Meet Michael Rosenfeld VP of Business Development at Cannavu. Michael is a cannabis advertising expert with the marketing chops to back up all his advice.  Michael’s passion for brand building has been a career-long journey that made him into the cannabis industry advertising expert he is today.

 

First, a little background about Michael:

Since my youth, I’ve always loved awesome branding.

I think it started in my skateboarding days when the coolest skaters had the most awesome board designs and shapes. That passion to create visceral experiences guided me to marketing, advertising, and media where over the next 20 years I worked with brands from Apple to SEGA, FOX Sports, MTV, Beats by Dre to the Viceroy Hotel Group, and a ton of action sports labels.
Today I take that passion and experience in integrated media and work with client companies to create smart campaigns that best position them to attract the right customers authentically.
And though I don’t skate anymore, I do love going into skate and surf shops just to see what ‘the cool kids’ are staring at.

What were you doing prior to cannabis?

I have been in advertising and media for 20 years, working as a lead strategist and head of sales for agencies serving brands in fashion, action sports, entertainment, hospitality, and consumer tech.
As an agency owner and consultant, I love working with brands (and the people that guide them) to improve their chances for success.

When did you first start working in cannabis?

Since going to college up in San Francisco in the early 90s you can say Ive worked on-and-off in cannabis. But I officially began in this new legal-cannabis generation in 2019 when I became the Head of Sales and Strategy for CannaVu, at the time, the largest digital ad platform serving cannabis and CBD marketers.

Do you sit on any marketing or cannabis industry boards or associations that you’d like to mention?

Not currently.
Formerly Strategic Advisor to ALTRD.TV, and Industry Council member of WeedWeek.

What lesson did you learn BEFORE cannabis that’s been most valuable in cannabis?

Building a brand that people love takes time and effort. The authenticity of a ‘core’ brand can’t be bought, it must be lived, and earned.
With the meteoric rise and interest in the cannabis industry countless companies have entered the market, and too many of them rush to market without understanding how important building a brand really is, and how much work is really required.

Is there a particular cannabis project you’d like to highlight?

I’m really excited about the new technology we’re bringing to the category that revolves around dispensary visitor data. Being able to identify traits of customers that visit one dispensary over another and how to market each type with accuracy.
These insights will enable us to build audience segments we can then market to with more intent and authenticity.

 

What’s the biggest misconception cannabis companies have about branding, advertising, marketing, PR, and social media?

The biggest misconception, or rather, misstep, by many brands is thinking that if you build it (or grow it) they will come and that advertising/media is not important in building brand awareness.
Cannabis has evolved from a retail sales experience to an industry that requires a digital presence, so it is very important to have a strong digital experience and support it w a digital media strategy to help create awareness, and sales. As customers become more interested and research brands and dispensaries before they purchase, they are being hit with competing brands advertising. Make sure you’re playing at the same level to capture those hearts and minds as they surf the web looking for the new product.

 

In your view, what is the biggest branding/marketing/advertising challenge facing cannabis companies today?

One of the biggest challenges for brands in cannabis is the lack of ‘traditional’ methods to advertise and be discovered. We are unable to buy Facebook ads, or PPC/SEM, or run fun direct social media programs without the potential of being flagged and removed from the platform. So we are forced to put together campaigns that don’t have the level of targeting and scale non-regulated industries have the luxury to use.
This, coupled with state-by-state differences in compliance makes for confusion amongst brands and their advertising partners.

What will get easier in cannabis marketing/branding/pr, what will get harder?

Things become easier as brands mature, and marketers learn to navigate w the tools available, as advertising platforms merge to offer integrated solutions that capture customers at awareness and reconnect w them down the ‘funnel’ to purchase creating predictable ROAS.
However, compliance, competition, education, market maturity, or lack thereof will still mean that brands have headwinds to deal with when wanting to run effective campaigns to grow and scale.

What can companies do to alleviate their branding/marketing/PR/advertising challenges?

As the industry matures, working with experienced and knowledgeable branding, advertising, and PR partners will be key to success.

 

In your view, what is the most underrated tool in the branding/marketing/advertising/PR toolbox for cannabis companies?

