Party Like a Marketer Podcast

Episode 31: How Brands Are Using Cannabis NFTs

Episode Description

Lisa Buffo, Founder, and CEO of the Cannabis Marketing Association sat down with Katherine Wolf, Chief Marketing & Operations Officer at Malek’s Premium Cannabis, to discuss How Brands Are Using Cannabis NFTs.

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Lisa Buffo  00:00

Hi Everyone welcome to party like a marketer, the podcast dedicated to cannabis marketing, public relations and authentic storytelling. I’m your host Lisa Buffo, founder and CEO of the cannabis Marketing Association. You can connect with me on Instagram at Lee buff and Twitter at Lee buff 21. And don’t forget to join us at this year’s annual cannabis marketing summit this June 7 through ninth in Denver, Colorado for two and a half days of cannabis marketing speakers, best practices and networking over three stages and an outdoor lounge in the heart of Civic Center Park. The outdoor lounge will have yard games picnic tables, blankets, so join us to kick off summer. Today’s conversation features Catherine wolf, the chief marketing and operations officer at Malek’s premium cannabis. Catherine Wolf is a marketer, writer and branding specialist with a passion for helping cannabis companies grow and thrive. She started her cannabis career with a national hydroponics retailer and now serves as the CMO and CEO of Malek’s premium cannabis, a small batch Colorado cultivator focused on flavor first genetics. Okay. Hi everybody. Welcome to today’s episode of Party like a marketer, the podcast dedicated to cannabis marketing, public relations and authentic storytelling. I’m your host Lisa Buffalo. And today’s guest is Catherine wolf, the Chief Marketing Officer and the Chief Operations Officer for Malek’s premium cannabis, a boutique cannabis brand based in Denver, Colorado. Catherine, thank you so much for being with us today.

Katherine Wolf  01:47

Of course, thank you for having me. I’m super excited to be here.

Lisa Buffo  01:50

Yeah. So can you tell our audience a little bit about yourself? Tell them who is Catherine, how did you get involved with this industry? Where are you based? And tell us a bit a bit about the Malek’s brand as well, I know I know your story. And it’s so exciting hearing it every time. So let’s let’s tell our listeners a little bit too.

Katherine Wolf  02:11

For sure. So I was born and raised in Florida. And I have a degree in Marketing and Economics from the University of Tampa. And I actually started my career in kind of the marketing advertising agency setting really focused on tech, but got the opportunity to work with you know, b2b b2c clients, all the way from kind of the startup to the enterprise level in a variety of industries. So got you know, a lot of broad experience there but I really wasn’t super passionate about any of you know, the brands and industries I was working with, I always knew I wanted to work in cannabis and kind of live and work and illegal rec market. Um, I’ve been a personal cannabis user and lover for a long time. You know, marketing and branding is kind of my my niche professionally and kind of a personal passion. I’ve always been super fascinated by how kind of branding impacts the cannabis industry specifically. So I moved to Denver, I started working in the marketing department of a national growth supply retailer. Um, so I kind of got my foot in the door in a cannabis related industry, I learned a lot and made a lot of connections, but you know, still kind of wanted to be more on the cultivation side of things really in the industry. And when I moved to Colorado, I found the mouse brand. The pink packaging just kind of really stood out to me on the shelves and I had a budtender who made a really really impactful personal recommendation, tried the brand became a big fan, follow the socials, you know, just love the brand, and reached out to Malek and it was kind of the right place at the right time. And now I’m the Chief Marketing Operations Officer of mallex. Um, so we’re a small batch cultivator based in Denver, and we do small batches of eight to 10 lights per strain. Everything’s hand trimmed and packaged, slow cared. I’m so really focused on flavor and quality. I’m over kind of volume or anything else. So that’s a little bit of how I got here. And about Malek’s and I just I’m super excited. I feel like I’m you know, doing what I love every day and just, you know, really passionate about being in the cannabis industry.

Lisa Buffo  04:17

And tell us a little bit about Malek’s story if you don’t mind sharing it. He he’s been a grower for a while, right and he wanted to start his own brand. And that was kind of the the start of Malek’s premium cannabis.

Katherine Wolf  04:33

Yes, so Malek’s has won over 20 International Cannabis Cup awards. He’s really passionate about seed breeding and genetics and again, kind of finding the best tasting best quality cannabis for him to smoke himself and share with others. So it’s kind of a passion project of his, um, to start maps premium cannabis. And that’s kind of where we’re at now, Yeah.

