This week’s Trailblazer is Matthew O’Brien, Founder, and Editor of Four PM, a daily email focused on the people transforming the modern cannabis industry.
Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer
When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?
I began working in the cannabis industry in November 2017.
My journey into the cannabis industry really began a year earlier courtesy of reading a book called Narconomics which sent me down a rabbit hole of curiosity as to why we as a society should potentially legalize all drugs.
Fast forward a year later and I found myself working as a budtender in order to learn more about what the world might look like if this idea ever came into fruition, and ever since then I’ve been absolutely obsessed with cannabis and the industry that’s currently being built up around this amazing plant.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?
Navigating social media platforms, and in particular Instagram.
When I was the regional manager of a cannabis retail chain in Vancouver I assumed the responsibility of running our Instagram account and having put in hours of effort week after week to build up our followers to in turn have the account suspended for posting cannabis-related content was extremely frustrating.
If only we’d had a resource like ADCANN’s “How to get your Instagram account back if disabled” guide at the time.
If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?
I’m unsure if this restriction is best described as a marketing restriction, however, I would allow Canadian cannabis producers to have QR codes on their products’ packaging.
As an industry we have effectively been provided a black canvas to educate consumers on all of the complexity that is cannabis and in order to expand the conversation beyond terms such as Indica / Sativa / Hybrids – producers need a simple solution to communicate their products terpene profiles to consumers and a QR code seems to be the optimal way to convey this information.
In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?
If a company is seeking to directly engage with consumers then Twitter is the clear winner in my eyes.
In spite of spending a grand total of zero dollars on marketing their products, the support many craft cannabis producers such as North40 Cannabis and Gnomestar Craft Cannabis have received by directly engaging with the cannabis community on Twitter is nothing short of incredible.
Although many of the noteworthy success stories have been smaller craft cannabis producers, I see no reason whatsoever as to why any type of cannabis company can’t obtain the same results if they are willing to put in the hours.
Are there any other Trailblazers in the cannabis industry that you follow?
Norton Singhavon – Whenever I’m asked which cannabis companies are successfully creating brands I often find myself looking down South to companies like Cookies and Caliva, however, closer to home GTEC is absolutely crushing it and as the CEO of the company I have to give Norton full credit for the approach him the team is taking.
Jeffrey Graham – Although I know a limited amount about the product Pistil Data is currently developing I have never been so impressed with a CEO’s approach to cannabis as I was when speaking with Jeffrey.
Codie Sanchez – There are very few people I respect more inside or outside of the cannabis industry than Codie. From transitioning out of her career as a journalist to becoming one of the most successful VCs in the cannabis industry, to building a newsletter with over 90K subscribers – her accomplishments speak for themselves.
Colin Bambury – As someone who has such a clear understanding of many of the macro trends in the cannabis industry, while at the same time actively working in a cannabis retailer store – he has one of the sharpest perspectives I know of when it comes to cannabis.
What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to people looking to enter the cannabis industry?
I’m actually borrowing this from Colin, however, spend a week working as a budtender in a cannabis retail stores in order to refine your understanding of the industry.
Although companies like Headset offer fantastic cannabis industry insights across there are some insights which one can only be obtained by working in a cannabis retail store and directly engaging with consumers.
A big thank you to Matthew 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.