This week’s Trailblazer is Megan Henderson, General Manager, Medical for Sensi Brands, a Canadian federally licensed cannabis cultivation and consumer packaged goods company producing and distributing a broad range of quality cannabis products and services.
Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer
When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?
I had been a recreational cannabis consumer for almost 20 years when Trudeau announced his plans for legalization in 2016. At the time, I was working at Postmedia and had spent the last 10+ years in media and custom publishing. A friend and I decided we wanted to take our media knowledge and start a publication that focused on women in cannabis. At the time there were so many women in the legacy market who were leading the charge for the industry and we wanted to showcase that.
We got the site up and running but unfortunately we just weren’t able to make it work and do our day jobs. So I began to focus on cannabis opportunities within Postmedia. At first my focus was on building out the advertising opportunities and guidelines for accepting cannabis advertisers based on the regulations that were still being finalized. I became the go-to for cannabis advertising questions from there and was able to work with Postmedia’s sales teams across the country to help them understand the opportunity and the rules.
Then in early 2018 I began pitching a cannabis editorial brand to our VP of Content and executive team. This eventually became The GrowthOp and I was fortunate to work with an amazing team within Postmedia to build and launch the brand within a few months. The GrowthOp debuted at the 2018 O’Cannabiz and it was a really proud moment for me.
It was really important to me that we further the conversation publicly about cannabis instead of living in the shadows. Education was really the goal for The GrowthOp so that people could explore it easily and from a mainstream publisher like Postmedia.
What has been the biggest marketing challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?
When I was working in media it was challenging as some LP’s really wanted to push the envelope on what the regulations would allow but as a publisher, we were just as liable for what we put out in the world so we had to say no to a lot of ads because they were not compliant based on our interpretation of the regulations.
Things have definitely loosened up but you still have to be aligned on your risk tolerance because no one wants to be on the wrong side of the regulations.
If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?
I think the out-of-home restrictions are unfair. Yes, billboards, etc. can be seen by youth but there are lots of brands that are regulated who are able to advertise this way that could be considered a negative influence on younger people. Ultimately, I think cannabis ads should be regulated through the Advertising Standards Council like pharmaceuticals, etc. This would be a win-win for both Health Canada and the industry to have a clear path for advertising oversight.
In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?
I am not sure anyone is really nailing it yet. Obviously, social media has been one of the main areas we have seen folks building a following. I think Twitter, Instagram and Reddit have really helped push brands forward. But overall, I think good word of mouth from consumers is still what’s been driving brands’ popularity.
Are there any other Trailblazers in the cannabis industry that you follow?
- Abi Roach
- Deepak Annand
- Trina Frazier
- Jess Moran
- Larry Lisser
- Rachel Colic
- Lisa Harun
And too many others to list. I love learning from this industry. It is one of the most inclusive groups I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of.
What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to people looking to enter the cannabis industry?
Risk tolerance…know what your organization’s risk tolerance is. This is what will guide you through developing your campaigns. If your company is more willing to push against the regs or not will help you build the right messaging and campaign. You don’t want to build something and then have your leadership put the kibosh on it because it is in a grey area of the regs and they don’t want to take a risk.
A big thank you to Megan 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.