Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer
When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?
I first got involved in the cannabis space when I was a patient in California, where I produced a few products for local dispensaries while in school. After returning to Canada, I re-entered the space when my partner said, “Jonathan, you consume a lot of cannabis, you should blog about it… and call it Weedstagram416!” Ever since then, I have been focused on the cannabis space here in Canada working with over 300 products from accessories to legacy cannabis brands, and with legal ones as well.
What has been the biggest marketing challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?
Moving from legacy to legal and facing the restrictions in place by Health Canada has certainly been a shock to the system. And with social and marketing services just looking for a reason to de-platform any cannabis company or individual, it has been an uphill battle. Getting the brand story in front of the consumer has never been simple, but now it requires even more creativity. Luckily, having an incredible team at Mera, we have developed strategies and successfully executed bringing our brands to market.
If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?
I would like to see an end to marketing prohibition. I would love to see our industry treated in the same fashion as other hyper regulated industries such as gaming and alcohol. If I can hear about the fun and excitement of Casino Niagara on the radio, I certainly should be able to learn of the offerings at the local dispensary. Brands require touchpoints in the lives of consumers if we want to create a relationship. By limiting those touchpoints to age-gated stores, targeted email and B2B activities, we are really going against the main goal of the Cannabis Act to reduce the legacy market share of cannabis sales. Consumers want to purchase attractively branded packaging, they want experiences.
In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?
The most effective technique that I have found to connect with our consumer has been to go to where they are. By using my background in cannabis education, our team at Mera was able to develop an in-store activation that really brought a new experience to the brick-and-mortar customer. Giving the customer in-person understanding on the process of solventless extracts, along with the added benefit of an extended conversation time (on average, 10 – 15 minutes is the time spent at our activation), we are seeing a lot of brand loyalty form due to the satisfaction during the retail engagement. These in-tore touchpoints allow us to create an ongoing relationship with the consumer who feels listened to versus sold to, educated versus told, and leave the experience with a meaningful memory.
Are there any other Trailblazers in the cannabis industry that you follow?
I follow other educators and marketers in the space to learn what they are doing, Matt Mernagh, Cannalilly Consulting, Agriconsult, and many more.
What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to people looking to enter the cannabis industry?
Make sure you are coming from a genuine place of respecting, consuming, and understanding the plant first. Real consumers can see straight through the culture vultures in the industry. Get into the space for the right reasons, use every drop of your passion and energy and support the real ones, we are all in this together.
A big thank you to Jonathan 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.