Lisa Buffo  04:55

Nice. Okay, so let’s talk about some marketing strategies. We know that and small business owners, particularly license holders in the cannabis space have, you know, small part marketing budgets and it’s a really, it’s fierce competition out there as far as how many products are available for consumers and patients to choose from. And you you’re all adult use right in Colorado.

Katherine Wolf  05:19

Not recreational.

Lisa Buffo  05:20

Okay, cool. So tell us about some of the marketing strategies that you use at malek’s. And maybe first actually, if you could start with just talk a little bit about the brand. I know you’ve got that signature pink, Hallmark packaging, and colors that make for a really beautiful Instagram, but maybe if you could start talking about the brand and kind of the design and the inspiration behind it, and then some marketing strategies that you use to showcase that that premium quality product.

Katherine Wolf  05:51

For sure, So at the time on when Malek entered the legal rock market here in Colorado, he noticed there were a lot of brands doing the same colors, I’m obviously a lot of like greens and blues and purples and things, and there was not a single pink. Um, so that’s kind of where he was the pink packaging. And for those who are on video, um, this is what they look like right here. So we always say, kind of look for the pink pack. So that’s how the pink started. And we really kind of built a brand around that, um, again, we get a lot of feedback from dispensary buyers, and bartenders and things that people are like, what’s not paying, or they asked, Hey, I want that pink thing they come in, they’ve seen it on Instagram, they’re asking, you know, specifically for the pink. So we’ve really kind of created the brand around that. And we really focus on education in our marketing. So we’re always talking about how things are grown in smaller batches of eight to 10 lights per strain, you know, calling out that it’s hand trimmed, but it’s slow cured. What I really like to do a showcase on our Instagram, you know, the strains that are coming up, where they’re kind of at and the growing process like, hey, this panda puffs is, you know, headed to the cure room for a 12 day slow cure beyond shelf soon, or, you know, this one was just planted or it was just harvested, um, so really kind of showcasing in a timely manner, what’s coming out. And that kind of gets the customers excited. And they’re always, you know, DMing us or asking, Where’s the strain dropping, when is this one coming out, which are kind of framing it as our exclusive kind of limited smaller batches, it’s been super important in our marketing strategy. And then again, having some of our own process and if not accepted, a little bit more exclusive. A lot of people aren’t familiar with the strains that we have already, it’s not something that they’re maybe seeing in every dispensary, or can get a lot of places. So it’s super important for us to just educate them on what the crosses, you know, what the effects are. And the flavor profiles is really the most important thing for us being flavor first, I’m sure kind of shifting away. And I see this as an industry wide trend away from just labeling things as sativa indica hybrid or a strain name, and really focusing on the terpenes, the effects the experiences, the flavor. And again, that’s super important for us not having streams that maybe everyone’s already aware of. So we kind of have that extra, you know, education that we need to do. So I would say that’s been super successful for us. And then also really focusing more on kind of the lifestyle content. As I mentioned, kind of behind the scenes of the growth process profiles on team members. Um, you know, showcasing other brands and industry partners, we collaborate with kind of just, you know, having more variety of content, not just constantly showing product shots, or trying to sell something, you know, showcasing our events, things like that. Really just kind of curating like that lifestyle on aesthetic that people really want to be a part of, instead of just pushing sales, I found like you mentioned with the market being so competitive, that’s really what’s kind of building you know, the relationship with the consumer that keeps them coming back.

Lisa Buffo  08:48

And for those who don’t know, can you explain what slow cured means? And then can you talk a little bit about flavor first and how how you market that what that means and why that’s important to your brand.

Katherine Wolf  09:02

Definitely. So at Malek’s, we really believe the curing process is super essential to the end quality of the product, you can have, you know, great genetics that regrown very well and it can really lose the flavor and the quality in that fear process if it’s not done correctly. So we call it the dry room and you know, humidity and temperature controlled obviously and always sealed and closed and we slow cure our strains and they’re typically from 11 to 15 days really depending on the strain and our team can kind of eyeball it and see you know if this one’s ready this one needs a few more days I’m etc. And that just really seals in the moisture levels correctly and the flavors correctly and again with what we’re doing, you know, flavor first kind of our tagline. Malek and our team of growers are really selecting strains and finos that have the best taste they might not necessarily have the best of yield or other qualities and every grower is looking for different things you know, some are focused on on yield, some are focused on flavor like we are. And that’s kind of what we’re doing. So we really want to make sure that all of our strains have a really solid flavor profile, they taste the best. And that’s kind of what we’re doing with the flavor first, and also our tagline that we kind of live by with everything we do.