The most underrated tool is Retargeting.
Companies spend a lot of money to drive customers to a site, social tactics, PR, dis[play advertising, email marketing, but very few are implementing a retargeting line to drive them back.
Lest then a 1% of customers buy in the first site visit. You need to re-message them to remind them you exist and come back to your site.
Another underrated tool is building your SEO. People naturally go to ‘search,’ yet not all companies are versed in best use-case seo tactics.

In your view, what is the most over-rated tool in the branding/marketing/advertising/PR toolbox for cannabis companies?

Social Media, namely Instagram.
Spending time creating content to get banned, or shadow banned.
Looking at vanity metrics to see engagement, but do these customers actually live in your area? Are they destined to buy? Social is so transient that very few brands are making money w social media posts.

What’s the BEST piece of advice you give everyone you work with?

Know your market, your competitors, your true customers, and then work with someone that truly knows how to build a plan to help you grow sales and awareness based on your stage and position in the market.

What’s your advice for people who want to get into cannabis marketing/advertising/pr/branding?

Learn from people that have done this before so you know what you can do, and then do it better.

 

Thanks, Michael, you really are a cannabis advertising expert.

How can people get in touch with you?

My personal site
My business site
My LinkedIn

When it’s difficult to plan, it’s tempting to just eliminate budgets, especially for marketing and PR agencies. In the short term, that might seem like a negotiable expense that’s fairly easy to eliminate. But if you’re working well with an agency, eliminating them will cost you more time and money in the long run, not to mention the costs associated with reduced awareness and sales. Instead of eliminating Most agency owners can show you why cutting back on marketing and PR will damage your brand, but what insider tips do agencies give to their existing clients when economics requires a marketing shift? For this article, we called on some of the most respected mid-size agencies in the United States and asked them what strategies they use to reduce agency budgets, so you can ask your own agency to help you.

Discuss your plans with the agency upfront. Getting strategic advice early in the process will help you avoid wasting the implementation budget later. Measure twice, cut once.Karl Sakas, Sakas & Company

Sakas, who uses his years in the agency world to consult with growing agencies today, suggests involving your agency at the highest strategic level from the onset to reduce agency budgets. Agency strategists may cost more hourly, but a deep, collaborative strategic understanding saves hundreds of wasted implementation hours, not to mention emergency charges. Sometimes there is this idea that withholding information from your agency will give you an edge in negotiations. But if your agency is really on your side, and really approaches the relationship as a partner, then that strategy could cost you. Most agencies can help you prioritize and refine a strategy to fit your budget during a recession.

Using agency as a consultative partner, rather than an implementation house Ross Johnson, 3.7 Designs, a Michigan Inbound Marketing Agency

When clients need to reduce budgets, Ross Johnson of 3.7 Designs suggests leaning into strategy with the agency, and sticking with outputs that have a longer shelf life. For example, instead of eliminating content creation, which is invaluable because it’s sticky, he says, “Take more of the content creation in-house. We advise on what content to create, and provide feedback after it’s created so the client receives 90% of the same value but at a lower cost.”  He also recommends focusing more energy on earned media and organic activities over paid spending, because it lasts longer and delivers more value.

Technology is your friend – Dan Serard, Cannabis Creative

“Following up with and nurturing leads can be time intensive,”

“We recommend our clients to invest in our email marketing automation services and prioritize automation strategy in addition to one-time or seasonal campaigns to get the most value out of our services. It’s not just about the immediate content output, but the long-term journey for your leads. As an agency, we set up our clients’ email systems in ways that work smarter, not harder. Email marketing automation can be an investment to strategize at the onset, but once running, generate cost-effective results that function in perpetuity. Automations can keep leads engaged and convert them into customers through a series of well-planned out messages, and do not require much intervention.”

Cut low-performing or time-consuming services. – Hunter Young, HiFi Agency, 

The longer something takes, the more it costs. If you have multiple layers of approvals built into agency work, then reducing those layers can save you time, and your agency can either refocus it’s efforts on more valuable outcomes, or they can reasonably count on reducing fees by the time saved.

Hunter suggests looking at an agency budget cut as “an opportunity to cut the items that were truly low-performing or low-efficiency for the agency/client (e.g. things that take forever to get approved).” Items that take multiple back-and-forths, cost the agency time, which translates to money for you.

