Party Like a Marketer Podcast

Episode 42: Brand Health Insights: Matching Consumer Profiling with Messaging to Create Customer Loyalty

Episode Description

Lisa Buffo, Founder, and CEO of the Cannabis Marketing Association sat down with Bethany Gomez, Managing Director at Brightfield Group, to discuss Brand Health Insights: Matching Consumer Profiling with Messaging to Create Customer Loyalty.

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Lisa Buffo  00:12

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, Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a message I’d love to hear from you. Today’s conversation features Bethany Gomez, the co founder and managing director at brightfield group, Bethany has established herself as a trailblazer in emerging markets with a focus on cannabis CBD and wellness, as Managing Director and co founder Bethany’s commitment to leadership and storytelling through meaningful data has positioned the company as an industry leader, playing a crucial role in shaping the cannabis, CBD and wellness industries from both a consumer and market perspective. She has been featured and quoted in numerous media outlets, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN, Bloomberg, Yahoo, finance, and more. Bethany, thank you so much for joining us, and welcome to the show.

Bethany Gomez  01:11

Absolutely. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks, Lisa.

Lisa Buffo  01:13

Yes. So for our guests, can you tell them a little bit about yourself? What brought you to cannabis? What is your role at brightfield group? And then tell us a little bit about brightfield as well? What’s brickfields Focus? And what’s the role that brightfield plays in the industry?

Bethany Gomez  01:30

Absolutely. Well, prior to starting in the cannabis space, my background was in mainstream CPG market research, which really focusing in on emerging markets. So I used to cover crazy, rapidly moving markets in places like Mexico and Latin America, looking at foodbev supplements, you know, the a lot of the adjacent categories to cannabis. Back in 2015, I helped to co found the company with our CEO, Patrick Hayden. And, you know, we really thought at that time, you know, for those of you have been in cannabis for quite a while, cannabis was a very emerging market, and especially at that time, still is and so as we kind of first started the company, we really, I really wanted to apply a lot of the same methodologies and the same approach to looking at the cannabis market to really measure what’s really hard to measure and be able to really understand this crazy rapidly emerging market and a great deal of depth. So that was kind of the the impetus. For me getting into this. We first started brightfield again, back in 2015. And, you know, at the time, we really launched the company looking at how, where’s the market today? And how is it? Where is it moving? It became pretty clear early on that this was what was really going to move the market and cannabis was going to be the consumer, who is that consumer? How is that evolving, being able to look at the evolution of an illicit market into a legal market, you know, the future in the success of this was always going to, you know, really kind of come down to that consumer. So we wanted to be able to understand that consumer and a great deal of depth. So that’s really what we do, you know, the core of what we do, we’re consumer obsessed at brightfield, you know, we do great deal of consumer surveys, we also integrate those surveys directly with social listening. We use social listening, and a lot of different ways to help you know, really bolster and understand and get a lot of, you know, qualitative insights on what’s, what the cannabis consumers are thinking. And, you know, be able to use that, as you know, supplements for the deeper dive consumer surveys. And what we’ve launched more recently, which is brand health work. So this has given us the ability to work really closely with a lot of the top marketers in the space over the last, you know, five to seven years here and be able to really see not only the evolution of the cannabis consumer, but how they are reacting to brands in this rapidly emerging market.

Lisa Buffo  04:08

That’s awesome. So you’re bringing CPG best practices as far as this consumer research and market research to cannabis. Can you speak a little bit about what were some of those industries or products specifically, before you started brightfield group? You said you’d mentioned Mexico like that were related or adjacent to cannabis. What were those?

Bethany Gomez  04:27

Yeah, so I used to cover packaged foods, drink alcohol, tobacco, even things like you know, retail consumer food service and things like that. So in the as well as the like OTC healthcare market supplements, market and things of that nature. So they all really have some level of touch points into the cannabis space and, you know, health and wellness products as they fit into those, you know, food and bath markets. And, you know, one thing that I found from looking at, you know, Working on emerging markets, especially in a place like Mexico, where you, you’re never going to have one magical data source that’s going to answer all of your questions. Because the market is so fragmented, so fast moving, you know, as well as you know, just include so many informal channels, that, you know, the traditional methods of market research fall flat in a lot of different ways. So you have to really be creative about the way that you’re thinking about methodologies to really understand, you know, and get a full view of the consumer. So, you know, while we’re looking at this through the same lens, in our applied a lot of these best practices from CPG, we also really had to be really creative early on to understand and, you know, apply to be creative about capturing data, where consumer patterns are not as established as they are in CPG. You know, well, cannabis, you know, you hear all the time that, you know, cannabis is a CPG industry, and it’s becoming a CPG. Industry. And, well, it is becoming a CPG. Industry, and, you know, it’s well on its way, right now, there’s a lot of nuances to that. And there’s a lot of areas where it’s, you know, it’s it differs from CPG. And you have to really understand these, you know, these very fast moving and nuanced nature of the market. So this is where we took kind of some of the standard, you know, CPG methodology in terms of things like, you know, survey research with very strong robust sample sizes, but also had to be really creative to like, understand, you know, those consumers in a lot more depth, and be able to be really scrappy, to provide the level of depth that our clients are going to want. And, you know, quite frankly, startup level budgets, right. You know, cannabis, you know, in 2015, there was not a company in this industry that had, you know, the kinds of budgets that people would expect, and, you know, CPG, and still, today, most of the companies operating in this space, need to be scrappy, they need to be a lot more, you know, agile than, you know, the big CPG companies. So, you know, we always looked at it, as you know, we want to be able to apply, you know, the rigor that you can see, or the level of, you know, the level of seriousness to our data and the, you know, the the backbones of our data that you would get from a CPG space, but be able to really adjust our strategies to be able to work in this market to really understand the crazy emerging cannabis consumer landscape as it is today. And as it evolves, right?

