Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer
When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?
My first role in the industry was as Head of Product Development at Tokyo Smoke in early 2017. I think I was employee #7, and I was tasked with building out the signature product collections for both Tokyo Smoke and Van der Pop. Right around legalizations I transitioned to Director of Product Development at PROHBTD/Future State Brands out of LA. I founded Burning Tree in 2018 and have been supporting Cannabis brands with custom product and packaging to tell their unique stories.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?
Investing in design. I think most people recognize the value of design but there is still a reluctance in Cannabis companies to invest capital into creating innovative product and packaging. It was really challenging early on, but now I’m starting to see some small steps in the right direction with respect to this challenge.
If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?
The labeling regulations in Canada are extreme and should be relaxed. While I agree with the need for physical requirements like child-resistant lids and warnings about consumption as a state-altering substance the current state of affairs is excessive. I would love to see regulations that more closely resemble the alcohol industry where safety is more closely balanced with the ability to create products that speak to customers.
In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?
I’m heavily biased of course, but custom product is a great asset that can be used. Product is largely exempt from the heavy-handed regulations and as a physical embodiment of your brand it presents a unique opportunity to reinforce your values. Beyond that, product has a halo effect on your brand. It gets shared amongst friends, users extoll the function and beauty on their social feeds, and the permanence of product long outlasts any marketing campaigns.
Are there any other Trailblazers in the cannabis industry that you follow?
Rob McPherson is a great (and vocal) critique of the industry generally. I find I share a lot of his criticisms of where the industry is. The critical debates that he often instigates are a great way to bring people into the discussion and hopefully influence opinion. It all comes from a desire to see the industry improve so I’m always happy to jump into the debate.
What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to people looking to enter the cannabis industry?
If you think the marketing regulations are stifling, look for areas like product that offer space to build and reinforce your brand. Look at your phone, your car, your favorite jacket or shoes. The design of these objects tell such a powerful story about the brand they embody. Cannabis is this amazing plant that can change our mental state and in that there is such a great opportunity to amplify your brand with the products that store, prepare, and assist with consumption.
A big thank you to Joel 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.