Lisa Buffo  10:17

Nice. Okay, that makes sense. And then tell me a little bit about some of the strategies you use as far as education. I know, this comes up a lot, and this podcast is that education is so important in this industry, because there is such a gap between what we as industry experts know and what the public knows if they’re not, you know, they’re like you in the grow every day. So how are some of the ways in which you approach education? And let’s start with that.

Katherine Wolf  10:45

Yeah, Instagram has been difficult. You know, I’ve tried to go shorter and sweeter with the captions and be a little bit more concise, saying words like terpenes, and indica or sativa, and kind of flag Instagram. So it’s hard to really be clear with education and use the proper terms on that platform. So I’ve kind of shifted to some other platforms and respond some our website, we recently relaunched, and we have extensive strain profiles and photos of all of our different strains, as well as what strains are dropping, which week our event schedule, um, kind of the media articles that were featured and things like that on our website. So just trying to drive people there and really house all the information there since we can be a little bit freer with what we want to say. And not really risk things getting getting flagged or taken down. Also doing pop ups at dispensaries. So we go to the dispensaries that we partner with and sell our products and we do pop ups our team is there, you know, we have display packaging and photos out and slide items and things and people can ask us, and that’s really effective, because they really focused on the streams that are obviously available in that dispensary. Um, so we can really make personal recommendations of like, hey, we have this year today, if you’re looking for this, I would try, you know, the strain over the strain of what what we have here right now. And then also just, you know, going out to industry events, networking with people talking to them about our strains and things like that. Before COVID. We did sessions with bud tenders. So we would invite a different dispensary staff and kind of let them try different strains and answer their questions that was really effective. Again, the budtender is so important in that education phase. And, you know, we’ve really been focusing on educating the end consumers and now I’m really trying to shift and kind of focus and strategize on educating those bud tenders. And one of the things that we’ve done recently is we’ve printed some strain postcards. So those have photos on our Instagram handle kind of like a little quick stat, if it’s an indica sativa, what Terps are in it kind of the flavor. And then it has a growers tag right up on the back, which is a paragraph that kind of describes the strain the strain, you know, what it is what it tastes like suggested use and we place those in the boxes when we’re delivering a strange way dispensary. So you know, when the buyer or the bud tenders open up the box to get the product, they can see that and get, you know, some additional info and then we leave them at the register and in the waiting rooms and things of dispensary so customers can grab those. And that kind of doubles as a really cool promotional kind of take home souvenir collectible postcard and also that education piece. So we find people kind of hang on to those try and collect them all type of thing. Um, so that’s been really effective for us. Just giving them something they can take that isn’t just a sticker or lighter or something cool. It kind of has a little bit more education on it as well.

Lisa Buffo  13:36

Yeah, that makes sense. And I think with education, well two things, your website is so important because it’s an own channel, it can’t get shut down in the way an Instagram page or Facebook page could. And it allows users to get to know you and know your story a little bit better, and capture things like email address and whatnot. So it’s an own channel that is you know, really important in cannabis marketing. And it also extends you know, packaging is small in this industry in this space. And I think you and I have talked about how Colorado in particular most of the flour is sold deli style. So it’s sold in these bigger jars and the bartender’s use tongs basically, you know, then they pick out the eighth, they put it in the what looks like a prescription pill jar, and then they you know, send it away with you. So the packaging space is very limited as far as what you can print for education. And also you don’t really get the package until after the sale has been made. So you need to find those ways to do education interact with the customer prior to that. So it makes sense that you know, these budtender sessions that you’re doing and the pop ups at retailers where you’re meeting that customer you know at the point of sale or before is really important. And I also liked that you’ve emphasized that you recognize that the budtender is also your customer it’s not just you know Lisa, the consumer or you know the person off the street it He’s also the budtender, who is making that recommendation. So I’m glad that you brought that up. I also want to talk a little bit about partnerships. So I just visited for Denver for for 20. I know I you guys were doing a pop up at cookies. And I saw you there with some of your team and a few other brands. But I know there were some other folks with you and you do some, some collaborations with artists as well as part of your brand, but also seems like great, you know, marketing strategy, and I bought one of the mallex handles that had the the Gordo scientific pieces. So can you talk a little bit about that and some of the partnerships you do. And particularly honestly talk about your hand rolls. So I thought that product was so cool. And what you do with the noodle.