Lisa Buffo  07:30

Yes, and I’m really glad you mentioned this creative approach to a fragmented data set and market because I think that also applies on the individual business level, and for the individual marketer, where I talk with folks all the time on this podcast, and in CMA. And it can often feel overwhelming, where if it’s not, like you think about data very logically, like it should be very black and white. And there’s one right answer, but that’s not the case in this space. And often things are separate. And I just, I’m just so glad you mentioned about having a creative and nuanced approach to something that if you’re not data focused, or that’s your core competency, thinking that oh, it has to be this one way, and being able to glean insights from it that you can then use and take action on as opposed to feeling like, Okay, this doesn’t, this isn’t super black and white, so then I can’t touch it at all, or I’m operating off of perhaps even faulty assumptions is that that’s not necessarily true, you just have to consider it, and be creative and do your best. So I just really appreciate that insight of that creative lens. Because I think sometimes in these marketing conversations, it’s like creativity is over here. And data is over here. And that’s not necessarily the case.

Bethany Gomez  08:42

Absolutely, I mean, I think we see we’ve worked with a lot of folks who have, you know, come over from CPG, straight into cannabis. And, you know, a lot of them, you know, when they first come in, they’re applying some of the same, you know, the same mindset as you have from CPG, which is good, you know, that’s what they were hired to do. But we have to really understand kind of a lot more of the nuances of the cannabis space and you know, really embrace some of the messy and, you know, there there’s, you know, there aren’t, the things aren’t always going to perform the way that you expect them to, or there’s not always going to be those, you know, cold, hard, you know, lines in different directions, which is why it’s so important to use things, you know, like social listening or to you know, really get into a lot of these attitudes and behaviors to really understand your consumers at their core and really be able to pressure test a lot of your assumptions coming in. You know, one thing we see you know, I’ve seen a lot of mistakes on in the cannabis space, you know, throughout is that people are oftentimes come in with their their view on who they think that cannabis you know, their consumer is or who they think they should be marketing to. And they don’t necessarily pressure test those assumptions or really try to like understand at that deeper level, whether that’s actually good way to connect with, you know, their consumers at the core, right? There were a lot of, you know, movements early on to try to sanitize this to make it, you know, really appealing to a lot of, you know, people that had never tried, you know, a lot of the newbies, you know, the suburban moms and the, you know, baby boomers and a lot of, you know, consumers with a lot of, you know, ignoring some other, you know, the size and the sheer magnitude and the loyalty and just, you know, cultural, you know, affinity towards cannabis, with this very large base over here. Yeah, chasing here, when you can chase here and really understand how well these consumers could connect with your bit, you know, with your products, while understanding that these, you know, consumers may not be quite as, you know, as ready yet or, you know, we’ve seen so many marketers that try to market to themselves, right, you know, they, they’re, they may be cannabis users, and then they see themselves in this, you know, Persona and try to just market to themselves, and then you know, not necessarily realize that they’re, their consumer is, at their core, and some of the stuff that’s a little bit mushy, and data, you know, but comes through, if you kind of get to know the attitude, and on the behavioral and a lot of the, you know, a lot of the, you know, the qualitative side of this, you know, they kind of missed those, those nuances and those differences about those consumers, and why they’re looking for these products, why they’re using cannabis and what it means to them. And so, you know, those those areas are really what, you know, what really makes this industry tick, people are so passionate about cannabis, people, you know, use cannabis, and it’s a really important part of their life, for many people are a really important part of, you know, of, of what they do, you know, have their identity even, or has a really important part of their wellness routines and, and being able to really understand kind of the the nuances of that, and feel free to meld kind of both the creative with the data and get the data to kind of talk to you is, I think, where we’ve seen the most success in marketers.

Lisa Buffo  12:11

So I want to get into the brand health and some of that data a little bit. But first, I want to talk about some of the high level trends you’ve been seeing from 2015 to now as far as the consumer. So what, where were things when you started? Where are things now? What’s sort of the the forest and then we’ll get into the the trees a little bit?

