Party Like a Marketer Podcast

Episode 27: Understanding Cannabis Consumers to Drive Sales

Episode Description

Lisa Buffo, Founder, and CEO of the Cannabis Marketing Association sat down with Shannon Reed, CMO at Omura, to discuss Understanding Cannabis Consumers to Drive Sales.

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Read the Transcript

p>Lisa Buffo  00:12

Hi everyone, welcome to party like a Marketer Podcast dedicated to cannabis marketing, public relations and authentic storytelling. I’m your host, Lisa Buffo, the founder and CEO of cannabis Marketing Association. And you can find me on Instagram at Liubov and Twitter at Lee Buck 21. Don’t forget to join us at the Cannabis marketing summit this June 7 through ninth in Denver, Colorado for two days of cannabis marketing speakers best practices and networking over three stages in the heart of Civic Center Park. Today’s conversation features Shannon Reed, the Vice President of Marketing for Omura. Shannon is a brand marketer with over a decade of experience building global consumer brands. She’s worked on some of the largest brands in the world, including Samsung, Google, Tinder and Bacardi. Throughout her career, Shannon has focused on deep consumer insights, helping to create first of its kind digital experiences for Google Star Wars and Tinder swipe night. Okay. Hi, everybody. Welcome to today’s episode of Party like a marketer, the podcast dedicated to cannabis marketing, authentic storytelling and public relations. And today’s guest is Shannon Reed, the Vice President of Marketing for O’Meara. Shannon, thank you so much for being here today.

Shannon Reed  01:27

Thanks so much for having me. Lisa. It’s really excited to catch up with you again.

Lisa Buffo  01:30

Yeah, I’m excited. I know you guys have been up to some big things the last year or so. So to get our audience oriented with you, why don’t you tell them a little bit about Shannon is what you do you know how to get your start in the industry and a bit about Omura in the company.

Shannon Reed  01:48

Absolutely. Hey, everybody. I’m Shannon, I’m the VP of Marketing firmer, and we’re a whole far vaporizer company. But what makes us a little bit different is instead of grinding and packing and filling an oven, we sell both prefilled and fill your own flour sticks, which are a little fall cartridges that go into the oven itself, that allows you to kind of use the device in a really sustainable and disposable kind of way. So you don’t need to worry about sharing a mouthpiece or any of those sorts of things. I’m a brand marketer, I have over a decade of experience building kind of big brands, everything from Google and Dropbox to SmartWater and Bacardi. But I come from kind of that more traditional brand marketing background, helping them launch products, everything from hardware to software, online and internationally. As well as in the US. I came into the cannabis industry because I was working with some cannabis clients. I really enjoyed this space, I thought it was super interesting. For me, it feels like one of the few places there weren’t brands about five years ago that really existed that scaled. And there’s a real ability to make an impact as a brand marketer about creating a brand, creating a vision, taking it to scale in places where that’s much harder. And other industries like you know, food and beverage and all those sorts of things. There’s so many big players, cannabis offers like a real white space for us to build amazing and really thoughtful brands based off of deep consumer insights. So that’s why I got into this space. I really like it. I am a cannabis user myself, and have been since I moved to California about seven or eight years ago, definitely can see the plant really resonates with me more on the CBD side than the THC side. But I think it really has an amazing ability to kind of help people through experiences. And I think, you know, I’m really like impasse passionate about kind of doing that and making that out there and getting that to scale and getting that more women and more different types of people into this space.

Lisa Buffo  03:48

And where in California are you and where did you grow up? Or where did you come from?

Shannon Reed  03:53

Yeah, so I’m in Venice, California DMR offices in Venice as well. I grew up outside Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania, which is still a medical only state where we’re going to be launching there soon. But yeah, I grew up there. Definitely not in sort of what I would call like a cannabis friendly environment. But but loved Pennsylvania and loved the place but was really excited to come to California and have a new adventure.

Lisa Buffo  04:21

Awesome. Very cool. Okay, so let’s talk a bit about some of the things you’ve learned in cannabis marketing. I feel like so much of working in this space, particularly in marketing is learning through experience. And part of why I started CMA was I was a tech marketer, and I tried to take my tech marketing playbook and apply it and cannabis and it just didn’t work. And that was about eight years ago. So things have changed a little bit, but that skill set doesn’t necessarily translate, right, you kind of learn as you go. So what are some of the skills or lessons that you’ve learned as a cannabis marketer that may have been different from your prior career or just insights you’ve picked up in this role or in this in these positions.

