love to be able to do more when it comes to content creation — The Health Canada regulations restrict the use of people when it comes to marketing cannabis unless we are showing hands displaying how to use a product. This removes what I believe to be the most important part of this industry from the picture (literally)… the PEOPLE.

While I understand why this rule is put in place, it limits our ability to tell stories and show how the plant has positively impacted people’s lives.

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

Since legalization, the most effective marketing efforts I’ve seen have created a real connection between consumer and brand, often in real life. Consuming cannabis can be a very social ritual and brands that have been able to create an experience where the community can re-connect seem to create lasting impressions. We saw this at CRUEL when working with the 7ACRES team and John Fowler specifically – Events that give back to the community are not soon forgotten.

Cruel cannabis

Shot at the 7ACRES facility in Kincardine ON

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

I’m very lucky to have met some incredible cannabis characters who have helped me learn and grow over the years. Specifically, Peter Shearer the former head of flower at the OCS, Pete taught me most of what I know about the plant and is a constant source of knowledge and inspiration. His wife Marley (aka Tweedledoob) also made a significant impact on how I see the cannabis community and the plant itself.

Other characters like Ross Hendry from WAGNERS have helped me understand how to apply learnings from other industries to cannabis in a way that isn’t contrived. I have to mention the homie Sean Barrigan (aka @dabdaddi) out on the East coast as well. In my mind one of the most talented cannabis photographers in the country and a constant source of cannabis-related banter.

Lastly, I can’t take full credit for the work I’ve don’t over the years – My team at CRUEL is the backbone to my creative output. Our principal Designer James Nahhas and his brother Justin Nahhas are both incredible designers who are as deserving of credit as I am. Justin is half enthusiast, half passionate designer and has his fingerprints on all of our projects, definitely deserves a shout-out for that.

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

Most of the success I have had in the cannabis world has come from listening to people who love the plant and trying to understand how the legal industry can better represent those thoughts.

Calling a friend who’s been smoking for a while or hosting a sesh to stir up ideas has resulted in many more creative ideas than staring at data. The culture around this plant was built from compassion, from people flying their own flag and believing in something that made their lives better even though the world told them they were wrong. We can’t forget that and as creatives have an obligation to those who came before us.

Cannabis Marketing Trailblazers

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



ADCANN is a digital publication and content creation team that showcases the most creative concepts in the cannabis space.