Katherine Wolf  15:50

Awesome. So I’ll start with the hand rolls are kind of our flagship product. And they’re 1.75 grams, so half an eighth, it’s all of our premium cannabis, never any trimmer shake premium buds, I’m a tan ground hand roll, just like you would kind of roll. I almost say it’s more of a blunt size and a joint. It’s a big boy. And there are the pink lazy suits and paper. They’re also made in Denver believes you Susan’s and they support breast cancer awareness. So I love working with them. And the pink obviously, lines up, they’re there, they don’t use any saliva and they use a paintbrush and water and then the gluten free noodle tip is the crotch. So since this gluten free, it doesn’t really get kind of wet and mushy like a regular noodle might. And it’s the spiralized noodles. So it has that perfect spiral Aeroflow you don’t need to kind of twist the joint around like you normally would if you’re smoking it. And then the RIP tips. Gordo scientific is a super talented glassblower. He’s local to Denver as well. And he makes other glass as well. But his big thing is kind of us rep taps and they are a glass crutch tip that you can put in your joint. And they’re reusable. You can kind of wash them after you smoke and and keep using them. So they’re more recyclable and sustainable than a regular join tip. So I love that as well. And when we do collabs with him, you know every so often we did want cookies that was blue that had our logo on it kind of that match the cookies brand, we did a black one and gold for Halloween. So we kind of do different colors and different collabs. And we just had to draw it for 420. We did one at frost and one that cookies Denver. And this one was really cool was the first time we’ve ever done kind of a mix of tips. So it was more fun for the customer, you didn’t know which one you were gonna get. As opposed to in the past, we’ve done all of this in color and size, I’m in a box. And those are super fun, people love Gordo and come out and we love working with him and doing pop ups with him. That’s definitely one of my personal favorite collabs that we do. Again, we work with Lazy Susan and use their pig papers. And we have some gross supply partners that we work with, who really just helped us in our grow and we do events with them. I mean, again, I really have found that having these partnerships and collabing with other brands is super important. For us, it helps us just build industry relationships, and learn from other people that you know, are really doing awesome with what they do. And also it helps us kind of capitalize on their audience and maybe get our name in front of someone who wouldn’t find us otherwise. And I also feel like you know, when you already trust in like a brand, if they’re kind of wrapping someone it builds out immediate trust, and we’re like, oh, I kind of you know, and willing to try it and kind of trust that if they’re the same out there, you know, kind of on their level then that I’m willing to try it. So I think that’s been super valuable for us. And we just work with some really great people and everyone in the industry is just so communal. And I think people really want to work together and see each other succeed and just, you know, spread awareness of the plant and education and that’s really what we’re trying to do. So we love working with people that kind of have you know, same vision.

Lisa Buffo  19:02

Awesome. Yeah, And as I’m gluten free and Italian so I love the new gluten free noodle tips. I thought it was so cool. Little details that matter and add up the fact that it doesn’t get wet that it you know, it’s kind of sustainable as far as like you could compost it and the recyclable or reusable nests of the Gordo scientific, you know his tips as well. I just think that’s really cool. And it’s those little things that really make a brand kind of stand out and stand apart and also are very much so are in line with with Malek’s premium cannabis. I mean, those are premium offerings, those details those things really are a different experience. And if you just have you know, the rolling paper, pre rolls on kind of the cheap, I guess the live of based a pre roll so yeah, but I love that. Okay, so I want to ask a little bit about marketing with NF TS it’s a new channel No in the cannabis industry, I mean, if he’s our new in general, and we’re actually doing a session at our upcoming cannabis marketing Summit, this June 7 through ninth in Denver, of which Catherine is speaking. So if you’re going to be there, you’ll get to meet and see, Katherine. But tell me a little bit about how you market and how you incorporate NF T’s into your overall strategy.