Shannon Reed  05:06

I think for me, one thing is like, nothing is kind of a no, there’s always a work around. So I think really embracing that, at your essence as a marketer and embracing change and embracing the gray area, it’s so important if you want to enter this industry, as a marketer and enter the cannabis space, even as a brand. There’s a lot of gray areas, there’s a lot of lack of clarity, there’s a lot of laws changing all the time, in every single state. So it’s really important to kind of embrace that gray embrace that change and like be okay with that as it comes. I would also say like, be flexible. You know, it’s there’s a lot of different workarounds and ways to make things happen. We sell DTC online, because we’re a vaporizer, we do that because we do have CBD, we can also do that because of the farm bill in 2018. But we can’t do a lot of the traditional things that DTC brands do to build their business, we can’t do paid Facebook, we can’t do paid Instagram, we can’t do traditional Google. So we’ve had to get really creative and flexible in order to kind of build user flows that build someone through the experience in a similar way to the way you would do digital marketing in the traditional marketing, background and product, but with kind of some flexibility and workarounds built in that allow you to like get through some of the compliance needs that are necessary.

Lisa Buffo  06:26

And can you speak a little bit about the compliance needs? And what is different in this space? And perhaps what is even unique as far as how you experience it, O’Meara given that you’re not a license holder, and you’re an ancillary company.

Shannon Reed  06:42

Yeah, absolutely. So for, you know, from a compliance standpoint, I think we partner with betting platforms that have, you know, more or less comfort with cannabis or the language around cannabis. So, you know, Google doesn’t really like the word flower and whole flower, so you can’t use any of that in your marketing, right? I think so there’s just specific words like no words that you just can’t use, I think for Instagram, and Facebook, being really careful around like sales and promotions, and any language around that, that tends to be a thing that seems to get cannabis companies, pages taken down, whether they’re actually they’re not selling directly online, they’re just talking about something they’re doing in a store. But that tends to hit the triggers that, you know, get them their page and all their content removed, which is really tough. So I would say just being really kind of aware of the no go zones. And I think using kind of similar resources, like CMA, and like kind of other marketers in the space, I found everyone to be super kind and thoughtful. And then like, oh, I ran into this thing, like don’t use these words, we just like lost our page, or we got flagged or whatever. So I would just say, use the resources around you. Because everyone’s operating in this gray space, without any rules written down and what you can and can’t do. The information sharing is a lot more free flowing than I would say, in some traditional marketing areas.

Lisa Buffo  08:07

Yeah, and I think the stakes are higher. I mean, when we’re talking about getting your account, shut down, you know, Instagram, Facebook, things where you take it for granted and in other industries, but that can sometimes be your direct lifeline to your customers or your followers. It’s a big deal when that happens, especially when you spent so long trying to build a following and you know, engagement with them to sort of wake up and have that taken down. So that is one of the I want to echo your point where that is one of the things I really like about this space in this community is that information sharing, because it is really important to keeping these businesses afloat.

Shannon Reed  08:41

100%. I would also say, as a brand, don’t rely on those spaces, like you need to have an owned space. I think this is an area where I wish more people invested in digital in in the cannabis industry itself. Because you can we the space that’s not yours, right, you can always lose a Facebook page, an Instagram page, a Twitter page, all of that can just go away. And if that’s the only channel you have, you’re really stuck. And you’re really encumbered by that. So I would say like, if you think about really amazing, like Instagram creators, almost all of them have their own blogs or their own pages or their own websites with their own email list. Make sure you have all of that infrastructure set up. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. But just having your own site where you’ve got all your links, where you’ve got an email signup form, just really allows you to have another avenue in case that Instagram or that Facebook page does get shut down. That way you can build a more direct relationship that you can own with your consumer versus relying on these third party platforms, which just aren’t as friendly to the cannabis industry.

Lisa Buffo  09:47

Yeah, I’m so glad you said that. I’ve always emphasizing own channels. And I think that with marketing, you know, folks come to us saying you know, what’s the best channel advertising and I say it’s not necessarily about the channel it’s about this story that you’re telling and how effectively you’re doing it, but your own channels are the safest. And the ones where you can continue to build on them and build that relationship directly without possible intervention by these big tech companies or, you know, third parties, depending on where you are. So I want to you’ve touched on digital marketing, can you expand on that a little bit? And what that means to you, as a brand marketer? I know, you know, digital can mean programmatic it can mean, you know, email marketing, like, how do you define digital marketing? And what are what are some of the digital strategies that you use that are effective?

