This week’s Trailblazer is Erik Fletcher, Founder and CEO of Arrowsmith Corporation, a company dedicated to delivering innovative solutions to small businesses.
Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer
When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?
In 2013, I became the co-founder and seed investor of one of the first Licensed Producers in Canada, serving as both director and Chief Marketing Officer. As a lifelong entrepreneur and marketing professional, I saw this as an opportunity to pioneer an entirely new industry and market a product that had never legally been sold before.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?
By far the most significant challenge we face is the lack of budget when it comes to marketing, due in no small part to the shortage of available capital within in our industry. We’ve managed to overcome this by developing a number of innovative, cost-conscious solutions, offering discounted rates for smaller/independent brands, allocating limited resources towards the strategies with the best ROI, and identifying opportunities for clients to partner together and consolidate expenses.
If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?
Currently the advertising prohibitions for cannabis brands in Canada are very similar to those in place for tobacco products. I would very much like to see cannabis be treated in a similar fashion to beverage alcohol, which, even as a significantly more ‘dangerous’ product from a social impact standpoint, is able to utilize a much broader range of mediums including print, television, and out-of-home.
Additionally, with social media remaining an important component of a brand’s consumer engagement strategy, we would love to see platforms acknowledge and embrace the legal status of cannabis products where permitted rather than a blanket policy of banning/restricting content.
In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?
One of the most effective strategies for marketing to emerge for cannabis brands is utilizing events and experiential marketing. Crafting a unique experience for budtenders and influencers is a great way to boost engagement and build brand loyalty. While trade shows are still a good means of connecting with B2B audiences, we’re seeing a trend towards smaller, more imitate events and activations, which also have the benefit of being tailored around a specific audience or theme.
One other strategy we have successfully deployed is leveraging traditional advertising channels, especially out-of-home media. While many media operators are hesitant to allow cannabis advertising across their networks, we’ve executed a number of mobile OOH billboard campaigns through our partnership with Movia and this medium has proven to be a great way to generate brand awareness and get noticed in a big way!
What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to marketers looking to enter the cannabis industry?
The constantly shifting landscape of cannabis means that, for marketers looking to enter the industry, the ability to remain flexible and pivot where necessary is absolutely essential to achieving success. Always be on the lookout for new ideas and trends while remaining mindful of both the regulatory and budgetary limitations faced by potential clients/employers. Although the industry may seem like (and certainly is) a fun vertical to work in, it’s important to maintain a professional work ethic; even after 4:20, deadlines and KPIs still matter!
A big thank you to Erik from Arrowsmith Corporation for participating as this week’s Trailblazer! Stay tuned for another interview with a cannabis marketing Trailblazer next Thursday in the ADCANN blog.