Bethany Gomez  12:32

Yeah, absolutely. So, we have seen some really significant shifts, both in you know, the consumer itself as though as well as kind of the way that you know, the market, or marketers are looking at, you know, the the cannabis consumer, you know, when, you know, the first brands first started launching large scale marketing efforts, there was a lot of this, you know, goal to target and a lot of money spent on targeting a lot of these, you know, new users, or people who might be kind of curious, right? And, you know, well, there are cannabis is becoming more socially acceptable, and we’re getting a lot of, you know, we are getting some new users, you know, into the category, we see a lot of those newer users coming in as more occasional users or, you know, our medical users. Meanwhile, what we’ve seen is, you know, amongst this, we’ve seen some incredible trends emerging amongst, you know, in generational shifts amongst Gen Z and younger millennial consumers, a lot of these consumers that have kind of come of age in an era of legal cannabis, right. And the, you know, while there’s a lot of different consumer segments and personas within this and a lot of nuances within this, we see a lot of similarities here with, you know, these consumers that are really route completely rethinking their relationship with alcohol, are thinking about alcohol and weight different ways. You know, then, you know, that previous generations had really looking to cannabis in different ways, particularly women, this was, you know, back in 2015, this was a heavily male industry, a heavily male consumer segment. I mean, some of those first, you know, brands were, you know, had scantily clad women on their logos, and, you know, we’re trying to, you know, really target kind of more of a bro crowd. And, you know, especially when you look at, you know, the consumer trends right now, Gen Z women are an incredible force that is driving, you know, consumer purchasing, and they’re not necessarily looking at cannabis in the same way as a lot of people would project women to look at cannabis, right. You don’t have to have, you know, this doesn’t have to be you know, necessarily girly products or, you know, conventionally girly products. But, you know, really understanding kind of what what makes these consumers tick, you know, and you know, there’s there are a lot of stuff clarities B beneath that, but a lot of people are really missing and kind of underestimating that, you know, the power of those Gen Z women. And, you know, there’s only a few years worth of, you know, a few years worth of Gen Z women that are actually of age right now, this is going to continue to evolve year over year over year and going to be an even more impactful force in our, in the cannabis industry. And one that is, you know, is really underrepresented. We there’s been lots of other interesting trends, we have seen some level of, you know, development of, you know, of baby boomers, you know, that have, you know, our we call them the boomerangs, you know, that are kind of coming back to cannabis now that it’s legal for all of their aches and pains and things like that. When one thing just anecdotally, that was really interesting to see was, as soon as all of the boomers got their first vaccines, the percentage of baby boomers that were purchasing cannabis just shot through the roof was like they got their backs and went straight out to the dispensary kind of leveled out a bit there as well. But, you know, really, as well, we’re seeing, you know, well, a lot of people predicted early on that there would be this, you know, this kind of mainstream nature kind of sanitized nature of, you know, the cannabis industry. What we’re seeing right now, and this comes through in a lot of the, you know, some of the brain health data that we’re seeing today as well is that some of these brands that are really trying to resonate with these, you know, the cannabis culture and really trying to, you know, speak to people who are, you know, very love cannabis that just really love cannabis are really passionate about their products and really kind of ring true to that kind of core heavy user are seeing some of the most success. And that’s the last time I would, you know, the two trends kind of wrapped in one that I’d highlight there, you know, the percentage of Americans that are using cannabis continues to climb, and the percentage of Americans that are heavy users of cannabis is really astronomical, you know, we now see that more than two thirds of cannabis consumers are using at least daily. So this is a very large, robust, you know, percentage of the population that’s using cannabis on a daily basis that is, you know, using really consistently, and, you know, it’s looking at this from a bit more of a cultural perspective, and this is what’s given rise to some of the success of brands, like, you know, cookies and jungle boys, who have gone into very heavily dominated MSO markets, and, you know, seen some immediate traction, we see their, you know, their brands spike up in terms of, you know, brand awareness, brand loyalty, you know, favorite dispensaries, you know, a lot of those, you know, loyalty metrics there, a lot of those, you know, strong consumer reaction there, because they kind of haven’t tried to go the sanitized route, they have tried to really, you know, connect with, you know, some various segments of consumers, and, you know, really make this resonate with them.

Lisa Buffo  18:20

That’s interesting. So you’re saying two thirds of consumers are now daily users? And you’re Are you also seeing that the majority of that within the two thirds, is that younger, millennial Gen Z. Group? Or are we Is that accurate? Or are we starting to see that also increase in older folks? As far as daily use?

Bethany Gomez  18:43

Yeah, so we’re seeing that tick up in terms of really across the spectrum, we’re seeing that tick up that daily usage tick up. But younger consumers certainly are a larger percentage of the population as well.


Lisa Buffo  18:59

Okay, that makes sense. All right. So then let’s talk about brand health a little bit. I know you’ve been studying this for a few years, we actually had a great presentation from Claire Kaufman last year about brand health that I’ve cited over the last 12 and a half months, repeatedly. So can you tell me a little bit about just speak to it? What is the study? What are you tracking? And what have you seen?