Shannon Reed  10:37

Yeah, so for me, it means all of that. And then more, I think text marketing is becoming increasingly important in our category. And just is also very tricky and nuanced. So I think, you know, we’ve got tax, we’ve got programmatic, we’ve got digital, we’ve got SEO, we’ve got other kind of owned platforms that we’re working on. Marketing in, you know, it’s blog content, it’s, you know, it’s like paid posts, it’s advertorials, it’s all of these things. It’s influencer, feeding, all of these things are really part of it and start to tell a comprehensive story. And I think really, for me, it’s about being thinking of it as being out there as much as you can, right, you want to build awareness of your product and your brand, which means you need to be out there in as many places as you can be where consumers are, and you have to meet them where they are, which is why we all have to have Instagram pages, even though he always get worried about getting them taken down. Because that’s where consumers are. And that’s where they spend a lot of their time. So I think it’s just really important. From a digital standpoint, I think about, you know, what’s my digital day look like? And making sure that my brand is showing up in multiple touchpoints across that digital day, some of which are owned, some of which are paid, some of which are organic, some of which are influencer, there’s a multitude of different ways to combat that.

Lisa Buffo  11:55

And when you say digital day, do you mean like you wish and and the person who experiences you know, online world? And how you move through that? Putting yourself in the shoes of your customer? Expand on digital day? Yeah!

Shannon Reed  12:11

Yeah, totally. So I think part of what I think like really big brands and big kind of traditional companies do is they really look at their consumers behavior, and they look at where they spend their time, what are they doing? How do you know what, what modes of things do they interact with? Like, they wake up in the morning, and they look at the weather channel, right, so maybe if you’re a brand that is really focused on morning routine or breakfast foods, you’re advertising on weather channel and weather sort of services, because we know that’s a key touch point that people touch first thing in the morning, I used to work for breakfast. Like, that’s where that example comes from. But I think like thinking about, you know, removing yourself sometimes or even if you think you are your consumer, really thinking about what touchpoints you have during the day and, and kind of whether that’s like the weather channel app, or Instagram and Facebook, or, you know, DoorDash and Uber, like, what are those touch points throughout your day in this thing you’re interacting with, whether it’s on your phone, or on your computer, and making sure that your brand is somehow positioned to show up as part of that day. And it may be even on the right day part. Maybe you’re not a morning brand, you’re a party brand. So showing up on The Weather Channel in the morning isn’t very valid to you. I think that that makes a ton of sense. And is important as you start to think about like, who your brand is, who your consumer is, and then where it makes the most sense for you to show up in your consumer day.

Lisa Buffo  13:35

Yeah, that’s a really great point. And can you speak to so as a brand marketer, developing the brand voice personality style and positioning it into those channels? From your personal experience? Have you been a part of like when you join a company or when you when you join Nomura, did you come in and they had the brand ready and defined for you? Or did you help sort of define that? And if you did, what, what does that process look like? And how do you integrate that with your strategy?

Shannon Reed  14:08

Absolutely. So I think, for us, and I think for a lot of cannabis brands, the brand and the product are really tied together. I think in some other categories and instances, the brand, the products feel quite separate. But I think in cannabis, because we’re doing so much what I would call product marketing and not as much like high level brand marketing. I think it’s really important to tie to your products. So for us, you know, our product is kind of a smaller dose. It’s a layerable it’s kind of consumable. It’s designed for someone who wants a more premium experience, who doesn’t want their hair to smell like smoke, who doesn’t, who wants like a little dose, you know, at the end of the day, or in the middle of the day when they just need a little pick me up. Right and so and our devices premium is a little bit more of a premium price point. So we had a lot of those inputs when we started because we knew what the vision for the product was. and that vision tied over into the brand, right? A lot of that is also about consumer research and talking to consumers who you think, you know, are using kind of oil pens occasionally, or you’re looking at kind of competitive products, what are they using? Why would they use it and then figuring out kind of what your product positioning is around those sorts of things. And then I think it’s about from there really, I think a lot of the language and everything else falls out from that work. Right. It’s about knowing your consumer about knowing your brand about knowing like the key RTB of your product, what what the consumer really cares about making sure those RTB is tired of the product and, and then really, tone is a journey. Like, I don’t think Omar his tone right now is the final tone it’ll ever be. I think, because we’re a digital, we’re constantly interacting with things. And we partner with a lot of brands, which means their tone affects our tone, and they all have to work together. So it really ends up being part of a journey. And I think it’s that’s the fun part is like it’s not ever done.

Lisa Buffo  16:01

And can you define that acronym? Our TVs for the audience?

Shannon Reed  16:05

Yeah, for sure. Our TV is reason to believe. So it tends to be like Proofpoint sort of stuff. So one for us is like our fire sticks are made of FSC, rainforest, safe papers. So we know that where the papers coming from no rainforest are being destroyed. And they’re no biodegradable and compostable. So that’s an RTB for us of why our brand is sustainable and doing more for the environment than just being you know, something that gets thrown in the trash. That’s plastic that never biodegrades. And that just takes room room up in the trash dump.

