This week’s Trailblazer is Jennifer Mason, President of JLM Strategic Marketing and New Heights Cannabis. JLM is an integrated brand marketing agency specializing in brand strategy, creative services, and experiential marketing. New Heights Cannabis is a hub for recreational cannabis expertise to help grow the industry.
Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer
When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?
I got involved in the cannabis industry in the summer of 2018. I have worked with the tourism industry in Ontario for over 20 years, that summer I was attending the annual AGM a few months prior to legalization. Many of the tourism businesses (accommodations, restaurants, resorts, destinations and attractions) were asking about the opportunity for recreational cannabis and tourism. It was quickly identified that there was industry interest but no knowledge or understanding of the cannabis industry and opportunity. We recognized the need for education, understanding the cannabis businesses and determining consumer demand. We built the New Heights Cannabis brand to act as a source of education and networking. This quickly led to a partnership with the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) and New Heights to develop a strategy and events to bring tourism and cannabis together.
What has been the biggest marketing challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?
There are many challenges in marketing cannabis. One of the most frustrating is dealing with US companies that do not recognize cannabis as a legal industry in Canada. For example, social media sites like Facebook and Instagram routinely shut down and block ads of cannabis companies in Canada without explanation and without recourse. A brand could lose a huge following, historical posts & data as well as momentum with partners and the community.
If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?
The restrictions around prohibiting lifestyle imagery or any real product description or benefit is doing a disservice to brands and consumers. It’s very difficult for a brand to connect with consumers and the outcome they are looking for without being able to properly describe the brand benefits. The branding on packaging is so small, the copy is barely legible and really doesn’t mean much to consumers in terms of what they should expect from the product. Cannabis brands should be allowed similar advertising regulations to the alcohol industry.
In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?
Partnerships and community hubs both online and in real life have been one of the strongest ways for cannabis brands to grow and build awareness with consumers. The retailers have a big opportunity to connect directly with the end-user and help them navigate all the brands and product offerings available. LPs and accessory brands that work with retailers on promotions, education, events and other engagements have shown strong success.
Are there any other Trailblazers in the cannabis industry that you follow?
I’m very impressed with Elizabeth Becker of HiBnb, I believe her cannabis-friendly accommodations concept is amazing and will be a game-changer for the cannabis tourism industry. Not only is HiBnb providing a platform for cannabis consumers to book accommodations, but it’s a great advertising hub for cannabis retailers, brands, events, lounges, tours, etc. to come together to serve a growing demand. This platform operates as a booking engine for the entire eco-system of cannabis tourism and the best part is it’s age-gated for a captive audience seeking cannabis experiences.
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What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to people looking to enter the cannabis industry?
The recreational cannabis industry in Canada is still in its infancy, and the regulators are moving slowly. It’s important to keep that in mind and not get too frustrated with the many regulations and roadblocks. It’s challenging and requires patience, resiliency and creative solutions. I strongly believe in partnerships. I recommend cannabis companies find other brands and businesses that are targeting the same cannabis consumer segment and find ways to work together. Not only will this make your brand stronger but it will drive the industry forward in a positive way, rising tides float all boats!
A big thank you to Jennifer 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.