Bethany Gomez  19:23

Yeah, so brand health is an incredible tool for marketers to really understand, you know, how you’re resonating with consumers, and how this compares visa vie your competition. So a lot of our clients will use it use this to help really diagnose what problems they are trying to solve for. Right. And the way that this study works is you’ll feel on what you’ll ask consumers, okay, what brands are you aware of, of those brands that you’re aware of? Which ones would you consider purchasing? Which of those that you would consider purchasing which will you go on to purchase and which will you intend to repurchase this gives you this, this nice can funnel, you know, your purchase funnel that allows you to understand, okay, first of all, do you have an awareness problem, right? Do people know who you are, if no one knows who you are, if your consumers don’t know who you are, you’re gonna have a really hard time getting them to, you know, driving loyalty or driving success for your brand. And you may need to be pouring your money into top of the funnel marketing efforts, right? If people are aware of you, but they aren’t going to consider purchasing you, this really means that your message isn’t landing, right? You know, we see, you know, this is a good gauge, you know, we oftentimes see with celebrity brands, for example, you’ll get very high awareness, but you know, if there’s a lack of authenticity there, they’re not you those consumers aren’t going to go on and consider purchasing them. It’s like, okay, yes, I’ve heard of that. But next, right, not going to happen. If your consideration to purchase is low, that usually means you’re you’re losing at shelf, right, you know, is that you may want to be investing in budtender education, you Nene may need to be looking at your you know, in store activations, or your pricing strategy. Or if it’s a digital, you know, focus, you know, then you know, your E commerce and you know, the your websites and things like that, but really kind of getting that, you know, those barriers to purchase, as well as really understanding that feedback on the product or, you know, feedback on the same funnels work for dispensaries in through the retail channel, that consumer reaction to your, you know, to your experience, are they going to shop there again? Are they going to buy your product again, and why? Right? So this gives you an incredible toolkit to be able to really understand how how brands are competing against each other, as well as to really understand who is your consumer, you know, as a marketer, you will have in your mind who you’re trying to target, you know, who is your segment? Who is that persona of consumers that you’re trying to target? Or your different, you know, personas? Are you hitting them, you know, we have oftentimes seen with, with brands, that they’ll think that they’re targeting, you know, suburban moms, and then it’ll come back and it’s like, actually, you got Gen X Men is, you know, or like you think you’re targeting, you know, these, you know, 20 enthusiast or you think you’re, you know, targeting a certain, you know, persona of, you know, of, of consumer, and what comes back is like, oh, no, you’re not resonating with those, that message isn’t landing with those, but it’s actually resonating over here. So that’s a great way to be able to understand like, Okay, do I need to refine the message to go after my core? Or do I need to, you know, really look at you know, a different angle and target, you know, lean into where am I most successful and understand why. So, the these are incredibly rich toolkits. And we’ve been doing this in, we first launched a syndicated brand health tracker in the CBD space in the Canadian cannabis space, back in 20 2019, early 2020. In the, you’ll remember LeSean that last year, we did a, you know, a report like a an individual report on the California and Colorado market. In the US cannabis space, running this obviously, in the US space, since we’ve got every category has its own competitive set, every you know, has its own brands, every state has its own brands, it’s a more complicated thing to syndicate. But we found by working with, you know, we’ve done a great deal of work on a customized basis in brand health tracking with many of the top, you know, MSOs portfolios of brands, as well as, you know, individual brands, you know, in the US market over the last year and half and found that it was it was time, right, it was really time to be able to roll out a syndicated brand health tracker within the US cannabis space. So that’s where we’ve really been focused, and what we’re rolling out here in q4. So we just last month rolled out our retail brand health tracker. So we’ve got data on about the top 10 markets or so in the around the country to really understand how these retail brands are measuring up against each other and what consumers have to say about them. And then, you know, coming out here next month, we’re so excited. So it was about to come out of the field, on products brand health account and about the the top 12 markets around the country, category by category by category. You know how each brand is really measuring up against the competition and in the minds, hearts and minds of the consumer in the cannabis space as well.

Lisa Buffo  24:40

And I remember from last year’s presentation when Claire talked about this study, and I spoke about it that I cited it heavily at Blizzcon last year, but what I remember from the big takeaways were that consumers are brand loyal. And for a lot of brands if they have that top of funnel awareness, there was actually The quite high conversion down the funnel? Has that. First of all, am I citing that correctly? And it has that changed?

Bethany Gomez  25:08

Yeah. So,you know, I think you’re, you’re spot on in a lot of ways. And we found when looking at that first study in California, for example, that consumers were overwhelmingly satisfied with the products that were in the market, which essentially, that means there’s a lot of really good weed in California. It’s great. So what that means, as a marketer is okay, you’re not gonna be able to differentiate a lot on your actual products, like, you can have your, you know, your nuances, your attributes around it, but generally to consumers, it’s all pretty good, right? So beyond that, how do you resonate with those consumers, you know, who is actually winning, and that’s where you know, where the job of the marketers is becoming more and more important in cannabis, that’s what really differentiates. And what we have found, you know, and this is even accelerated, since the first study we did is that, you know, brands are starting to matter to consumers, both in these, you know, really, you know, some of the more mature markets, like, you know, Colorado and California, but even some of more of the, you know, the newer markets as they open up, brands do matter to consumers, they are, you know, a big differentiating point, that is, you know, really key in their decision making. And they are starting to, you know, develop these loyalties. Now, in some markets, the loyalties are very strong. And, you know, in some markets, this loyalties are a lot weaker. And, you know, there’s nuances to each market that can help, you know, contribute to this. But these are starting, you know, what we do see is that there’s a lot of intent to repurchase, there’s a lot of, you know, willingness to repurchase. But those loyalties aren’t so firm, you know, right now that there’s still a lot of movement, or it’s a it’s really the right time to try to shape those consumer loyalties before they do become too solidified. Right. The markets, you know, are continue to shift and continue to adjust. So, you know, brands, there’s certainly no space in cannabis for trying to sit back and rest on your laurels, you’ll have to really kind of fight and claw for that consumer loyalty. And now is the time that you really have to get that solidified as the market continues to grow in these, you know, loyalties become firmer and firmer.

