This week’s Trailblazer is KD Khairah, Founder of CanMar, a one-stop solution for cannabis recruitment, licensing, advertising, community and education.

Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer

When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?

I became involved in the cannabis industry in 2017 when a previous client obtained a license for cannabis production in Canada, prior to its legalization. With a background in running successful recruitment companies, I recognized that this emerging industry had the potential to generate millions of jobs and drive economic growth. This significant opportunity served as a compelling motivation for me to establish CanMar in 2017.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?

The most significant marketing challenge I’ve encountered while working with cannabis companies and brands has been the restrictions imposed by various social media platforms and the persisting stigma surrounding the industry. Promoting cannabis-related products and services in an environment where these topics remain taboo has proven to be a constant hurdle. To address this challenge, in 2022, I initiated the launch of CanMar Hub, a community-focused ecosystem with a mission to establish connections within the global cannabis and psychedelics community. This initiative seeks to create a more open and accepting space for industry-related marketing efforts, overcoming the existing barriers and promoting a more inclusive dialogue.

If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?

If I could change one of the current marketing restrictions on cannabis in Canada or the United States, I would focus on revising the regulations related to advertising and marketing practices. Specifically, I would advocate for more flexibility in terms of how cannabis products and brands can be promoted and advertised.

While regulations are essential to ensure responsible consumption and prevent misuse, the existing restrictions often hinder the industry’s ability to effectively reach its target audience and educate consumers about the benefits and responsible use of cannabis products. I would seek to strike a balance between protecting public health and enabling the industry to thrive, perhaps by allowing more creative and informative marketing strategies, including the ability to use social media and other mainstream advertising channels without excessive limitations.

This approach would not only benefit the cannabis industry by expanding its marketing avenues but also contribute to better consumer education and safer product usage, ultimately aligning with the evolving societal attitudes towards cannabis.

In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?

In my observation, several marketing techniques and channels have proven to be effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers. These strategies have evolved as the industry has grown and adapted to changing regulations. Some of the most effective methods include:

Content Marketing: Content marketing, such as blogs, articles, and educational materials, has been highly effective. It allows companies to establish themselves as industry experts and provide valuable information to consumers.

Social Media: Although challenging due to restrictions, social media platforms like CanMar Hub, Instagram and Twitter have been valuable for showcasing products, engaging with consumers, and building brand awareness.

Email Marketing: Building and nurturing an email list allows companies to reach a targeted audience with updates, promotions, and educational content.

Influencer Partnerships: Collaborating with influencers in the cannabis space can provide an authentic way to reach a broader audience, especially on platforms like YouTube and podcasts.

Community Events: Participating in local events, trade shows, and community gatherings has been a great way to connect with consumers on a personal level and build brand loyalty.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Optimizing online content for search engines helps companies appear in relevant search results, ensuring that consumers can find them when seeking information or products.

Loyalty Programs: Creating customer loyalty programs and rewards can encourage repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals.

Educational Workshops: Hosting educational workshops or webinars can help demystify cannabis, answer consumer questions, and build trust.

Public Relations: Managing public relations to maintain a positive brand image and engage with the media is crucial, especially in an industry with changing regulations and perceptions.

Brick-and-Mortar Retail: For companies with physical locations, creating an inviting retail space and offering exceptional customer service can foster consumer connections.

It’s important to note that the effectiveness of these techniques can vary depending on the target audience, product type, and location due to varying regulations. Cannabis companies often need to employ a combination of these strategies to connect with consumers effectively and navigate the unique challenges of the industry.

Are there any other trailblazers in the cannabis industry that you follow?

As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, there were several trailblazers and prominent figures in the cannabis industry who were worth following for their contributions, insights, and innovations. However, the landscape of the cannabis industry is constantly evolving, and there may have been new trailblazers who emerged after that time. Here are a few noteworthy individuals and organizations in the industry as of 2021:

Steve DeAngelo: Known for his advocacy and work in the cannabis reform movement, Steve DeAngelo co-founded Harborside, one of the first legal cannabis dispensaries in the United States. He’s a recognized thought leader in the industry.

Ethan Nadelmann: Founder of the Drug Policy Alliance, Ethan Nadelmann has been a key figure in advocating for drug policy reform, including cannabis legalization.

Shaleen Title: Shaleen Title was one of the initial commissioners of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission and is known for her work in promoting social equity in the cannabis industry.

Amanda Reiman: Amanda Reiman, a cannabis industry expert, has focused on cannabis as a harm reduction and public health strategy. She’s been a vocal advocate for cannabis education and social justice.

Minorities for Medical Marijuana: This organization, led by Roz McCarthy, advocates for the inclusion of marginalized communities in the cannabis industry and promotes diversity and social equity.

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML): NORML, and its leaders, have played a crucial role in advocating for cannabis reform and have been instrumental in changing public perception.

Please note that the landscape of the cannabis industry has likely evolved since my last update, and there may be new trailblazers and influential figures who have emerged. I recommend staying updated with industry news and following relevant cannabis associations and publications to discover new trailblazers and thought leaders in the field.

What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to marketers looking to enter the cannabis industry?

“Prioritize education and compliance when entering the cannabis industry. Stay updated on the constantly changing regulations and laws related to cannabis marketing in your specific region. Ensure that your marketing strategies align with these regulations to avoid legal issues. Additionally, focus on educating both yourself and your target audience about the benefits, responsible use, and safety aspects of cannabis. This will not only help build trust with consumers but also contribute to the industry’s positive image. Being well-informed and compliant will set the foundation for successful and ethical marketing efforts in the cannabis sector.”

Also, feel free to sign up your company business profile (at no cost) on CanMar Hub and get your brand in front of millions of cannabis enthusiasts: https://community.canmar.io/signup/KER99o

Cannabis Marketing Trailblazers

A big thank you to KD from CanMar for participating as this week’s Trailblazer! Stay tuned for another interview with a cannabis marketing Trailblazer next Thursday in the ADCANN blog.

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ADCANN is a digital publication and content creation team that showcases the most creative concepts in the cannabis space.