Lisa Buffo  16:41

That makes sense. And yeah, so to your point about brand voice evolving over time, I like to think about it as not a conversation you have with your, it is sort of a conversation you have with your customer, but brands are also evolving entities with the people who work at the organization. And that changes over time, as the company grows, the customer changes and, you know, you add sort of new products and services, and you know, things just change over time. So what are some of the ways you see either your brand voice possibly changing over time? Or how you sort of, like, approach that? Is it? Is it something you’re regularly checking in with? Like, do you sort of consciously have meetings, you know, with the team saying, you know, here’s the tone we’re using? Do we like this? Do we want to change it? What, you know, maybe how have we changed? How do you kind of like check in on the brand, as a team over time.

Shannon Reed  17:39

Totally, I think we could be better at it, I think right now and where we’re at, as we tend to look at it like yearly. So we look at like our social strategy and our brand strategy and our positioning, we just look at everything every year, just to really dig in, make sure we’re feeling good about everything. You know, you get feedback all year round from your customers, from the people that comment on your social feeds, all those people what, what post gets the most engagement, right? Okay, then my consumer is telling me what they care about, right. And I think it’s really important as a brand marketer to also be a really good listener. Because people will tell you, what they care about people will tell you what they like and what they don’t. And it’s your job as a marketer to make sure you’re listening to that feedback. So we do it yearly, where we just sit down, and we kind of look at everything, and we go, this feels like it’s resonating. This feels like it isn’t. And I think you know, it’s gonna evolve for us. You know, we’re looking, we’re expanding across the US. But we’re also expanding globally. Some of the markets we’re globally expanding into are going to be like our hardcore medical only markets. So some of the more like recreational messaging we use in California, like a social high, isn’t going to work in those sorts of markets. Because you can’t share anything. This is like cannabis is not a social experience in that market. And so we’ve got to always look at that messaging as we expand. And I think it’s a really good check point for us. As we look at a new market, we go, oh, is this messaging going to work? What messaging is going to work and really unpacking that understanding why, and understanding what the regulations and compliance in that market is to make sure that we’re not running afoul of anything?

Lisa Buffo  19:13

And that’s a great segue to my next question. So I know you have recently expanded to Michigan, I didn’t know you were going global or international as well. But tell me about the expansion of Michigan and particularly the intersection of compliance. I know, for licensed brands, certainly, you know, obviously, the regulations are different in every state and often down to the city or county level for cannabis in general, but also when it comes to marketing. So did you run into any issues or what lessons did you have to learn expanding there? And how, in what ways are those markets different from a kind of branding and marketing perspective?

Shannon Reed  19:51

Yeah, so each market is really different. I think it comes down to things like how you sampling, how you do events, what do events look like? Is consumption even allowed. I mean, these are for us. We’re an educational, you know, we really focus on education from a marketing perspective. So we want to get things in people’s hands, we want them to be able to try it, that becomes harder in some states versus others. So you know, we’re planning kind of a bash with our partner commented as in in Michigan for 20. We’re figuring out consumption lounges versus other non area consumption areas, what that really looks like, you know, what our team is allowed to bring into store because we’re doing pop ups and PhDs, you know, what we bring in, we usually bring in trays of lavender to show people how to fill sticks, right? Because CBD is okay in some states, but not okay, and others. Bring THC flour in is always just not kind of another gozone. And in every state, so we use like lavender for a lot of demos, there’s things like that, that we’ve had to really understand and unpack. And because we’re not licensed her, but I think we end up following many of the licensing rules just because we don’t want to run afoul of the local market compliance. So because we have brand partners that are licensed ors, we need to be responsible. And usually, you know, sometimes we use their license number for the marketing, because it’s co branded. So we’ve got to be responsible to the compliance in those markets, even if we are not a licensee.

Lisa Buffo  21:20

That makes sense. Yeah, I think brand partnerships are really strong ways for ancillary services, while retailers too but ancillary products like O’Meara to you know, make headway in new places and and make your marketing dollars go further, when you can work with another company. I think partnerships in general are really strong, thoughtful ways to do marketing, particularly in cannabis, where that credibility from two companies together can almost have an outsize impact and the two was the like the entourage effect that some of the whole is greater than the the two individually. So that’s really cool. Okay, um, so what are some effective marketing strategies that you’re seeing brands utilizing in the space? And I’m curious, both from your personal experience at O’Mara, but possibly anything you’ve seen to from either your brand partnerships or just that you’ve observed being in cannabis.

