This week’s Trailblazer is Garo Keresteci, Founding Partner of FUSE Create, a full-service independent advertising agency that creates brand experiences so memorable, distinctive, on point, and awemazing, they can’t help but turn heads.

Garo Keresteci FUSE Create

Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer

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

I became involved in the industry in late 2017 as Canadian licensed producers started to seek professional help and advice in regards to branding and marketing. My interest started well before that; what we had here was a multi-billion-dollar industry born almost overnight by regulatory change – the legalization of cannabis in Canada (and some U.S. states).

Further, my personal interest in cannabis spans decades – I’ve been a recreational user since my late teens and also recognized the medical benefits of cannabis as this information became more and more available.

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

The challenge of marketing cannabis is also what has made this category such an attractive and interesting opportunity – launching completely new brands in a completely new consumer category under a very restrictive regulatory environment. Add the complexity of constant change – i.e. access to funding, LP consolidation, layoffs, new formats…In my 30+ year career in marketing, I’ve never worked in a more exciting and challenging consumer category.

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

Let cannabis compete on a level playing field with beverage alcohol. There is significant evidence that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol and in fact, has specific health-care benefits – a claim that beverage alcohol cannot make.

FUSE Create

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

Given the significant regulatory restrictions on marketing, it’s hard to evaluate and compare the breadth of all marketing tactics and channels available. Certainly, greater ability to find, connect, and engage with consumers in social media channels would be invaluable.

In our experience, engaging with budtenders and consumers in-store (i.e. in dispensary) has proved to be a very cost-effective marketing channel.

We’ve seen conversion levels (percentage of consumers engaged who make a purchase on that visit) at between 10-20% and it’s also an important opportunity to communicate with target consumers 19+ who are already pre-disposed to cannabis.

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

I am interested in the work coming from a smaller Canadian producer – The Green Organic Dutchman, a fully integrated organic cannabis producer. In a regulatory environment that severely limits the ability to differentiate cannabis brands, end-to-end organic production is a simple to understand differentiator that separates their products in a sea of sameness. They also have some very interesting new products in their pipeline, including Ripple Dissolvable THC Powder – the best-selling beverage product in Colorado. The marketing team there is led by an up and coming young talent – Drew Campbell.

TGOD Installation

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

Do your homework. Many otherwise well-known LP’s have fallen on harder times. Great opportunities remain, but to be successful you need to be comfortable with change, risk, and a dynamic environment. Resilience is a requirement in this category that is experiencing tremendous growth. If you are comfortable with change and uncertainty, the cannabis category beckons.

Cannabis Marketing Trailblazers

A big thank you to Garo 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 October 29, 2020 by ADCANN



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