This week’s Trailblazer is Jeff Curtis, the owner for Boro and Beyond a company that specializes in photography, creative marketing, event services and dab/canna bar activations, consulting for consumer and B2B engagement for the cannabis industry, manufacturing/distribution for cannabis accessories at retailers, custom co-branded products and more.

Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer

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

My journey in the cannabis industry began in 2014, when I recognized a need for high-quality photography among Vancouver’s dispensaries and glassblowers. Seeing the broader support the industry required, I launched Boro and Beyond with my wife in 2015.

From its inception until 2018, Boro and Beyond was the pioneering gallery in Canada to exclusively feature 100% Canadian-made glass smoke ware, steering clear of any imported glass. Beyond just being a gallery, the space included an event area and a photo studio upstairs where we hosted nearly 100 events over three years. These ranged from paint and dab nights to glass art showcases, alongside numerous photography sessions for dispensaries. Our commitment to quality and integrity solidified our company’s reputation, which endures to this day.

Today, Boro and Beyond has evolved into a multifaceted entity, serving as a leading video and photo service provider and the largest wholesaler of Canadian Glass Art for cannabis retailers. We also manufacture under the subsidiary brand TruQuartz and provide cannabis and dab bar services.

In my role, I leverage creative marketing strategies to foster connections within the cannabis industry, linking consumers and other businesses. Additionally, I actively engage with various governmental levels and chambers of commerce to advocate for the cannabis industry. My lobbying efforts focus on reducing federal excise taxes and promoting the establishment of indoor consumption spaces at provincial and municipal levels in BC. This advocacy is crucial for fostering a sustainable and thriving cannabis industry.

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

One of the biggest marketing challenges in the Canadian cannabis industry has been navigating the stringent advertising regulations. The Cannabis Act sets strict limits on promotional activities to prevent appealing to young people, promoting excessive consumption, and making health claims. These restrictions mean that marketers must be incredibly creative and precise in how they develop branding, engage with consumers, and leverage allowed channels like educational content and brand-preference advertising. This has led to innovative approaches in experiential marketing, digital content strategies, and community-focused initiatives, all while ensuring compliance with the regulatory framework.

Boro and Beyond

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

If I could change one marketing restriction on cannabis, I would suggest modifying the regulations around direct consumer engagement and digital advertising in Canada. Currently, these regulations are very restrictive, limiting companies’ ability to utilize digital platforms and social media effectively. Easing these restrictions could allow cannabis brands to use targeted digital advertising to reach adult consumers more effectively while still ensuring responsible marketing practices. This change would align more with how alcohol is marketed, enabling brands to compete on a more level playing field and improve market dynamics by allowing for more direct communication and brand differentiation.

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

These are some techniques I have found to be effective:

1. Educational Content: Providing valuable information about cannabis products, their uses, and the industry itself helps build trust and authority. This can be done through blogs, webinars, and informational videos, which also help navigate around strict advertising restrictions.

2. Social Media Engagement: Although direct advertising might be restricted, many companies have successfully used social media to build communities and engage with consumers through content that focuses on lifestyle, education, and brand values rather than direct promotion.

3. Experiential Marketing: Hosting or sponsoring events (where legal) allows brands to create immersive experiences that can educate and engage consumers directly. These can include pop-up shops, educational seminars, and participation in cannabis or wellness-related events.

4. Partnerships and Collaborations: Collaborating with other brands or influencers who align with a company’s values can extend reach and credibility, particularly if those partners have already established trust with their audience.

5. SEO and Content Marketing: Investing in search engine optimization and content that addresses common consumer questions about cannabis can attract organic traffic, helping brands reach consumers who are actively seeking information and are likely ready to purchase.

These techniques focus on building a brand and educating the consumer, which are key in a market where direct promotion is heavily regulated.

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

Yes, I follow Nick Sosiak from Cannara. As CFO of their company, he has led them to profitability and unprecedented growth. Anyone that is able to grow a PubCo in the cannabis industry in Canada at the level that his team has, definitely deserves recognition.

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

One crucial piece of advice for marketers entering the cannabis industry is to deeply understand and continuously monitor the regulatory environment. The legal landscape for cannabis marketing is highly complex and varies significantly between jurisdictions. Marketers need to be well-versed in the specific restrictions and guidelines that govern advertising, social media use, promotional activities, and consumer engagement in their target markets.

Staying compliant is essential not only to avoid legal penalties but also to build trust and credibility with consumers and stakeholders. To navigate these challenges effectively, it’s beneficial to establish strong relationships with legal experts in the cannabis industry and invest in ongoing education and training for your marketing team. This foundational knowledge enables more innovative and effective marketing strategies within the bounds of the law, ensuring long-term success in this dynamic field.

Cannabis Marketing Trailblazers

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

Camrawn Cox

Camrawn Cox

Camrawn Cox thrives in the realms of cannabis sales, marketing, and communication. With a knack for building meaningful connections, fostering engaging brand experiences and compelling strategies that drive the cannabis industry's growth.