Questions with a Cannabis Marketing Trailblazer
When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?
I joined the cannabis industry in 2018 after three years on the agency side and six years in CPG at General Mills. My experience gave me a deep foundation in using data to develop a deep understanding of our consumers and what marketing levers to pull to drive both brand awareness and affinity, as well as conversion to purchase.
The opportunities I had to work on iconic brands, like Virgin Mobile, Coca-Cola, Cheerios, and Lucky Charms, was incredible, but I was ready to build something new in a nascent industry, with a product I was passionate about.
I was lucky enough to join TREC Brands in early 2019. Here, I have found a smart, passionate, knowledgeable team with the same values I do of Trust, Respect, Equality, and Compassion. Plus, our CEO backs up our vision of being a socially responsible cannabis company with action – we donate 10% of all our profits back to the communities we operate in.
What has been the biggest marketing challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?
Coming from a mature category like cereal to the nascent and ever-changing cannabis industry the biggest challenge is the lack of reliable data. While there is consumer research available, and we often turn to the US and other legal markets for trends, the reality is that consumer purchase patterns are changing as new products launch, the retail footprint grows, the convenience of the legacy market changes, and new consumers enter the cannabis market.
Our team at TREC Brands has done a great job segmenting the market and building brands that fit different segments. Our brands WINK Cannabis, Blissed and Thumbs Up Brand each reflect exciting and growing segments of the cannabis market.
If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?
I would open up the regulations on packaging. Unboxing a product is an exciting part of purchasing something new. It allows a brand to give their consumer a branded experience right from the beginning and gives brands more opportunities to differentiate.
”Giving consumers who have already proven that they are old enough to purchase and consume cannabis a wholistic brand experience will allow our industry to grow further and faster.
I believe offering beautifully packaged products will further differentiate the legal market from the legacy market and create a more welcoming, approachable, experience for new consumers, versus the current pharmaceutical-like experience they have with products.
In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?
In the current environment where brand awareness is relatively low, I believe that the most effective marketing techniques to drive sales are those that allow you to get as close to the point of purchase as possible. For us, that means building our brands in store by creating branded merchandising and in-store educational opportunities. As well, we have seen digital campaigns that target shoppers during their online browsing or eCommerce purchase perform well.
Our team has tried to balance some of these tactics which drive short term sales, but not always long-term brand awareness, with brand-building activities that showcase what our brands stand for. One great example of this is our Stop Hiding campaign for Blissed. Blissed works hard to breakdown some of the stigmas and barriers women come up against by sharing stories and resources. We launched the Stop Hiding campaign by sharing stories of three women who have come up against barriers and how they overcame them. When we launched, we saw a significant increase in traffic to our website as well as a jump in sales for our Blissed tincture.
Are there any other Trailblazers in the cannabis industry that you follow?
I definitely do not think of myself as a trailblazer and follow many activists and true game-changers who have been here long before I have. I recommend that everyone develop their own list of people and organizations who inspire them and drive them to do better.
For educational resources, I follow @miss.grass and @laurenyoshiko from @broccoli_mag. For inspirational activism, I follow @steve.deangelo and the @lastprisonerproject. For true passion for the cannabis plant and its history, I follow @arjanstrainhunter and the @strainhunters. This is just a small list of the many people out there who have allowed us at TREC Brands to build a business within a legal cannabis framework. We know we would not be where we are today without trailblazers like them.
What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to marketers looking to enter the cannabis industry?
First, do not let the regulations and obstacles hold you back from joining this industry. There is still opportunity in this space for marketers to build brands and drive demand!
Second, be ready to learn. While a foundation in marketing from other, more mature categories is hugely valuable, this industry is ever-changing. Always be open to new ideas and learning as you move forward in your career.
A big thank you to Kayla 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.