Lisa Buffo  27:28

And have you seen any strategies that work for loyalty? And I mean it in context to you had mentioned the example of okay, I think my brand is appealing to suburban moms, but it’s actually Gen X Men, when you work with a brand or see an insight like that? Have you seen them shift their strategy in a way where like, maybe they’re saying, Okay, well, this works for Gen X Men, so let’s just own that and double down? Or actually, we wanted to go after a suburban mom. So let’s shift our strategy and appeal to them, like, are you seeing any strategies work to based on these insights, where they’re shifting either their messaging? Or maybe it’s out of scope as far as what you do with brightfield group? But like, are you seeing anything where that intent to repurchase and that loyalty is starting to really connect? Or is it still a little bit shifty at this point?

Bethany Gomez  28:24

No, absolutely. You know, I think when we, when it’s very interesting when brands will do their first brand health read, and it’s like, okay, all of a sudden, there’s all of this information about their brands, and then okay, what do we do with us now? Right? Okay, so we’ve got, you know, we wanted to target this brand, you know, this consumer segment, then it’s time, but we’re off the mark in this way. First of all, you want to look at, do you want to target that consumer segment? What is the size of that consumer? You know, what is the, you know, the power of that consumer versus, you know, other areas? Right? You know, so, okay, based off of the size, based off the opportunity, these are the ones that we want to target, we want to be all in on okay, what is it that we’re doing? What is it that we’re saying is resonating with those consumers or that or not? Right? What is it that they say about us? What are those attributes? What are those, you know, that satisfaction, being able to look at, you know, look at some of those ins and outs, look at you know, who are the brands that are resonating with that target consumer, this is a really good illuminating way, if I know that I’m not hitting my consumer segment very well, who is and then we can take a look at what they’re doing. But there’s also then this ability to look back at all the tools that you have in your arsenal, you know, as a marketer to really understand, okay, when I’m putting out my you know, on my packaging, am I talking about the things that matter to these consumers? You know, am I looking at my, you know, does my logo, you know, does this connect with my consumer if, you know, they’re most interested, you know, looking at their kind of lifestyles around and attitudes towards wells Anantha my highlighting the right things on my packaging, when I’m doing social, you know, as my message resonating in the right way, right? Am I talking about the things that actually matter to them? What does matter to these consumers? And how do I align with that? You know, how do I talk to them in their own voice, this is where, you know, our consumers, you know, our clients like to use both the brand health, you know, toolkit, but then be able to zoom into our consumer portals to understand, you know, the social footprint, you know, the, the language, the way people talk, what they follow, you know, the, you know, a lot of those more kind of qualitative lifestyle, you know, types of areas, to really get into the mindset of there are consumers and be able to, you know, meld that, you know, creative into, you know, into really kind of target and zoom in and those consumers, sometimes it impacts, you know, product decisions, those are obviously a longer you know, as a marketer, you may be able to influence those, but, you know, those may be out of your control, but making sure that your product portfolio is targeting, you know, the right people as well, if you’re looking at line extensions, does it make sense to roll out, you know, if you’re targeting XY and Z consumer, if they don’t use vapes? Does it make sense to target vapes does it makes sense, cannabis drinks are the, you know, the, the biggest example, I always find where they were, oftentimes, people have this policy about who the cannabis drinks consumer is, but it really isn’t that consumer data shows us it’s something different. So, you know, those kinds of areas, it really allows you to, you know, zoom in and kind of rethink and, like, be able to tinker with and adjust your strategy, you know, in a way that is, you know, either incremental or kind of going back to the drawing board on different areas.

Lisa Buffo  31:43

And we talked about drinks for a little bit, because I, I know, on a industry level drinks was one of those things in the last few years, there was a lot of excitement of there was a lot of predictions that it was going to be, I think, a bigger part of the market than it actually has played out to be have. Have you seen that? And can you speak to you and said, you know, we, we thought this is who the consumer was, but it turns out, it’s someone else.