Shannon Reed  22:17

Yeah, so I, you know, I think for me, digital is still number one friend, I think our digital technology and infrastructure is getting even better and better in cannabis. I think as awful as COVID was and made what you know, most dispensaries have an online menu, which I remember three years ago, most dispensaries didn’t. So like that has been fantastic using things like Leafly and I heart Jane to actually be able to advertise and market your promotional product on the menu has been really helpful for a lot of brands. I did a panel with you guys. in McAllen spring, big textbook marketing, co branded with a retailer, we’ve seen a really good effectiveness out of that sort of marketing, I would say, you know, just digital in general, you know, we’re running programmatic, SEO, and sort of a full suite of of digital and online marketing that’s driving DTC more directly to us. But I know that some of the delivery partners and platforms have seen success, scaling their retail businesses through similar strategies. And then on the brand side, I think I’ve seen in the last year, at least in California, it’s been really interesting. It feels like it’s been like the drop bottle has ruled. I don’t know what you think. But I just feel like California has been like, whether it’s a celebrity drop, or, you know, a special, you know, flour skew or an infused something or rather, those sorts of like specific low quantity, tend tend to be higher in THC value. And that’s just what’s moving in the market right now. So I think the drop model is super interesting. And it’s something I think we’re looking at exploring with umbrella and the next year, because I just think it’s driving that news is driving relevance. It’s driving some kind of buzz into retail, to get consumers to kind of check out and check into the retailer.

Lisa Buffo  24:07

It’s interesting, I hadn’t thought about it from the ancillary perspective, but I guess it does make a lot of sense. And it has been a part of that. I do think that is something in I mean, maybe not, but I was just say, sort of a West Coast in particular, but but it is happening in Colorado, too. But I would say probably not as much as California, California definitely seems to be the place for for drops. But yeah, that’s an awesome new strategy. And I wanted to ask about a digital too, and how COVID impacted that for you. Did you notice you said you know, obviously, with COVID Everyone had to pay attention to digital if they weren’t before. Were you all very digital focus before COVID Or is it one of those things where because of it, you sort of dialed that up in a different way.

Shannon Reed  24:58

For us, it was really core to I came into America about two and a half years ago. And part of my vision coming along was that like, the cannabis industry is really hard, you got to go door to door, there’s not a ton of scale. You know, there’s a lot of, you know, retailers that own two or three stores or maybe four stores. But, you know, there’s not a ton of like, it’s not like you go to Walmart, and then you get to Walmart, and then you’re in 1000 stores and you immediately get volume, right? You have to, like do this long, hard slog in retail in cannabis, where you got to go knock on every door, again to every store. So I think for me, as a digital marketer, with a digital background, I was like we have to build with digital presence, I firmly believe in it. It’s what we can control. It’s what we can track. It allows us to build relationships with consumers, and allows us to have a consistent number that allows us to know how many packs and when uses a month, it allows us to kind of understand like how people engage with the product, it allows us to survey them to ask them questions about what they like and don’t like or what products they wish we had, or things they want to change in the existing products or things they love about the product that we can never touch. So I think it’s like, for me digital is just such a fantastic like, pocket into your consumer and view into your world. Digital was always really important to us. I just think it amplified. Because it it became not just like DTC, it also became digital on the dispensary side. And it just lifted everything up. So our focus just became more about creating How to videos and digital content and using QR codes everywhere, even on our packaging, to make sure people could understand how to use the product, and engage with it and interact with it. And it just really, I think it steps our level up a whole fantastic amount.

Lisa Buffo  26:48

And I think with digital too, you know, we talked about how Google, Instagram and Facebook, from a paid perspective are close to cannabis companies now. And, frankly, anyone who I mean, we, it’s close to us, and we don’t touch the plant at all. But because it’s our name has the word, you know, where it’s effectively no difference in their mind. But I don’t think it will always be like that, particularly for ancillary companies where like, it’s we don’t have licenses. And that’s just how it is we’re not selling cannabis at the end of the day. So I think building that foundation within your organization, understanding what works, and getting yourself ready for that is worth the time and energy and effort. Now, if it wasn’t already clear, so that when those things do open up more, you have the ability to sort of much more smoothly integrate, as opposed to, you know, how do we get started? And how do we do this? And I think with to your point about feedback with your customers, that it you can capture that information so clearly, digitally, then you can in person or in person, you know, it’s sort of anecdotal, you have to remember, I mean, you’re still getting that information, but you can’t store big data sets and then analyze that or like look at that information over time. And I think that is really valuable for brands, because you never know where your blind spots are. And your customers might like your products for in good ways. They might like it for different reasons than you think. But it allows you to capture all that information.