Katherine Wolf  20:22

Definitely. So we use proof of presence and FTAs, it’s something I’m super excited about, we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on it. And it’s something especially in Colorado, not a lot of other brands are doing, I’ve seen some other kind of on a national level, but not really in our particular market too much. Um, so we do prefer presents and FTEs. So you come to one of our events, we have a unique QR code there, I mean, you have to physically be there to scan that particular QR code or different for every event, we do a different graphic. So it kind of creates that exclusivity of if you don’t come out and come, you won’t get that one, we may get one at a different event, but it’s not going to be you know, the same design, and I designed the NF T’s and we really try and make them you know, design them. Yes, so I design them. And then we work with J lodo. Nf T is super talented group of people that kind of help us, I say NFT yet, because it you know, I do not know how to do that part of it. But I designed the actual graphic. So you know, I’ll put kind of like what the event is make something you know, a graphic that’s fitting to that particular event. And then you just come out and you scan the QR code, you kind of register your wallet with your email address and a password. And then once you’re set up with that, you can come out to any of the events and scan and you got your QR QR code for that event and that NFT and it’s just as on a wallet on your phone, and you can look at them show people and then what we’re starting to do is basically invite people to our smoke sessions, or one of our events, or you know, something like that if you have a certain amount of NF T’s. So for example, you know, usually those sessions that we do are private events. And if you have five plus, you might be entered to win an invite to one of our stashes or a raffle or something like that. Um, so that’s kind of how we’re using them. I have, you know, my collection, I think I have nine right now I have all of them from all the ones so you’ve done and I’m seeing them super cool. And something a lot of people ask us about, people definitely come to the pop ups and walk up to our table and are like, I’m here to get the NFT or like, where’s the NFT. So that’s been super exciting to see people coming out. And as I mentioned, at first, we just kind of were doing it as another, you know, platform of marketing, again, just something kind of cool a customer can have and take with them and kind of, you know, just continue to nurture that relationship, or we’re kind of moving towards, again, kind of using it to continue, you know, building that relationship and kind of giving away prizes or advice and things like that. So super exciting to see where we’re gonna go with it and kind of how the technology is going to evolve. Again, we’re still kind of piloting things right now. But super excited to see where that goes.

Lisa Buffo  23:11

Yeah, that’s awesome. I know I got one when I was at your cookies pop up. And it was it was a really easy process. As far as you know, blogging in getting it and seeing it was very cool. But it takes the brand from the physical. It’s kind of that hybrid of you’ve got the physical product, the physical brand, the in person that connection, but also this way to connect through a digital community that isn’t just social media. And obviously with the Maleks, colors, that bright pink it it you know, it really resonates and is like very clear where this is coming from. So that’s really cool that you do that. And I didn’t realize you were the one who designed it.

Katherine Wolf  23:48

Nice. That’s always a fun one day when I have an event coming up and I’m like, Oh, I got to make an NF T graphic for this.

Lisa Buffo  23:55

Yeah, yeah, new part of the job for sure. So I’d like to ask you a little bit about some advice that you can share with young cannabis marketers who are perhaps new to the industry and looking to develop a brand, whether it’s their personal brand professional brand. You know, I know you’re you’re a young cmo as well, I was as well when I first started in this space. So what’s some advice you have for those maybe earlier in their career, or just getting started as far as you know, maybe things you wish you knew, or things you did learn? You know, along the way?

Katherine Wolf  24:30

For sure, I think the number one most important thing is to find a mentor, someone that you trust someone that you can go to and ask questions, someone who can give you advice, you know, look over your resume, look over your portfolio, just all of those little helpful things. I’ve found that having a mentor like that’s been really helpful for me and then I try and, you know, mentor those coming up beneath me, which has been really rewarding for me. I think when you’re trying to build a personal and professional brand either or it’s super important to do Let’s Be authentic. And you have to be willing to put yourself out there, network go to industry events, join groups, you know, like the CMA, you just have to put yourself out there. And I also would really recommend, you know, following industry Instagram accounts, subscribe to newsletters, you know, grab those magazines at the dispensary and kind of get yourself immersed in what’s going on in the industry. What terms people are using, what trends are really impacting things right now. And I think it’s super important in this industry in particular, again, to just really immerse yourself in what’s going on, and, you know, connect with other people in the industry as well. I think that’s, you know, really the most important thing is the relationships that you build.

Lisa Buffo  25:45

Yeah, very much. So I think this industry is for sure a relationship based and it’s still pretty small, and it’s growing quickly. But who you know, is important, you know, what, you know, is important, and things are changing so fast, and they will continue to be for a while that staying on top of what’s happening is is a big deal. And really critical, I think for for cannabis marketers, so. Okay, cool. And do you have a mentor that you’ve like connected with or someone that you has been really helpful for you? Like, how did you find? And if so, how did you find them? Like, how did how do you go about that process?