Have the right people do the right work, – Stephanie Chavez President of Zen Media

Most agencies provide a blended rate for their services. Yes, a strategist is more per hour, but they aren’t likely to be spending 10-20 hours in your account every week. This is a spot that can create unforeseen costs when clients insist on using the strategist as a project manager. Indeed, a highly paid strategist should not be managing the project on a day-to-day basis, they should ensure the output matches the strategy.

As President of a PR and marketing agency for tech-driven B2B brands, Chavez is used to clients who expect smooth operations. She says when clients are looking for ways to save money, she doubles down on making sure the budget is used where it should be, with the right skill sets in the right place.

Use recessions strategically.   – Chris Shreeve PrograMetrix 

During a recession, there is less noise. PR agencies get cut and ad budgets get reduced. So using a scalpel approach to your budget can provide higher ROI than when the economy is moving in full swing. Plus, although consumers still consume, they’re more sensitive to getting the best product and/or the best price, so staying present is even more important.

“After all, consumers will still consume, even during a recession,while some brands may go silent, other brands see a pathway to make more of an impression on their target audience.”

 

Reducing your agency costs doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Working WITH your agency to find the sweet spot for your specific needs can be an excellent exercise in creativity. By shifting strategies, outcomes, and outputs, you can find the sweet spot that keeps your marketing and PR on track even during cost-cutting seasons.

Meet Jake Wall, his passion for innovation is apparent in his latest offering, Maison Bloom, a cannabis beverage brand. Jake’s innovations are fueled by his passion for human-centered design, which are apparent in his consulting firm, Playtpus and as Chief Innovation Officer at cannabis beverage brand Maison Bloom. Jake is well-known as a cannabis industry leader and his commitment to a “people-first” attitude is a white light of positivity for anyone who has the chance to work with him.

 

First, a little background about you:

I’m the Chief Innovation Officer and leading Design Thinker at MAISON BLOOM.
French Sensibilities. California Cool. We are cannabis with a twist.
We bottle the good life… and the good life is meant to be shared.

I also serve as the Chief Innovation Officer at PLATYPUS – an uncommon mix of different. PLATYPUS is a human-centered cooperative that takes the best practices of design thinking to unlock new marketplace opportunities. This unique and dynamic team of thought leaders steers their own destiny through designing, developing, and deploying products, services, and solutions. Taking my own 25+ years of expertise across multiple industries and combining that with my cohorts, we are driven by the simple premise that life cannot be lived to its fullest without vision, lifelong learning, and facing the challenges of our modern society head-on by endeavoring to serve others in new and innovative ways.

My unconventional exploits have been met with profiles in BizBash, Inc.com, San Francisco Chronicle, WWD, Marie Claire, and Huffington Post. Through my previous companies and roles, I have helmed award-winning innovation teams that have worked alongside Lincoln Motor Company to launch their Black Label special edition, famed Napa Valley vintner and entrepreneur Jean-Charles Boisset to bring Haute Couture French Bubbles to market, and collaborated with marquee philanthropic organizations like Walt Disney Family Museum and Human Rights Campaign for groundbreaking awareness and fundraising events and experiences.

Prior to Avec Bloom and PLATYPUS, I had the luxury of working with esteemed innovators like culinary leader Chef Michael Mina and social and content thought leaders, including Richard Rosenblatt and Orkut Buyukotten. My passion for design thinking and human-centered design has allowed me to work across technology, fashion, hospitality, consumer products, and services including the developed several startups including a market-leading luxury fashion design house and retailer which was featured on “Project Runway,”  and E! Entertainment’s “Fashion Police.” I volunteer with several local and national community and arts-focused opportunities, including the Human Rights Campaign and The Walt Disney Family Museum.

At MAISON BLOOM and PLATYPUS, we replace the ordinary with extraordinary alternatives that you never knew you always wanted.

 

When did you first start working in cannabis?

January 2020.

What were you doing prior to cannabis?

I was the Chief Marketing Officer for MINA Group and worked diligently to refresh celebrity Chef Michael Mina’s global empire for a greater audience, including Millennials and Xennials.

