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

The cost to hire a PR firm should align with the impact you expect your PR firm to have on your business goals. If you’re hiring a PR firm to grow sales, then the expense of your PR firm should reflect the importance of that on your brand. Don’t expect to grow your sales 100% by investing an additional 5% in PR. For example, if you’re in maintenance mode and need a responsive rather than a proactive PR agency, that cost should be less than a proactive media relations and media placement campaign, which can reach billions of people.

In general, solopreneur firms, or less experienced PR firms might charge around $3,000 per month, depending on the client and the market. Larger firms, premium agencies, and boutique firms can charge upwards of $18,000 to $25,000 per month for their services. Businesses in fast-growing or emerging industries can also affect PR pricing. How do you know what’s fair and what rate to pay? Consider some of these factors when looking into whether a PR firm is right for your business.

If you are contemplating the cost of hiring a PR firm, chances are you already know the importance of establishing your business’s image. Positive PR can help increase brand recognition, loyalty, and community goodwill. However, you might be wondering, how much does it cost to hire a PR firm?

 

Why Experience Matters in PR

Understand that while experience is important, it can also be costly. Established PR firms with track records of success tend to charge more for their services. Hiring experienced PR professionals can be costly. Most often, a firm’s reputation is established through the skill and experience level of its employees.

Like in any industry, with PR, experience matters. Many top PR firms will employ former journalists and experienced PR professionals and for a good reason. Former journalists have a wealth of contacts in the media industry. These people also have contacts at non-profit organizations and with community leaders, among others.

These contacts are extremely valuable for pitching stories for their clients. Former journalists also understand what media companies are looking for when it comes to story ideas. They can craft attention-getting press releases that stand a better chance of being seen and picked up instead of being tossed in the trash heap of yesterday’s news. Former journalists also tend to know the best people to follow up with after issuing a press release or event notice.

The same skills and connections can be true for experienced PR professionals. Those with experience in the industry understand the intricacies of the business. They are masters of communication who know how to get a message across and which avenues offer their clients the best chance at positive exposure in the media. Understanding the nuances of marketing and portraying a positive image are honed skills needed for your business’s PR firm.

 

Why Pay-to-Play PR is So Dangerous

Careers in PR and journalism have a natural connection. It’s why so many former journalists tend to expand their careers into the PR realm. However, businesses need to be on the lookout for a potentially dangerous practice called pay-to-play. Pay-to-play is a phrase that refers to professionals making undisclosed or under-the-table payments to journalists or media companies in exchange for publishing a client’s story.

This behavior is generally considered unethical. Local media outlets should be viewed as a public service. A newsroom assesses the merit of stories and gauges how interested their audience will be in the information that they provide. Paying for coverage is both unethical and potentially deprives an audience of newsworthy content.

It is also dangerous because media outlets have a duty to report to their audience when a spot or story includes paid content. Paid content includes commercials and ads. A potential consumer knows that the information provided has been paid for by an advertiser when they view a commercial. Pay-for-play is essentially duping an audience into thinking that the content is unbiased. However, if a PR firm purchases airtime under the table, it misrepresents the impartiality of the content.

Setting Goals and Expectations with Your PR Firm

Do your homework ahead of time before committing to a PR agency. Sit down with your team and outline your goals and expectations. What are you hoping to gain out of your relationship with a PR firm? How much of your budget are you willing to dedicate monthly to a PR firm? You need to be honest when answering these questions and establishing your objectives. When you have your goals firmly set, schedule meetings with a variety of PR agencies.

When consulting with a PR firm, consider asking these questions to assess whether the firm will be a good fit:

  • Do they have experience in your particular industry?
  • What is their communication style?
  • How do they measure success?
  • How will they go about generating leads and coverage?
  • Do they know how to manage crisis situations?
  • How will they help you reach your goals?

Don’t be afraid to also ask questions about their fee structure. Budget is a big factor in deciding whether to hire an agency or keep your PR work in-house. A PR firm should be transparent when discussing what they charge and how their fee structure works. You may also want to ask how long it takes their team to craft a press release or set up for an event. Understanding how many hours a typical project can take may help you evaluate whether a PR agency is cost-effective for your business.

To help foster a successful relationship with a PR firm, you need to communicate your goals upfront and set your expectations early. Doing so means that you and the firm start on the same page and can track results throughout the relationship. Meeting with a company before you hire them allows you to gauge how comfortable you are with the firm and how they will manage the reputation of your business.