Katherine Wolf  26:22

Yeah, I mean, not sure if you realize, but I consider you honestly, you know, a mentor to me are super inspiring. And I believe I just kind of reached out to you and came to a CMA event. You know, as a as a fellow female in cannabis, you know, you really inspired me. And then Gloria, who is the owner of mobile farms, it is a farm out here in Washington, she has also been, you know, super inspiring, and a mentor to me, and I also met her I’m just going to a cannabis event that I was invited to. So again, you know, just going out to these events, whether it’s more of a sash or like a conference, or a CMA type, you know, educational event, joining industry, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, these are kind of all the places that I’ve met these people who have impacted me and learned a lot. So that’s really, you know, the best advice I can give and just don’t be afraid to reach out to people, I think people in this industry are super willing to help and want to talk to maybe younger people are people that are starting out and give their advice and insight and hopefully, help the next generation of people in cannabis, not make some of the mistakes, some things that we made just from trial and error. So, you know, that would just be my advice definitely, is to just get out there, put yourself out there reach out to people, if you think someone’s uninspiring, or you want to ask someone about something that they’re doing out there brand, you know, you just got to go for it. And the worst that can happen is they want to answer you and that’s fine move on track someone else. But I find most people in this industry are really willing to help out.

Lisa Buffo  27:57

Yeah, definitely. And it’s nice, and thank you, I didn’t know that. But it is nice that like events are coming back. And you know, we get to be in person. Again, I think the last two years were really rough for a lot of people. But particularly in our industry, when so many things are event based in relationship base that after, you know, doing things online for so long, it’s really refreshing to get back in person and I, you know, cannot wait for the summit in June and to see everybody and to, you know, do that and bring all these conversations to real life. So yes, that is that is awesome. So what are some of the ways like I’m gonna kind of talk about the big picture as well, that you think like the role that marketing plays in growing this industry? Like, what, what’s the big picture here with everything that everyone is doing? Do like where marketing is going in cannabis? And if not, like, what would be some suggestions you would have? Or you want to see, you know, brands pay attention to a little bit more?

Katherine Wolf  28:56

Yeah, I think the way marketing is growing cannabis, you know, is really impactful. I think, you know, as more states continue to go from medical to rock or start medical, you know, either way, as more brands are entering the market, you know, the competition is already very tough. There’s already barriers to entry, there’s already a lot of competitors already. And so as more and more enter are just going to obviously become more competitive. And I think companies will, you know, continue to need to innovate, offer new products, you know, market in different ways and just find ways to connect with customers that kind of, you know, creates that attachment. I think in the cannabis industry, one of the most difficult things is people want to try a lot of products. So they might try our product and love it, but it’s getting them to come back and buy it again, instead of just, oh, I want to try something else now. So I think that that marketing piece and branding really comes into play there of kind of getting people you know, attached with your brand because it aligns with their lifestyle. They want to continue to support you long term. So that’s right It really plays the biggest role. Sorry, my dogs are up here with some of the ways that I think maybe it can hold the industry back a little bit, it’s just brands need to be really careful about, you know, being compliant with their marketing, from, you know, getting fined to getting Instagram pages shut down, that can be super impactful. Just because it kind of kills your brand awareness immediately. If you have an Instagram page that has a lot of posts, a lot of followers a lot of engagement, and that gets shut down. And you have to start from square one, you know, having a page that has like 20 followers, and a couple of posts just doesn’t look as legitimate to customers and other brands and want to partner with you. So I can really affect your brand. So I think just making sure that you’re staying compliant, as you know, companies scalar marketing, and then also just losing sight of the product quality is something that I think really needs to be top of mind. And the marketing needs to be balanced with, you know, the product. So it’s kind of twofold, I think you can have the greatest cannabis product in the world. And if nobody knows about it, you know, that’s not really gonna get you anywhere. At the same time, if you go out there and market your product really heavily and successfully. But customers try it and they don’t have a good experience or what you marketed you know, wasn’t, you know, really what they had that experience with, that can actually really backfire and do more harm than good. And if your product doesn’t back where you’re standing in your marketing, you know, that can cause a huge problem down the line. Um, so, you know, well, marketing is, again, obviously essential, and I think playing a huge role in the industry. Again, I think just you know, making sure you’re compliant and making sure that your actual product and brand is backing, what you’re putting out in your marketing and advertising. Those are kind of the two keys to keeping it, you know, going upward and not necessarily pulling things back.