Shannon Reed  28:14

Yeah, I totally agree. I mean, I think part of some of my favorite part of that job is talking to consumers, whether like through surveys and reading their answers or just in person, because they think they have insights and valuable feedback. And this product fits into their lives in a particular way. And I think understanding that knowing that and designing more, you know, upstream more products that help them is so fun, and then getting to give them that thing. Oh, it’s the best feeling ever. Like oh, my God, you listened. You heard what he said, You know, I get so excited, because I think everyone wants to feel heard. And I think as a product and marketer, team, it’s really important that we focus on that from a consumer standpoint.

Lisa Buffo  28:56

Yeah, definitely. That’s a really, that’s a really good point. And I want to talk a little bit about events. And you know, now that things are getting back in person again, are you all incorporating events, I love talking to brand marketers, because I’m in the b2b side, and you get to do all the fun in person consumer-facing events. So are you going back to in-person events? And how if so, what does that look like? And how do you sort of merge the digital strategy and digital experience with that in person? experiential component?

Shannon Reed  29:28

Yeah, so I think QR codes are the best thing ever. Now that they’re out. Like, that’s been an amazing part of like, digital experiences for us. So it allows us, you know, will, will often do, we do all sorts of events, whether they’re bigger in scale or smaller in scale, but what it allows us to do is kind of, we have a QR code register when you sign up, you get something for free or you get kind of a bonus something or other you get a percentage off on our site. And so that allows us to kind of capture that digital information even in a physical space. events are absolutely on our roadmap, I think we’re going to have a really busy for 20, which I’m super thrilled about. But I think, you know, cannabis events go quite well together, I think it’s a communal plant, I think it’s a communal experience. I think the best times I’ve ever had using cannabis generally are communal and not like, necessarily alone. So I think all of that resonates with me. So events are absolutely important for us, I think, especially as an ancillary device, with not the most expensive price point. But you know, we’re not $20, you know, we’re $100. So you need someone’s got to hold it in their hand, they have to understand the quality, they have to be able to experience the technology, because it is brand new technology, and it is innovative, it’s different than other things. So really getting over some of those barriers of the experience, understanding it, how it works, all those things, getting someone to experience it live with you. It just absolutely opens up doors, and it opens up people’s understanding of what kind of future facing cannabis experience could look like, and what smoking a joint could look like if it’s vaporizing, and it’s a much more modern way to do it.

Lisa Buffo  31:08

And can you talk a little bit about that educational component, because we talk a lot on this podcast about education, when it particularly when I talk to brands and retailers that the sort of the first step in marketing is that education and letting the consumer know, okay, this is cannabis, this is what it does. These is the possible effects it can have. But you probably counter that too, with new technology. So maybe you’re not explaining cannabis and its effect, but okay, this is how our device works. And here’s why it’s different. And here’s why that’s valuable or important. How do you approach education? From a marketing perspective? And what are some ways that you do it and communicate with your customers? Perhaps more complex information? Like how do you make that simple for them to understand? And how do you incorporate that into your marketing strategy?

Shannon Reed  31:57

Yeah, I think education is in some ways, my our number one job, and probably maybe one of the number one jobs of anyone working in the cannabis industry, I think we’ve got to get more people who are open and willing to understand what the planet can do, how it works, and really how they can fit it into their lives. Right. So I think for me, education is super important for us now. Well, I think you’re absolutely right on, we are not as much about the plant, I think we’re much more about our technology, you know, we use a lot of different tools. It’s everything from having, you know, brand ambassadors in store, doing pop ups, and PhDs to really fantastic staff education for retailers. So we have an educator and chief, she can come in person and educate your staff, we can do it via zoom, we have training booklets and guidelines to make sure your staff fully understand how it works. I think we then also from a digital side, we do things like videos, and reels and little short clips to make sure that we’re driving the kind of key RT B’s, the benefits, the values, and just even the basics of like, this is how you use the device in 60 seconds like, get it got it good. And then I think really, then what are those other touch points, right? It’s everything from what’s in your box, right? Because we get in the box with a product in it, we have an ability, we have a quickstart guide in every box, that box has like 123 directions, really easy written on it, how to use it, but also the QR code on the back that goes to the How To videos. So if we’re not watching a reader, but you are a video watcher, you can get that kind of content and education. So I think is really about like, what are all the touch points you have. And making sure you’re driving that education in as many of those touch points as you can. And some of those are longer form like video, and some of them are the back of a postcard with marketing messaging, having a step 123 How to on the back, like setting aside a little bit of space in that promotional message to make sure you’re doing the education. I think it’s just a constant drumbeat we’re always working on hitting.

