This week’s Trailblazer is Shaeleigh Afton, Director of Digital Marketing at High 12 Brands, a cannabis-focused Consumer Packaged Goods company with the goal to build and operate premier global cannabis brands.
Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer
When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?
I had just left a Senior Marketing role at a consumer goods company to start my own boutique marketing agency. I was looking for clients and was introduced to a Marketing Manager who wanted to hire someone for social media. I knew the role full time was a bit junior for where I was in my career but I wasn’t about to say no.
I ended up getting the contract as a client. We ran their social and then did some content strategy and asset creation. From there it was easier to get bigger, better cannabis contracts. Funny enough the woman who ended up being my first cannabis client is now a really close friend and my business partner for my side project Ouid.
I wanted to get into the industry because I had been using cannabis to self medicate for quite some time. I had gotten such push back from my healthcare professionals, but I couldn’t argue with the results. I wanted to get into the industry to help reduce the misconceptions and the stigma. I wanted to immerse myself in it so I could teach other people that they could help themselves.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?
I like solving problems, so I enjoy the challenges of the cannabis industry. But I’d probably have to say attribution is the biggest challenge with digital. We don’t have full tracking ability to measure how our advertising campaigns affect sales in-store or on government websites. It is a big pain.
If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?
I think any of the regulations put on cannabis marketing that alcohol companies are not subjected to should be changed.
There is sufficient data to show cannabis is less harmful than alcohol, it’s medicinal— hello!
In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?
The people selling your product = a great channel. For Budtenders, the team put together a pretty amazing training video and developed engaging educational materials with e-mail marketing. Plus our trade and sales team does an amazing job at connecting with our retail partners.
”I know FB/IG is off limits, but there are social platforms that do really well, like, under $1.50 CPM well, but you have to design your creative with full funnel thinking, not just repurpose your organic social content as ads.
Then with more bottom-funnel tactics, we are seeing success within menu advertising which is great because you’re actually able to measure sales lift, not something that’s typically possible in this industry.
So I think that’s really the most important area to focus on. Given the regulations, just general awareness type marketing is a lot more limited than possible, but with COVID and the digital environment that we’re in, we definitely see a lot of opportunities. So we’re focused on a few of those and as well as a few conversion tactics online.
What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to marketers looking to enter the cannabis industry?
Don’t think your jump into space has to be vertical. Work smart and you’ll be able to grow your career quite fast. Once you’re in, understand your privilege to work in an industry when many BIPOC are still incarcerated and make a difference.
A big thank you to Shaeleigh 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.