Lisa Buffo  31:53

Yeah, I agree. I think it is a tough line. And I mean, there’s the compliance side as far as the law and the physical locations, and you know, all the things you need to follow as well. But then, there’s also what’s happening on Instagram and social media, which is a little bit more subjective, as far as they don’t like the promotion of cannabis content in general. Definitely not anything that alludes to the sale. So when it comes to marketing, you’re kind of walking this really fine line of what is, you know, content that would be compliant by law that isn’t necessarily something Instagram wants on their platform, or, or would you know, take off anyways, and consumers still very much so rely on social media and that community engagement to evaluate, I think you said it really well, like evaluate the legitimacy and quality of the brand based on their following the the quality of the pictures that they’re being posted and the content that’s being put out there. So, you know, bringing back to our earlier point about having these things like your own channels, your own website, where you have full control over that content can change, it can monitor the traffic and you know, you’re not subject to social media are really important as well to building that brand legitimacy. So if your accounts are to get shut down or something were to happen, you’re still able to direct folks to a place where you control that message. And they’re able to engage and interact with you and learn about you. So yeah, all very good points, for sure. And where do you see the industry headed in the future? both industry and marketing? Like where do you see the future of cannabis going? And do you have any like fun, exciting new or different marketing initiatives on your timeline or horizon coming up?

Katherine Wolf  33:41

For sure. So unfortunately, I don’t think you know, there will be federal legalization in the next year or so. But you know, hoping in three to five years, that’s kind of where we’re at. But in the meantime, you know, my hope for the future of cannabis. And that it’s safer for brands to operate and safer for customers to shop and consume cannabis, you know, from banking regulations to security in the dispensaries and just not shopping experience for customers. I know in Washington There was recently a wave of you know, violent robberies in dispensaries and people should not be going into a dispensary to legally buy cannabis and have to, you know, worry about their safety and worry about that. So that’s just really my hope, and that no one is in prison for cannabis or you know, can’t get a job because they use cannabis. You know, there’s still a stigma especially I think for professionals using cannabis for parents using cannabis. And so I think we still have a lot of work to do with regards to just D stigmatizing and doing policy reform, which is why we work with last prisoner project, just to spread awareness for that cause. I’d also love to see more women in leadership and the industry. You know, I don’t think there’s enough of us as founders and you know, executive level professionals. Um, but we’re getting there. So, you know, I think things are improving and growing every day, I think cannabis being deemed essential during the pandemic was a huge step to kind of get that legitimacy and D segmentation. And as far as marketing goes, I think, you know, again, continuing to kind of use these other platforms like NF T’s like discord, like doing merch lines, you know, doing in person events that are, you know, kind of coming back to being in the norm, I think those are kind of the places where you can have Freer conversations, and really show off your brand in a way that, you know, isn’t as possible on Instagram. So I think that’s kind of where things are moving. You know, we have some more apparel projects in the works, which I’m super excited about, um, some other brand partnerships. Some other events, we’re doing a music festival at the end of May, which are just things like that, you know, I’m super excited about we have a lot of things coming up soon, and just continuing to grow and innovate in the industry. And again, you know, advocate for people being able to get, you know, safe access to cannabis education and cannabis products.

Lisa Buffo  36:09

Yeah, yeah, all of that is very much so the case. And I agree with you, I think people love to think about when it’s federal legalization going to happen, and it just seems to keep getting kind of kicked down the timeline. And so you know, in a way for small business owners, that gives them a time to, you know, innovate, move forward, keep growing their business. While some of these, you know, barrier players aren’t in this space yet, from outside of the industry, but it it does, you know, hinder what we can do, and access to certain things as well. Um, okay. And then lastly, I actually wanted to ask you about your packaging. I know, when you took me through a tour, when I was there, over 420, you had these packages that basically these boxes were the top rips off and correct me if I’m wrong, but you’ve got your pre rolls right in there. So they work to deliver to retailers, but they also literally work as a point of sale display. Can you tell us a little bit about your packaging, how you approach it, and you know, just kind of comment on the how you approach packaging at Malek’s?

Katherine Wolf  37:18

Sure. So all of our products are, you know, delivered to the dispensary in displayable boxes, or eights come in a box, that’s, you know, bright pink, it has our logo, it’s branded, and then our handles come in a branded box as well, that, as you mentioned, is perforated and you can pull the top off and kind of fold it up, and it has our logo on it, it kind of turns it into a beautiful display case, or all the joints stand up and I can kind of be right there in the case or behind the glass, you know, as is. And then we also do one gram, but cones, um, and they are also in a box where they’re all kind of standing up and perforated. And that can be displayed as well. That’s been super helpful for us. I kind of as you mentioned, in Colorado, the norm is deli style. So most things are a package. So I think it’s a huge immediate differentiator to see, you know, a beautiful branded box, and you can kind of see the individual packages, and also, you know, see the brand logo and the colors, as well. And again, people ask, like, what does that pink thing, you know, what are those pink tubes. Um, so it’s been super valuable for us. And there’s an immediate way to stand out, grab the consumers attention. And, you know, I think our product speaks for itself, they try it, they love it, and they come back and are like, I want you know, the match again, or the pink thing. And it’s also really great, very shareable people, you know, post the packaging on their stories and tag us. Whereas a lot of times, I think if you’re getting something deli style, or just like a pre roll and a plain tube, for example, there’s really not as much of, you know, a reason to share that. So kind of from the shareability side, and just grabbing and keeping the customers attention. That’s been super important for us. And it’s also I think it just doubles down to as you know, we have to put it in something to deliver it to the dispensary anyways. So we’re really just making the most out of the marketing opportunity at kind of every stage of the supply chain.