Do you sit on any industry boards or associations that you’d like to mention?

NCIA – Marketing and Advertising Committee 2020/2021 + 2021/2022; Trailblazers Presents DEI Advisory Board 2022

 

What lesson did you learn BEFORE cannabis that’s been most valuable in cannabis?

Of all the places and spaces I have operated in, one of the biggest lessons in life came from my experience on Project Runway and being in an environment and series of challenges where one cannot say no. One must just soldier on find inspiration, overcome the challenge of making, and execute… all under the watchful eye of rotating cameras and an attentive public eye in a tiny window for each challenge. This experience of “no” not being an option really galvanized my dedication that anything is possible if you simply put your mind to it and push forward.

 

Is there a particular cannabis project you’d like to highlight?

The work on beverage formulation and creation innovation that we do at MAISON BLOOM always brings a smile to my face because we do it with consumers at the center of all that we do. Human-Centered Design has empowered leading companies like Apple and Dyson where the consumer is at the center and they built the products around their use cases. But in cannabis… HCD is a bit more of a foreign language. We tend to build products for our own personal tastes and use cases and then hope to find a market after that.

At (cannabis beverage) MAISON BLOOM, we have worked hard in partnership with key powerhouses like our partners at Vertosa and Sonoma Hills Farm to lift as we climb together and create cannabis’s first true offering that is strain-specific, single barrel, and whole plant allowing us to treat cannabis more like a chef treats spices and herbs to create layered flavors and functional experiences.

What’s the biggest misconception cannabis companies have about cannabis branding, advertising, marketing, PR, and social media?

The industry often likes to highlight that they don’t think brands matter.

But we fail to keep in mind that the legal cannabis industry is still young and we are moving into the space where brands are more relevant when true experiential brand offerings are created and deployed.

Not since “Field of Dreams” has there been a better example of “If you build it, they will come,” than this current shift in consumer mindset and opportunity for companies to give consumers what they never knew they always wanted.

 

In your view, what are the biggest cannabis PR, branding/marketing/advertising challenges facing cannabis companies today?

Truly placing end consumers at the center of product development, branding, and related touchpoints. To supercharge great direct to consumer offerings that work symbiotically with established retail sales to increase consumer loyalty and maximum repeat purchasing so that the entire cannabis ecosystem of business partners wins versus being in a more combative/competitive ecosystem.

What will get easier in cannabis PR marketing/branding what will get harder?

It will get easier to tell authentic stories and maximize social media and digital channels when more cannabis offerings are true brand experiences because there is more to “advertise” and “promote” than just the cannabis-based products which are currently problematic in these spaces.

It will get harder to exist as a brand without greater collaboration with partners. It is important to treat all players in your ecosystem with respect, as this is a difficult industry to operate within. To race forward without trusted partners and a tight circle of mutually beneficial “lifting as we climb” in collaboration across all levels of the supply chain will only handcuff growth. Companies need to build trusted pathways with trusted partners that ensure reliable growth and acceleration for all parties. Doing so will continue to be even harder, but the payout for short to long-term growth is going to be the proverbial silver bullet.

What can companies do to alleviate their branding/marketing/PR/advertising challenges?

Move away from trying to be everywhere and instead designate some core channels and offerings that are most authentic to their brand, their offering, and their abilities and focus there. Only once you deliver a solid funnel and can clearly show your own ROI and understanding of the channel/offering will you be able to make it so that you aren’t just spending money, but you are making money.

In your view, what is the most under-rated tool in the cannabis branding/marketing/advertising/PR toolbox for cannabis companies?

A clear consumer-focused direct-to-consumer fulfillment channel executed by the company, including full suite communication support (email, text) to consumers.

In your view, what is the most over-rated tool in the branding/marketing/advertising/PR toolbox for cannabis companies?

Billboards. They are for wayfinding and beyond that one is just throwing money away. Brands try and treat billboards like they can be used for anything and the truth is, you can put anything on them but that doesn’t mean they will resonate or be effective.

What’s the BEST piece of advice you give everyone you work with?

This is cannabis. We are writing new rules as to what is possible each and every day. Push yourself to do your best work. Push the industry forward by doing your best work. Because if better exists, we always want to go with better.

