Questions with a Cannabis Marketing Trailblazer
When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?
I’ve studied the industry from an entrepreneurial standpoint since 2015. First true involvement was with cannabis clients at Abacus. That was about 18 months before Canadian legalization. There was a rush of LPs that needed branding and marketing support, so we got a crash course in dealing with a regulated industry that is significantly different than other regulated industries. Helping brands all the way to the retail shelves taught us learnings that made us very valuable compared to the typical ad agency.
What has been the biggest marketing challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?
Standard marketing and branding rules get thrown out the window in the cannabis industry simply because regulations limit the amount of exposure and communications that brands can do. Brands need to be created that can do a lot of heavy lifting and products and product categories need to be carefully strategized.
A good example is Kingsway Weed. Kingsway comes in two formats – Dayshift and Nightshift. For a casual consumer that doesn’t know the science behind the strains and the terpenes, this was a way for a brand to speak to a customer and simplify the buying experience. This is a great example of how brands can be so valuable and so useful in regulated markets, where you can’t control the narrative.
If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?
I’d like to see an equivalency between beer and cannabis advertising rules. Beer ads don’t need to be age-gated, can create all sorts of lifestyle, can feature people.
”I once asked a regulator why cannabis needed to be regulated more than beer. They told me it's because you don't get drunk from a can of beer like you get high from a joint.
Hearing such a flawed argument really rattled me. I think there are more health risks associated with beer than cannabis. I look forward to the day where cannabis gets treated fairly.
In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?
Stand for something. No one can take that away from you. There’s only so much talking about yourself that consumers can handle. Have something else meaningful to talk about.
Are there any other Trailblazers in the cannabis industry that you follow?
I think it’s more fun to look to other industries, both past, and present, for inspiration to bring back to cannabis. For example, what are trailblazers doing in fashion or music and how could I port that into weed? How did trailblazers do it in the past, and how can that be modernized and improved upon? What will the industry look like 5 years from now? My mentor is Duncan Milner, who worked with Steve Jobs on 15 years of Apple ads. We talk all the time about how to take advertising greatness of yesterday and merge it with the technology of tomorrow. Super interesting stuff. Also, the work we’re doing with the team at High 12 Brands is game-changing, and they are going to continue to put their stamp on the industry, both in Canada and around the Globe.
What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to marketers looking to enter the cannabis industry?
Have conviction in your point-of-view on where this big spaceship is heading. Without that POV, it’s very hard to plan for the future. If you plan based on today, it’s too late by the time you figure it out.
A big thank you to Jeff 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.