This week’s Trailblazer is Nadine De Albuquerque, Head of Marketing for Bubble Bud Inc., an innovative Canadian licensed producer of craft-brewed, full-spectrum cannabis beverages, and the creators of Zèle Cannabis-Infused Craft Beverages.
Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer
When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?
I started working in the industry in 2016, when only medical cannabis was permitted. As a former scientist and cannabis proponent for years, I was drawn to helping people improve access to a broad-use plant that has enhanced the human experience for millennia. I’ve heard so many remarkable stories and I was amazed that cannabis wasn’t a remedy readily available to the masses. The benefits of this plant are so vast and versatile, every aspect of the plant can be leveraged. My previous marketing experience included managing a hemp hair and skincare brand, which is also considered a botanical class of cannabis. This consumer product knowledge was an asset to growing cannabis brand portfolios, allowing me to transition into the industry. Now I’m excited to work with the innovative team at Bubble Bud Inc. and help Canadians understand how full-spectrum cannabis drinks can be integrated into their daily lives.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?
Transitioning brands from the ACMPR (Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations) to the Cannabis Act recreational market while operating in regulatory ambiguity has been the biggest challenge I’ve faced to date. Tight launch lead times and new regulations prevented some brands from coming to life in the way they were originally designed, which greatly impacted the brand roll-out and overall consumer brand experience.
One big ongoing marketing challenge continues to be the rapid commercialization cycle, which involves launching new brands and products at an unprecedented rate as buyers attempt to list unique offerings while consumers continue to discover their preferences. Potency and daily purchase maximums are also greatly impacting the performance of legal cannabis products compared to counterparts available in the legacy market.
If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?
Canadian marketing guidelines are both strict and ambiguous making it incredibly difficult to clearly communicate to consumers how they could expect to feel, and this is exactly what they want to know. The current regulations pose a big challenge for brands to help consumers find the right product to meet their needs. Consumer sampling is also not permitted in most provinces, impacting their ability to assess the experience for themselves before committing to a purchase. I look forward to the day when the regulations allow us to directly communicate what consumers want and need to know.
With regards to the US, marketing and promotion is fragmented state by state as cannabis is still not federally legalized, making it very difficult to ensure a brand-consistent consumer experience nationwide.
In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?
Effective brand strategies need to integrate all marketing channels to build and compound the single most important ‘WHY BUY’ message while being authentic to the brand. Since the majority of consumer purchase decisions are made in the retail environment, having a strong shopper marketing experience complemented with education and additional age-gated conversion-driving tactics is crucial.
Are there any other Trailblazers in the cannabis industry that you follow?
Oh yes, too many amazing people to name them all! From Kirk Tousaw and Mat Beren from House of the Great Gardener to Don and Aaron of DNA Genetics, I have had the privilege of working with so many legacy trailblazers for which I am truly grateful. I found that people who worked in the cannabis industry pre-legalization often had an unwavering passion for the plant and compassion for patients struggling to gain access. They understood the versatile power cannabis offered, and many fought against our justice systems to change legislation or created the most well-known cultivars that we still enjoy today. It is their determination and persistence that has allowed the federal recreational market to become a possibility for all Canadians to enjoy.
What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to marketers looking to enter the cannabis industry?
I love this industry. I find it to be a creative challenge that tends to draw amazing people, but it is also very volatile. It requires a certain personality that is comfortable working through ambiguity, regulatory limitations, and continual change management. Company consolidation continues to make working in the industry somewhat unstable – it is not for everybody. For those that are comfortable working with less job security, it’ll be an unforgettable journey. My best advice is to learn the regulations and how to effectively communicate around them in a way that consumers will understand. It is an invaluable skill and asset to any cannabis organization.
Last Updated on November 10, 2022 by ADCANN