Bethany Gomez  32:07

Yeah. In the space, you heard all of the CEOs of big companies, you know, look, commenting that this was going to cannabis drinks was going to be the thing that transformed the cannabis space, and that this was going to be an alcohol substitute, this was going to be something that people would be able to bring to a barbecue, you know, with your grandma, right? This is going to be something that really appeals to new consumers. And it’s going to kind of just transform and open up this, you know, this whole additional segment of the market. And we saw a lot of brands that were kind of buying into that idea, trying to target the white claw consumer trying to target those newbies. And yet, today, you know, cannabis drinks makes up what less than 2% of the market, despite a lot of money being poured into it. And, you know, a lot of r&d, you know, that went into it in the Canadian market as well, where it is legal, and the big, you know, the big alphabet players have been able to play, it’s still a very small percentage of the market there as well. So you get the question of, okay, after years and years have this conversation. Okay, what, what’s going on here, right. And what we see when we look at the actual data is that there’s so many, there’s so much that consumers are so many people were expecting this to be the entry point for new consumers. They were expecting these, you know, people who would never inhale cannabis wouldn’t touch cannabis, you know, previously, wouldn’t think about flour wouldn’t think about vapes, they would be attracted to drinks, because this is a familiar format for them. Right? And when we look at the data on who the actual cannabis consumer is, that’s not who the consumer is. That’s just not who is resonating with it. We actually found in our most recent survey that almost 19% of all cannabis consumers have used to drink a cannabis drink in the past six months. Now, when you look at some of that data, you know, those the consumers that are actually using drinks are not the occasional users. They’re actually very heavy cannabis consumers. And you kind of stop and Posner saying, okay, so if heavy cannabis consumers are using these products, and there’s, you know, 19% of consumers have used these products. Why is the market still so small? And it’s because they’re not using them every day. This isn’t the only thing that they use, you know, for cannabis consumers for heavy cannabis consumers. You know, if you’re using every day or if you’re using multiple times day, you don’t want to do the exact same thing every single time every single day. It’s like, you know, if you’re a non alcoholic drinks consumer, you’re not just going to drink Coca Cola seven times a day every day. For the rest of your life, you’re gonna vary it up a little bit your coffee lab, some water, you’ll have some, you know, a coke for dinner, you’ll have different, you know, types of, you know, products to give some spice into your routine, some variety into your routine, you know, you want to have more, you have more interesting products to interject in there. So cannabis drinks are products that people are interested in a very large percentage of consumers are interested in those products, they’re using their products occasionally. Now the most, you know, what the data shows us that the fastest path toward growth in cannabis drinks, is not to spend a lot of money targeting those consumers who might possibly think about using cannabis one day, and if so, maybe get them to use, you know, cannabis drinks, those consumers their first entry point, what we see in data is actually gummies. They’re not, you’re not trying cannabis drinks yet. And you know, if you’re the fastest path is to get these consumers that are already spending a lot of money on cannabis on a monthly basis, many of them $200 A month plus, on cannabis, get them to get more occasions of consumption out of those consumers, right. So this is one of those areas where, you know, you see a bit of a disconnect between kind of conventional wisdom, or a lot of people that were, you know, thinking and kind of trying to project what the world could look like, now we have enough data on how the market has started to evolve, that you don’t need to kind of totally start from a blank page and imagine, you can see what, you know, what has started to work and really understand why and be able to, you know, to target, you know, effectively that way. And this is why we see, you know, different, you know, different types of brands successful in different ways, you know, in the cannabis drinks space. But also, you know, again, a lot of, there’s still a lot of opportunity in that space that 18 19% of consumers using indicates there’s there’s a lot more opportunity there. But it’s just not being captured, you know, because a lot, a lot of a lot of money being left on the table from a positioning standpoint.

Lisa Buffo  37:19

Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. And I think I’ve been talking about this recently, in drinks. This phenomena not I think applies it can sometimes we fall into this like big, shiny object mentality. I know what happened, you know, from a marketing strategy perspective with like crypto and web three in the metaverse and it’s like this, the big shiny objects, or it’s what we try, we get excited about it as marketers often because we have certain restrictions, and we want to be ahead and we want to understand what’s there. But sort of over reliance on that and some of that hype. And that talk can prevent folks from really doubling down on what we know what we have an what’s working and really like tightening that and you know what I call it marketing, like patching the leaks, where we can get sort of this over investment in the new in the shiny, and then it’s like, okay, if that doesn’t play out, if you win, great, but if it doesn’t play out, you’re kind of back to square one. So balancing the language you’ve used as well, which we talked about is like the tools you have in your toolkit, what are you putting towards what you know, works with data you have and the facts and then what are you putting towards kind of the shiny or things that might might or may not play out? And, you know, putting it all together as far as the strategy and bigger picture. So thank you for bringing some light to the beverage conversation. I’ve been doing some research on that as well. But you just you, you articulated it so nicely.

Bethany Gomez  38:48

Absolutely, definitely, it definitely clarifies the point that you always need to pressure test your assumptions. And, you know, be open to being wrong about an idea, right, you know, if you’re blue skying something, you want to be able to think back, you want to be able to see, you know, go into the future and be able to look outside of the box, you also want to Reality Check yourself and be able to look at what you know what the data is telling you and be prepared to say, maybe not or like, you know, the data is actually telling it a different story. There may be something there because if conventional wisdom is wrong, that’s actually a really big opportunity for you. Right if the whole and this is something we’ve seen in cannabis, which is definitely something we’ve seen in CBD also where, you know, you get apparently, you know, this, this shiny object and the whole market moves this way. And if there’s actually attack that you can find in you know, where conventional wisdom is wrong. And you go here when everyone’s going here. That’s by far the biggest opportunity rather than following the pack, you know, into off a cliff, right?

Lisa Buffo  39:55

Yes, we know about that as an industry for sure. So what are things you saw based on data in the story that it’s telling? What are some things you find yourself advising your clients or telling marketers, like over and over again? Like, what’s that sort of pay attention to this, don’t forget this, in addition to pressure test your assumptions, is there anything that the data is saying that may not be that you haven’t mentioned already, that may not be so obvious, that is really sort of core to a cannabis marketers understanding of what’s happening?