Lisa Buffo  34:02

Yeah, that makes sense. And I think too, with new technology. Depending on what age group you’re in, it can be very frustrating to learn and adapt to and like just continue to use. So being able to educate and explain allows that consumer adoption where oh, this actually is having the intended or desired effect. I was joking with our social media coordinator yesterday, like even just from a marketing perspective how there’s so many social media scheduling tools and listening tools and automation tools. And they’re all designed to make your life easier, but sometimes the tool itself can become more cumbersome to learn or integrate into your organization then, and you spend all this time managing it then the time it’s actually saving you to do the task it was designed to do and I think sometimes even with consumer products and technology that can happen to where if you get a new device, you need to learn how to use it and for that to click in quickly to make it a part of your routine and You know, be a loyal customer. So that I think you make a good point about the short form content that’s really simple and easy to digest that the consumer can hear and have in these different channels so that you’re being effective in your marketing messaging.

Shannon Reed  35:15

100%. I think a lot of that also comes back to the products like, I’m lucky, the guy that developed Omura, and Mike, who’s our CEO, you know, he has a deep technology background, he was innovating and doing research in this space for 20 years, the device is specifically designed to go against all the pain points that people have with vaporizers. Because we know it’s a better way for you to enjoy whole flower, we know it’s healthier for you, but a lot of people just don’t do it. And it’s like, why don’t they do it? Well, because you got to clean an oven, then you need alcohol, and then you got to make sure you don’t lose all the cleaning parts, and then you lose them. And then you didn’t clean it in time. And now you can’t get it clean, you know, just like there’s so many barriers to entry in various product categories. And I think making fun of the product from the ground up an engineer to help you get over some of those barriers, is super helpful as a marketer, and I feel really grateful, I’ve got a product like that. So shout out to the guys for making sure that we’re like overcoming some of those consumer hurdles from education stand-point.

Lisa Buffo  36:14

I don’t even think about that as a hurdle. But as a consumer myself, I’m like, That is totally the reason I don’t vape as much as I would like to is because it’s just sort of time and labor intensive. Even though it seems simple. It’s just like another step you have to take. So that’s really cool. Yeah. Awesome. So, um, I want to talk a little bit about how you view marketing in this space. So given your experience with Omura, and what you did at your brands before, what is some advice that you wish you had received at the beginning of your marketing career in cannabis, that you possibly learned the hard way, or has been really helpful for you?

Shannon Reed  36:55

I think, who I think get ready and get comfortable with change is one. And flexibility is too Right? I think compliance, you know, the rules are changing in California right now. The DCC is writing new rules, that’s going to happen, you know, doh is and that level of like, you know, in different states, you gotta submit your product to the D O H, they have to approve it, that sometimes takes two days, and then sometimes takes two months. And there’s not really a great way to know. So I’d say just like getting comfortable with that change in flexibility is one thing, I think, you know, second thing I would say is, don’t take a no as a no, like, don’t get defeated. Because I think it can feel really hard and really daunting when everything that you’re used to doing is not on the table anymore. And I think really thinking about different ways in is really helpful. And I would say three, like definitely reach out to people, like everyone I’ve worked with in this industry, whether worked with or just met for coffee has been so kind and so thoughtful, and so ready to have a conversation with you, or just try to help you figure it out. That it’s absolutely worth like asking. I’ve never experienced that in any other industry where everyone is just like willing to take the time to just work with you and figure it out. So those are the things I would say are just like, do them because it makes a big difference in your day.

Lisa Buffo  38:21

Yeah, and I like how you mentioned the gray area as almost a positive. Because I think some people, you know, there’s a tendency to see it as a negative, like, I wish it was more black and white. And I wish it was clear. But well, if that was the case, then there wouldn’t be this room to be so creative or find, like you said, don’t take no for the answer, like find the way through. So I like that you have that perspective on that. Because I do think there is a lot of room for creativity. And I’ve seen companies do some really cool interesting things. Because they were forced to think outside of the box because they didn’t have, you know, it laid out in black and white for them. So I agree. I’m glad you mentioned that. And then what are some ways that you see marketing impacting the future of the cannabis industry as a whole? What what is the role that marketing plays as far as the how this whole big experiment plays out at that federal level? And what’s your perspective on that?