What’s your advice for people who want to get into cannabis marketing/advertising/pr/branding?

As Dorothy might say… “You’re not in Kansas anymore.” This is a wacky and weird world that is often figuring itself out as it goes along. Rules and regulations can and do change just as you get used to them. Realize that in this world, you are going to need to embrace learning while doing and you will be constantly iterating towards greatness. In cannabis more than anywhere else, everything is a process and one that is evolving in real time.

 

Thank you for sharing these fantastic branding insights, innovation and leadership tips with us, Jake. How can others in the cannabis industry get in touch with you? 

Jake Wall Linkedin 

Jake Wall Instagram

Maison Bloom Instagram

Maison Bloom Website 

 

Meet Dan Serard, Director of Business Development and Strategic Partnerships for Cannabis Creative Group, one of the most respected cannabis marketing agencies in the U.S., Dan has worked there since 2018 and has worked with an impressive 200 cannabis brands.

 

First, a little background about you:

I started working in the cannabis industry in 2018 and have worked with over 200 different brands! I live in Massachusetts and am originally from the Northeast. I spent some time traveling around the US and landed in Los Angeles for a little while, where I became ingrained in some of the legacy market up in Humboldt county.

When did you first start working in cannabis?

2018, when I started with Cannabis Creative Group.

What were you doing prior to cannabis?

I managed sales teams for health clubs and worked in enterprise sales for a genetic testing company.

Do you sit on any industry boards or associations that you’d like to mention?

I’m a member of Cannabis Marketing Association, Business Owners Hemp and Cannabis Association, and National Association of Cannabis Businesses. I’m also a committee member of the National Cannabis Industry Association’s Marketing and Advertising Committee and Co-Chair of the Education and Content Committee and a member of the Rolling Stone Cultural Council.

What lesson did you learn BEFORE cannabis that’s been most valuable in cannabis?

Sales is all about listening to the prospect and learning what really matters to them and how to assist them.

Is there a particular cannabis project you’d like to highlight?

There are many! We have an amazing portfolio [at Cannabis Creative Group].

What’s the biggest misconception cannabis companies have about cannabis branding, advertising, marketing, PR, social media?

Many people think that “if you build it, they will come”, especially dispensary owners.

 

In your view, what is the biggest cannabis branding/marketing/advertising challenge facing cannabis companies today?

Where and how to advertise!

What will get easier in cannabis PR/marketing/branding and what will get harder?

Easier – other media outlets opening up to cannabis. Television, radio, Google, social media channels, etc.

Harder- Competing on cannabis-specific platforms. If you’re a new business and competing against established businesses that spend much more money on apps like Weedmaps, your money is not spent appropriately.

 

What can companies do to ease their cannabis PR branding/marketing/advertising challenges?

 

Take the time, effort and energy to establish a TRUE brand foundation. Not just a logo, but think about your voice, position, messaging, etc. so you can scale that message across all platforms.

 

In your view, what is the most under-rated tool in the branding/marketing/advertising/PR toolbox for cannabis companies?

SEO!!!! The adult-use market is using search engines, just like any other industry, and if you can’t be found on Google, then you’re going to have a tough time!

In your view, what is the most over-rated tool in the cannabis branding/marketing/advertising/PR toolbox for cannabis companies?

Social media. It is very difficult to track direct ROI from social media. It is great to have but doesn’t correspond to many sales. Also, advertising on cannabis-specific platforms. It is tough to compete with many other cannabis businesses and many consumers in adult markets don’t even use these platforms compared to Google.

What’s the BEST piece of advice you give everyone you work with?

Start slow and grow! Find a niche market that really associates with your brand, grow within that market, then expand from there if needed.

What’s your advice for people who want to get into cannabis marketing/advertising/pr/branding?

NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK!!! Get yourself out there to meet people, join groups, and walk a tradeshow. The industry is open to many people, and it’s important to make connections.

 

Thanks for sharing your insights with us, Dan. How can people get in touch with you?

 

www.cannabiscreativegroup.com

Meet Chris Shreeve, cannabis advertising expert for programmatic ad buys.

Based in Seattle, not only is Chris co-founder of PrograMetrix, a nationally recognized programmatic advertising agency for cannabis brands (not “just” CBD) he is also the co-owner of The Bakeree dispensary. 