Bethany Gomez  40:33

Yeah, So always check on, you know, keep keep the ability to zoom up and zoom out, at like the fundamentals and understand how the market is shifting cannabis, even though we’re, you know, here, years and years, seven years into it, since we started as a company, but you know, eight years into legalization here, the cannabis consumer changes so quickly, and you know, their attitudes change quickly, they’re what’s important to them changes quickly, you really need to be able to keep that like, deep understanding of like, what’s important to them. And you know, that even just the face of the cannabis consumer and how that’s shifting, in the back of your mind, with all things that you do, right, if you understand that, okay, this market may be growing, but at small, I’m going to keep this in the back of my mind for the future, or, you know, this is something that, you know, has come up and is, you know, is kind of changing the face of the consumer, with cannabis, because things move so quickly, if you’re two quarters behind, and it takes you you know, another quarter or two to be able to activate, if you fall behind on trends, you could be quite far behind, by the time, you know, you need to make an adjustment, and then it’s really, it’s a lot harder to kind of catch back up, you know, from there. So being able to really kind of keep the keep a beat on, you know, both the demographic, but also, you know, and the, you know, a lot of the the segmentation side of things, but also really like, what’s important to consumers, and how much of that changes over time, because it’ll really impact the way that you talk to consumers, the, you know, your messaging, as well as really who you’re targeting, the thing that we always hit on, you know, consistently, consistently, consistently is, know your consumer, know, them, you need to know them very, you know, deep at their core, you need to have, you know, that kind of cold in your mind, and you need to, you know, be able to not try to be everything to everyone, you know, you may want to have different brands that are targeting different segments. And you may want to, you know, be thinking about the the market through, you know, through that lens, you know, this may be your brand for really cultural users or heavy users, this may be your brand for, you know, consumers that this is their dirty little secret that they’re using at night. And, you know, this is kind of that, that approach you this may be, you know, the brand that is for consumers that are just looking for, you know, cheap, reliable, you know, budget cannabis, but you know, are, it’s an important part of their identity, you know, you you may need to have different, you know, segments of consumers, and, you know, but you have to have that full picture of who they are, and to be able to really resonate with them, and to be able to stay ahead of the curve, you can’t just compete on packaging, pretty packaging isn’t really enough, you know, and just, you know, strict demographics isn’t enough, you have to be able to really understand and if you can understand, then you can stay ahead of the curve. And that’s what’s going to make that that loyalty with those consumers much more sticky.

Lisa Buffo  43:43

And do you have advice for marketers who, you know, so there’s this balance of understanding the consumer and tailoring your message to them, but also finding, you know, you’re who you are as a brand? What is your, your core? What is your niche? What is your, you know, I’ve seen brands that were, you know, they were founded by Sir, there’s one in particular I’m thinking about that was founded by surfers in California, and they made this brand particularly to apply to that group, like, what is that balance of, okay, this is who we are, you know, startups in the startup industry, with startup businesses, this is who we are, this is our story, this is who we’re appealing to, but also marrying that with the changing habits of the consumer, and we we talk about authenticity and trust a lot in this space. How does a brand do that? How do you say, Okay, this is who we are, this is what we do and who we’re appealing to, but also recognize that the consumer is shifting these behaviors are shifting and your messaging may need to shift and and do it in a way that remains authentic.

Bethany Gomez  44:43

Yeah, that’s definitely the challenge. I think that you know, hitting the nail on the head there and it’s like, you have to be able to see how well are you resonating with consumers? How strong is that loyalty that you’ve developed? And who else are they buying? What other brands do they love? What other brands do they care about? So you can watch kind of your, you know, your back from that lens, right, especially for startups as that loyalty is not fully developed yet. And many cannabis consumers, as we talked about, they use their frequent users they use every day, they are using multiple times a day, they’re using a lot of different products and formats. It’s very hard to, you know, pin them down, if you’re putting all of your eggs in a very narrow, you know, consumer basket, you know, so narrow that it’s called California surfers, you know, you’re gonna have to be able to, you know, really find ways to protect your base, how can you go deeper with that consumer? You know, how can you maximize the opportunity with that specific consumer? And how can you extend your base to be able to grow as a company, right? You know, do you want to roll out more products for that specific consumer and really kind of lean in? Do you want to make that brand appeal to, you know, as like an aspirational brand to other adjacent kind of, you know, consumer segments? Where can you see kind of the, you know, the appeal for other adjacent consumers that will allow you to kind of grow your base and grow your, you know, your footprint there? Or how do you, you know, Target, you know, either line extensions or complementary brands towards, you know, other areas, because, you know, once you get a little bit of success in the cannabis space, everybody’s a startup, you got it, you got to hit your gross numbers, right, you know, you gotta keep growing and growing and growing. So how do you grow in a way that, you know, allows you to be authentic, and that’s, you have to keep kind of that consumer in mind, as a marketer, you need to be able to have that message constantly going out, social is a great way to kind of keep in touch with that consumer, you know, and especially with small, you know, small brands that are hyperlocal, being able to, you know, there’s a lot of restrictions on cannabis marketers. So you have to kind of think outside the box on things, you know, and local events or, you know, different local Halleck hyperfocus ways to be able to really resonate with consumers, investing in budtender education, especially if you have a, you know, a very, if you’re focused on authenticity, if you have, are trying to grow your brand, and get kind of the get drive trial and extend some of the halo of your brand, by tender education is so important, because that will help drive that, that conversion from kind of that consideration into loyalty. And all of those things are, you know, things that you can do as a small brand, you know, targeted at, you know, maybe a single state or a single, you know, region even, but you really need to kind of keep those loops going watch your back in terms of who’s kind of coming after you and then be able to find those ways to grow your consumer base once you’ve saturated where you are.