Shannon Reed  39:18

So, you know, I think it comes a lot back to the education conversation we were having, right? I think marketing’s role in in so many ways is education for this industry. I think if we get it right, we’re gonna, you know, get through these next phases of legalization and without, you know, too much clamping down on the industry. I think if we get it wrong, I think it’s a little scary to me that they’re going to start topping out THC percentages or charging more for consumers for certain things. You know, I think we we live in a regulated environment, we’re going to live in a regulated environment. And so I think as marketers, it’s really important that we’re responsible in the way that we mark it, because otherwise they’re gonna gonna come in and tell us that we can’t do anything at all, or that we’re going to be over regulated, or they’re going to stop allowing us to make products that can do certain things. Because they’re just going to clamp it all down. So I think as marketers, it’s just really important that we’re responsible, whether it’s like, you know, everyone in our ads is 20, over 25, because we just don’t want to get into any gray zone. You know, I think it’s really about making sure that like anything we do we do responsibly, we do legally we do with compliance in mind, and we do, making sure that we’re doing that education for consumers, because I think, you know, a lot of people love, you know, tried cannabis 20 years ago, and then left it because, you know, they had a bad brownie incident. And now, they never want to try it again. And they have arthritis now. And they’re afraid to try a topical because they had that experience, right? Like, we need the tent to get bigger. And we need to welcome more people in. And I think we’ve got to be really responsible about how we do that and make sure that we educate them and bring them along the ride, so that they can figure out how to use this, this plant and this medicine responsibly, and in a way that like work for them.

Lisa Buffo  41:09

Yeah, I love that. And I think your point about honoring people’s experiences and what they’ve had in the past is really important, because that is, more often than not the case I’ve heard at least particularly with older generations is that yes, they did have one or two bad experiences, or they heard somebody who had a bad experience and then decided it wasn’t for them. And I always try to explain it’s very different with a right you know, when you can go into a dispensary and have a conversation with a budtender and find out what is the THC percentage, what is the delivery method that might work and have a little bit more control over that experience. And I think that is really a game changer. But it is on us to be able to communicate that effectively and thoughtfully and honor people who if that has been your experience in the past, you know whether or not you decide to try again, here’s here’s how it kind of works it today. So yeah, to be a bit more inclusive and thoughtful in our marketing. I think it’s great. Yeah. Awesome. Okay, Shannon, well, last question. What is your favorite part of the cannabis industry?

Shannon Reed  42:14

I think you probably can guess my answer at this point, people. Um, I think I just, I’ve been so grateful to everyone I’ve met, including you, Lisa. But just truly, I think everyone is generous, and everyone is kind. And I think we’ve all really come together. And we all often do come together, whether it’s physically or you know, spiritually, or however you want to say it. But I think everyone is always willing to help everyone else out. And, you know, and that’s little things, two big things. But I just felt like I found that people to be the most welcoming and kind of any industry I’ve ever worked in. So that’s my favorite.

Lisa Buffo  42:53

Yeah, I would agree. I would agree. And is there anything you haven’t said or mentioned that you want to just talk about before we go?

Shannon Reed  43:03

No, I mean, I think, you know, for us, we’re looking at a big expansion year this year. So you know, we’re expanding across Europe that will be kind of next on the list this year. So I’m really curious. Markets gonna look like, hopefully, Germany legalizes in like, 2022 2023. And that will be an interesting thing to see. But I think you know, we’re just continuing to look at a market that’s growing in a market, you know, that’s growing both in the cannabis and THC side, as well as the hemp CBD side. And what does that growth really look like? So I’m just really excited about the future.

Lisa Buffo  43:36

Awesome. I have to Yeah, Europe will be great to see what they do there and hopefully take some business trips abroad. For sure. Awesome. Well, Shannon, is there any contact information or websites you want to share with the audience? Before we go?

Shannon Reed  43:53

Yeah, everyone follow us at Amara Oh, am You are a on Instagram, and then our website is over a.com as well. So come check us out and sign up for our email list.

Lisa Buffo  44:04

Awesome. Thank you, Shannon, so much for joining us today and for sharing your time and insight.

Shannon Reed  44:11

Yeah, awesome. Thank you so much, Lisa.

Lisa Buffo  44:13

Okay, bye!

Shannon Reed  44:15

Bye!

Lisa Buffo  44:16

Thank you for joining us for another episode of Party like a marketer. Follow us on Instagram at party like a marketer and on our website, the cannabis marketing association.com And be sure to join us in person this June seventh through ninth for the annual cannabis marketing summit happening in Denver, Colorado. Check out our website for more details and membership information. We’ll see you next time.

Meet Your Host

LISA BUFFO, Founder and CEO of Cannabis Marketing Association

Lisa Buffo is an award-winning entrepreneur and marketer with a passion for launching companies with experience in both the cannabis and technology industries. Lisa is the Founder & CEO of the Cannabis Marketing Association, a membership based organization focused on education and best practices for industry marketers with the vision of rebranding cannabis at the national level. She was named one of 2019’s 40 Under 40 Rising Stars in Cannabis by Marijuana Venture Magazine in 2019 and named “The Marketing Guru” by Women & Weed magazine and is a featured speaker and media source in publications like Forbes, The Guardian, and VICE. You can find her on Instagram @libuff and Twitter @libuff21.

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