At the end of the day, hiring a PR firm is an investment, but only if you find an agency whose goals align with yours. When deciding if a firm’s prices coincide with your company’s budget and needs, consider your goals, specific industry challenges, and the expertise of a firm’s staff. Do not be afraid to ask tough questions because the reputation of your business may depend on how your PR agency responds. The right PR agency can be an excellent investment in your business.

Meet Melinda Adamec, SVP at Gabriel Marketing, an agency specializing in cannabis industry marketing strategy consulting, digital marketing and advertising, SEO, marketing automation, and content development.

First, a little background about Melinda Adamec:

 

Over 20 years of experience in advertising, marketing, and public relations. Recently joined the GMG team to lead GMG’s delivery of client services in marketing strategy. Prior to GMG, I lead OMI Industries’ cannabis market business including serving as brand manager for Cannabolish plant-based smoke odor removers. Before OMI Industries, I held various executive and leadership roles at PR/marketing firm GolinHarris and DBC PR + New Media. Some of my clients included Ace Hardware, AT&T, Blackboard, Hair Cuttery, IAC, Mars, McDonalds, Microsoft, Reuters, Rosetta Stone, U.S. Mint, and U.S. Postal Service. And I am a very proud member of the NCIA’s Marketing & Advertising Committee!

When did you first start working in cannabis?

5 years ago. My first event attended was the WomenGrow conference in Denver. I fell in love with the industry and the people and knew it was a very special opportunity to be part of this community.

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

NCIA Marketing Committee

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

Relationships are everything. Strong relationships (with co-workers, peers, and customers) can truly make your business. I have stayed connected with so many people I’ve worked for and with over the years, which has resulted in the learning of new opportunities, growing skillsets, support in new endeavors, and help in connecting with others in the industry. Cannabis just reinforced this by 100%.

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

YES! The NCIA’s Best of 420 Awards, which was produced and launched during the middle of the pandemic. Not only I was so proud to be part of this team that put together a fantastic program within weeks – but so impressed with the brands that brought forth incredibly creative campaigns that highlighted their cannabis businesses using a variety of methods. And I could not be more thrilled to co-chair this subcommittee again this year. Stay tuned for more details about this exciting opportunity to shine a spotlight on some fantastic cannabis businesses!

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

In my opinion – budget. You can do a lot with a small budget. It’s not how much you spend, but how you spend it. The first step is setting specific marketing goals that align with your business goals. Once you have those goals in place, with some creativity and using a customized approach you’d be amazed at the results that can be achieved. It’s not a one-size-fits all solution either. Understanding your market, customer, and how to drive real value takes a creative, omnichannel approach before you’ll see real results.

What were you doing prior to cannabis?

I was focused on increasing brand awareness and sales for a company that made all plant-based odor-removing solutions. 12 years ago natural products were viewed as “not as effective”, so it took a tremendous amount of work to educate consumers and B2B customers about the effectiveness of our products, the health risks of toxic products, and the lack of regulation around these. I like to say we were green before green was cool. So coming from that space into cannabis, educating and amplifying messages was the foundation for everything we did to grow the Cannabolish brand.

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

One of the biggest challenges hands down is the restrictions on advertising and promotions. But even more importantly, the gray areas – in particular with consumer goods and social media. Until there are clear regulations and advertising guidelines in place it will continue to be a space that must be navigated carefully and with a team experienced in this space.

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

In my opinion, once there are Federal regulations in place the marketing world of cannabis will become easier in terms of the navigation. However, more difficult for brands to compete – in particular smaller brands with smaller budgets. But I think that’s where you’ll see some incredibly creative teams rise to the occasion.

What can companies do to ease their digital marketing challenges?

You really need to find someone you trust to help guide you through the ins and outs of branding and marketing in cannabis. It’s not only about understanding the rules and regs, but also what is trusted and valued by consumers in this community. Authenticity and transparency is crucial to earning the trust of your customers.

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

Authentic content – social media content, blog content – it’s the best way to communicate with your customers, and share what makes your brand unique.

In your view, what is the most over-rated digital marketing toolbox for cannabis companies?

Big event sponsorships. You don’t need to spend a fortune to be seen and heard.

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

Listen to your customers – even when they are sharing information you may not want to hear. It’s the only way you learn and improve.

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

Connect with people who have experience in this space. It’s the quickest way to learn about the industry, get advice and understand the nuances. You can really avoid some big mistakes early on by hearing from people who have some level of expertise within the industry.

How can someone contact you, Melinda?

Gabriel Marketing

Thanks for sharing your marketing insights with us today, Melinda.

