This week’s Trailblazer is Jeremy Guttveg, Director of Marketing at VidaCann, one of the largest and most advanced providers of medical cannabis in Florida.
Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer
When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?
January 2019 was when I first entered the cannabis space at the ripe old age of 22. I had just graduated from Florida State University and was anticipating a career in the music & entertainment industry. As many people will tell you: life does not always go according to plan. Through a series of redirections, I was fortunate to be offered a position with VidaCann, which led to a role as the Director of Marketing after just nine months. Looking back, I can’t imagine having taken a different path – I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason.
When I first accepted the position, I had little to no professional experience with cannabis specifically. However, I knew that the Florida market was still in its infancy and provided a perfect opportunity to develop and pioneer what the industry would become. VidaCann had just 4 locations at the start. We now have 15 locations and are on track to have over 35 locations throughout Florida by the end of 2021.
Before getting involved with cannabis, I had worked with several startups, so building a brand from the ground up was nothing new to me. When considering a career, I would look for companies & industries that I could truly stand behind. I would look for brands that evoked passion among everyone involved, from the employees to the customers. Cannabis surely has some of the most passionate people I’ve ever encountered, making my work that much more rewarding. I think it’s precious to work in an industry that is making the world a better place and to work on a product that has saved numerous lives and continues to prove beneficial for almost anyone in the world.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?
Positioning and marketing a brand that can flourish in the current Florida medical market but can also be adaptable to fit the needs of a recreational market once the regulations shift. Attracting and engaging medical patients can involve very different strategies than those of attracting and engaging recreational customers.
”The market's current legal regulations have also made it difficult to capitalize on relevant marketing and advertising channels.
So, we’re forced to think outside the box and utilize tactics that may not be as effective under normal circumstances. We can’t simply run an ad campaign or put up billboards to reach our target demographics – we have to focus primarily on inbound marketing and generating engaging content that can reach new customers entirely organically.
If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?
This is more of an issue with company policies than legal regulations, but I would change the way social media platforms monitor and restrict cannabis companies in legal cannabis states. In the past, we’ve battled with social media platforms numerous times for content and tactics that were viewed as violating community standards and company policies. Since cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, social media companies tend to view cannabis as an illegal drug, regardless of if it is legal (medically or recreationally) at the state level. We’ve been kicked off social media platforms, we’ve had posts flagged and removed – we’ve dealt with it all.
”It's very challenging to be restricted from utilizing social media platforms and other digital marketing forms to their full potential.
Even cell phone carriers restrict words and terms around cannabis when using SMS marketing, making it very difficult to reach customers directly. In this day and age, these forms of digital marketing are some of the most effective tactics, and as an industry, we’re unable to capitalize on them entirely. Luckily, it seems as though these companies are starting to slowly understand the legal landscape and adjust their policies accordingly, although the battle is still far from over.
In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?
As a privately-owned company with minimal access to additional funding, we’re pressed to be as cost-effective as possible. We’ve found the highest ROI by utilizing a combination of inbound marketing and local event marketing. Social media, combined with a solid content strategy, can be a very profitable technique. Also, never underestimate the power of face-to-face communication with potential and existing customers at local events around the community. We strive to be a company that values their customers as much as a neighbor or a friend – because they are exactly that.
”It's essential to focus on why you exist as a company and fine-tune that message – that's something we've been focused primarily on over the past several months.
Part of our purpose is to build a culture of health and wellness throughout Florida – one community at a time. So, we try to exemplify that in every way possible – not only by providing the highest quality products but also by immersing ourselves into the community and being true to our word and purpose. By making our message clear, we’re able to connect with customers who believe what we believe. This concept of starting with ‘why’ was made popular by Simon Sinek. Focusing on why we exist as a company allows us to differentiate ourselves without having to rely heavily on manipulations. Although the overall market is price-oriented and promotions-driven, we’re striving to break that chain.
Are there any other Trailblazers in the cannabis industry that you follow?
I’m a fan of what Charlotte’s Web is doing on the CBD-side of the industry. Their approach to making a positive, genuine impact on the world and how they get that message across is inspiring. It is clear that they’ve built the company around a substantial purpose, and I think that contributes largely to their success. VidaCann is fortunate to be partnered with the Stanleys on their Stanley Brothers product line.
On the THC-side, I’m interested in the assortment of music artists (specifically in hip-hop/rap) within the cannabis industry, with brands like Cookies, Collins Avenue, Gkua, Dove & Grenade, Trees by Game, and so on. There has always been such a strong association between music and cannabis in terms of culture, and I think these companies will lead the pack in that regard. The music industry is similarly one of those passion industries and ties in perfectly with the cannabis industry.
What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to marketers looking to enter the cannabis industry?
As one of the youngest, if not the youngest, marketing directors for a cannabis company in the United States, you’re never too young to get into the industry. If you’re passionate about cannabis, you will find your place. The old saying “it’s not about what you know, but who you know” is somewhat true, but not entirely. I didn’t have any connections in the industry, but I was determined. If you work smart enough, you will make those connections and learn the ropes along the way.
I’ve personally found that success almost always comes from what I call the ‘Three P’s’ (cheesy, I know): Patience, Passion, and Persistence. In other words, good things come to those who are persistent in their efforts, passionate about what they are doing, and patient to achieve their desired outcome. Nothing happens overnight. But, when you’re persistent and passionate about what you do, the possibilities are endless.
A big thank you to Jeremy 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.