 

First, a little background about you, Chris:

Digital advertising veteran, specifically in programmatic advertising technology and services. Started PrograMetrix in 2015. Co-owner of The Bakeree dispensaries in Seattle. That intersection between cannabis retail owner and agency co-founder is why our agency has seen success in the space.

What were you doing prior to cannabis?

While PrograMetrix highlights our work in the cannabis space, we also have incredible mainstream clients that we support outside of the space. I have always been in advertising, technology and marketing but we found white space in the cannabis industry and wanted to bring our expertise to the space.

When did you first start working in cannabis?

My brother started selling medical cannabis in Seattle, WA 8-9 years ago before the state went recreational. I always knew that there would be a time when the cannabis space would need mainstream marketing and cannabis advertising solutions but it was years before there was enough tech and data to dive into the space.

Do you sit on any industry boards or associations that you’d like to mention?

I always recommend Cannabis Marketing Association to new cannabis marketers!

What lesson did you learn BEFORE cannabis that’s been most valuable in cannabis?

Solve a problem, don’t just sell a product/service. Everyone wants to create a cannabis or CBD product but many don’t have a unique selling proposition that resonates with a specific audience. Build a brand and product/service line to solve a need for a specific audience and be the best solution for your target market.

What’s the biggest misconception cannabis companies have about cannabis advertising?

That because Google and Facebook regulate cannabis and CBD brands on their platforms, you can’t advertise your product online. There are thousands of sites, apps, and platforms that allow cannabis advertising and that can be accessed through programmatic advertising. Retarget your current customers online, reach new consumers on channels like video, audio, or streaming tv services.

In your view, what is the biggest cannabis marketing & branding challenge facing cannabis companies today?

Many brands are looking for the silver bullet and believe that paid advertising is it. It’s not. It is one channel that can support a broader marketing initiative but it can’t be the only focus. You need to build a brand and that doesn’t always require an ROI for every dollar you spend on marketing.

What will get easier in cannabis marketing & branding? What will get harder?

We will gain more access to mainstream advertising channels. More sites, apps, and platforms are going to accept cannabis but it might be too late. Instead of waiting for Google or Facebook to change their ad guidelines, optimize your current marketing mix to the best of your ability. Go digital before your competitors and find new technologies and channels that differentiate your brand online.

What will get harder… competition. More mainstream brands are coming into the space and there will continue to be consolidation, making the larger brands even bigger and taking market share from the smaller companies. Don’t get left behind, build your brand NOW.

What can cannabis companies do to alleviate their cannabis PR and branding challenges?

It is incredibly important to hire an internal marketer to lead the communication of the business to the market. Many smaller brands still haven’t fully invested in a marketing professional and you can tell. Let that marketing professional figure out what can be accomplished internally, then fill the gaps with experienced agency professionals for the more complicated and time consumer channels.

In your view, what is the most under-rated tool in the brand marketing toolbox for cannabis companies?

Website development.

Too many cannabis companies don’t invest enough in their website. Especially cannabis brands that don’t sell products directly from their site (DTC).

You might have one opportunity to catch the eye of a consumer online and if your website doesn’t tell the store of your brand in a compelling visual fashion, you might lose that customer forever.

In your view, what is the most over-rated tool in the branding toolbox for cannabis companies?

SEO. Now this might get me in trouble… BUT… everyone is trying to rank for “cannabis dispensary near me” or some generic keywords on their website. Many don’t leverage blog content enough but those that focus solely on SEO will miss out on many other marketing opportunities that can help differentiate your marketing mix.

What’s the BEST piece of advice you give everyone you work with?

Set realistic expectations. Don’t over-promise and under-deliver.

What’s your advice for people who want to get into cannabis marketing?

Show that you have a vested interest in the industry and not just marketing/advertising expertise. This industry is unique. Its products and services are still evolving but having an interest in the plant or industry at larger is incredibly valuable.

How can someone contact you, Chris?

https://programetrix.com/
Twitter @PrograMetrix
LinkedIn @ChrisShreeve

Thanks for sharing your cannabis advertising and branding insights with us today, Chris, you rock!