Lisa Buffo  39:20

Yeah, that makes sense. Okay, cool. Well, is there anything else you want to mention that we haven’t discussed yet?

Katherine Wolf  39:31

You know, just kind of wanted to touch upon my favorite part of cannabis marketing, which I would just say is the fact that I’m never bored. Well, in a lot of other industries, I feel like you’re constantly and this is what I experienced in the agency setting, which is kind of how I knew it wasn’t for me. You know, you’re doing the same messaging on the same platforms, you know, the same kind of campaigns over and over again. You know, I found working with a lot of different clients who were doing the same thing. For all of them, and I actually had a manager say to me, you know, why are we trying to reinvent the wheel for these clients and our marketing strategies, let’s just keep doing the traditional marketing, you know, it works well enough, like, it’s fine. And I feel like in cannabis, we’re almost encouraged to and have to reinvent the wheel all the time. You know, traditional marketing tactics don’t always work. There’s a lot of channels that other industries can use that aren’t even available to us. And there’s a lot of barriers to marketing, you know, you need to make sure that a person’s 21, you need to make sure they’re in a legal state, you have to have these, you know, things on your website and your Instagram bios. So you’re always thinking outside the box to market effectively, in a way that’s exciting, but that’s also compliant. And there’s always something new to learn, you know, a lot of times you think, you know, something, and then the, you know, the regulation changes, or you know, kind of the best practice evolves. And you always have to be able to pivot, even if you think you have a marketing plan or a marketing strategy. I guarantee that it’ll never go exactly according to plan in this industry. And it just keeps me on my toes and keeps me excited. And I feel like I’m always learning and growing and kind of along with the brand along with the industry, and along with all these other professionals in the industry as well. So it’s just really exciting. And I feel super fortunate to kind of, you know, have my dream job for my dream brand and continue to do, as I said, just you know, advocate for education and access and equity in the cannabis industry and super excited to kind of see where things go. I think, you know, it’s only up from here. And you know, we’re focused on kind of crushing Colorado for the moment, but super excited to see kind of where cannabis goes nationally.

Lisa Buffo  41:52

That’s awesome. I’m glad I’m glad you added that at the end. So Catherine, where can our listeners find you or Malek’s? Is there any Instagram handles or website you want to share?

Katherine Wolf  42:04

For sure our Instagram is mallex underscore premium underscore cannabis. And then we also have Malek’s underscore handles, which is the handle specific Instagram account from our website is maps premium You can find all of our locations our event schedule, our drop schedule, strain and profiles more about our story on our website. And then we also are always posting on our Instagram or events where our pop ups are things like that. Feel free to anyone add me on LinkedIn, if you have a question DM the Instagram account. We always love to answer people and reshare things that were tagged in. And yeah, we’re across Colorado and dispensaries. You know, we’re in Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, kind of all over. So check out our website and find the nearest dispensary to you. And if you need a straight recommendation or have any questions, please reach out and we’d love to help you. You know, find the right strain for you.

Lisa Buffo  43:05

Awesome. And Catherine will be at the Cannabis marketing Summit. She’ll be speaking Malek’s premium premium cannabis will be there at our Tuesday night welcome reception and pop up. So if you haven’t bought your tickets to the summit, make sure to join us in June and Denver. And I guarantee you’re gonna have a good time.

Katherine Wolf  43:24

Yes, we can’t wait to be there. And I hope to see some of you and meet you. And that everyone comes out super excited about it.

Lisa Buffo  43:31

Yes. So Katherine, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today. And sharing all of your insights. We really appreciate it.

Katherine Wolf  43:40

For sure, Thankyou for having me and look for the pink pack out there.

Lisa Buffo  43:45

Okay, bye, everybody.

Katherine Wolf  43:47


Lisa Buffo  43:49

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 And be sure to join us in person this June 7 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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