Lisa Buffo  47:54

And lastly, is there any data that you’ve seen that’s been total outlier? Like any information that you’re like, wow, we really just did not see this one coming. That’s important to this conversation.

Bethany Gomez  48:06

Oh, that’s a great question. You always, there’s always these, you know, little things that pop up and you’re like, Wow, that is just fascinating. I think, you know, there’s so much oftentimes in cannabis, people are so focused on the category itself that they kind of don’t look at what’s happening outside. And I think one of the sleeping giants that has been coming up in is starting to create a lot of you know, disruptions in the space and isn’t on the top of marketers minds right now it should be is this like battle with the hemp derived THC market, which has just kind of come out of nowhere over the last you know, 18 months and you’ve got this delta eight everywhere, this delta nine everywhere. You know, CBD used to be something that was positioned largely for you know, people who wouldn’t touch cannabis with a 10 foot pole, but this was, you know, CBD this was different. Now we find that more than 70% of the hemp derived CBD consumers are also using THC. There’s, you know, so there’s a lot of overlap with, you know, the with CBD and the legal cannabis space. There’s a very large and growing percentage of consumers that are using you know, Delta eight and this hemp derived you know, THC market, this is going to be about half the size of the CBD hemp derived CBD market this year. And those are really direct competitors to you know, to cannabis and oftentimes much more much cheaper than cannabis products in legal states. So some of the you know, the data are around, you know, Delta eight and you know, the the deltas and the hemp derived THC market has been really eye opening, and just this whole complete transformation of you know, the hemp derived THC consumer and how it’s impacting, as well as the opportunities with kind of that overlap and the the THC market that is really, really interesting. Also just these some of these shifts, you know, around consumers that are buying things online or, you know, shopping online that ecommerce experience, you know, in the digital space has just plummeted. In, you know, in CBD, we found this dropped from 50% of consumers buying their products online to 20% of consumers buying their products online over the course of like, four quarters. So it’s just plummeted. And that has significant impact for digital marketing, because,

Lisa Buffo  50:31

Is that post pandemic, like, do you think that was fine?

Bethany Gomez  50:35

Yeah. So you know, it spiked up, you know, consumer behavior spiked towards digital when the pandemic hit, obviously, you know, people were standing at home, there was a lot of the projections, well, ecommerce is really sticky. A lot of people are, you know, a lot of these habits are really going to stick people are going to, you know, continue to, you know, purchase this way. And we’ve seen at this point, nope, everybody wants to go back to normal. And it’s like, yeah, fallen off a cliff just tanked. And, you know, that’s impacting, you know, that’s impacting these categories. But it’s also, you know, contributing to a lot of what we see with some of the ad revenues in, you know, social media platforms, and you know, digital marketing overall, if your consumer is no longer sitting, you know, during the pandemic, you are never going to get a more captive consumer, then, you know, that time, you don’t get that captive consumer anymore. So, you know, what this means is, you know, as a marketer, you need to rethink kind of your allocation, we saw a lot of people cut all of their brick and mortar sales team and pour all that money into digital advertising and 21, um, you know, 20, end of 2021. Now, those dynamics are all shifting, people want to be out in real life, again, you need to completely rethink your marketing budget, and how much you’re putting towards events, how much you’re putting forth in store activations, how much you’re putting towards kind of in, you know, getting in front of, you know, physically in front of that consumer, rather than, you know, digitally in front of that consumer. You know, and you know, and how that impacts your efforts.

Lisa Buffo  52:07

That’s awesome. Bethany, I really appreciate you sharing all this data and insight, it really has been very eye opening, and really adds to the conversation about cannabis marketing. So you have any contact information you want to share as far as brightfield group, website, social or yourself with our audience so they can get a hold of you guys?

Bethany Gomez  52:29

Absolutely, well check out our website at brightfield We have if you want to get a taste of some of the the types of insights that we have. We have a great deal of free reports that are on the site. So go ahead and check those out. You can reach us at marketing at brightfield Or feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. I always like to always like to chat with cannabis marketers.

Lisa Buffo  52:52

Awesome. Thank you so much, Bethany. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you today. Absolutely. Thanks, Lisa. interested in connecting with our guest experts join CMA at the Cannabis marketing and get exclusive access to our member content, including our bimonthly webinars Slack channel and networking events. You can also sign up for our newsletter with free resources on our homepage. Thank you for listening to this week’s episode. 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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