 

Meet Laura Wilkinson Sinton, Cannabis Dispensary Exert, and Consultant for legal dispensary applicants. Founder of Caligrown.

First, a little background about Laura Wilkinson Sinton:

I live in San Diego with 4 kids and 5 grandkids. My husband is a cancer survivor that honed my cannabis chops, and I am a master composter and sea swimmer.

 

When did you first start working in cannabis?

2015. I got involved in several dispensaries’ marketing operations, as my brother and I owned an alternative rock radio station in Bend, Oregon. Apparently, no one would sell radio advertising to cannabis businesses, and we thought hey, it’s a state-legal business, of course, we can (and we were right). So, that’s how I got started, learning their business model and helping them grow the customer base and promote 4/20 events.

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

Yes. I am active in the NCIA and serve on the MAC (Marketing and Advertising Committee) and on the NCIA Sustainability Committee. Both are really great groups of professionals, and serving the nascent industry in this capacity has been really rewarding and great networking.

I am also active in the ArcView Women’s Inclusion Network, which has incredible benefits (access to lawyers and accountants and really smart people with experience and business intelligence). The ArcView group is geared towards helping you become successful, which is why the WIN is such a great group full of women with generous spirits. Several small cannabis organizations have cropped up locally, but it’s pretty fragmented and their missions may differ from each other. I am a board member of the local South County Economic Development Council. They promote economic development, and cannabis businesses present that very economic opportunity. It has been very influential in informing elected officials in adopting and allowing commercial cannabis. In California, it’s the individual cities that determine whether or not to allow them. And that last mile” has been really hard to push through in California, as we know.

 

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

In radio, in information security, and in other start-ups I have done, it’s to roll with the punches, plan for the long game, and bring your best self every day. And there are a lot of punches. Anybody who thinks cannabis is a “get rich quick” scheme is [off] the mark.

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

Yes, a pending application for a micro-business in National City, CA (San Diego). Our location is actually ON a transit stop, 3 stops from the San Diego Convention Center (think Comic-Con!), has 65 parking spaces, and is actually on the Interstate 5 exit (with on AND off-ramps). San Diego area dispensaries have been relegated to industrial areas, car-dependent and tough parking because of overly restrictive land-use policy. You can’t suspend the rules of retail just for cannabis. It has to be accessible, and San Diego county is way behind the rest of California in permitting. There’s a dearth of dispensaries (50, where the economy can support over 570). So cross your fingers for us. We’ll be the first qualified social equity candidates 100% woman-owned entity (majority women of color) in San Diego.

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

That big social media will come around (Facebook, Instagram, Google). Go elsewhere and stop spinning your wheels and raging against the machine. Not gonna happen.

What were you doing prior to cannabis?

I’ve been an entrepreneur in many places – information security start-ups, precious metals recycling, owning and operating radio stations and media of several types. I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and my husband is a cancer survivor; my mom died from Multiple Sclerosis. Cannabis has been a part of medicine in my family for a while.

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

Misinformation, illicit marketers, breaking out.

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

Easier? Public awareness of consumption methods. Harder? Nothing. It’s not an easy business now. Too many over-promised and disappointing results. It was oversold by public Canadian companies and private investors. Big plans, delayed delivery. Cannabis was to be legal nationwide by now in every prospectus I reviewed. Like a vacation- bring twice the money and half the clothes.

What can companies do to ease their marketing challenges?

Be patient. Results take time in marketing. Use a mix of media – digital alone will never get it done.

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

Creative. It matters more than anything to breakthrough. What do you have today that applies to your audience? Not relevant to YOU – relevant to your customer.

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

Digital reliance. It’s really fragmented at this point. And your share of voice matters.

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

Meditate daily and enjoy the impermanence in this life. Enjoy every day.

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

Be flexible. Leave toxic bosses quickly. Embrace the women in this industry, and lift them up.

How can someone contact you, Laura?

Twitter @laurawilkinsonsinton

Instagram @laurawilkinsonsinton

Thanks for sharing your digital marketing insights with us today, Laura.

 

Meet Michele Ringelberg, CEO of ThrivePop, a digital marketing firm specializing in cannabis. Fast-growing and ambitious brands in cannabis industry work with Michelle and her team to create digital marketing strategies and digital marketing implementation.

First, a little background about Michele Ringelberg:


I have been in the marketing industry since 2000. I have seen a lot of changes in the digital marketing space and the evolution of cannabis marketing has been exciting to watch. Cannabis marketing is challenging and innovative. We have definitely made our mistakes, but have learned from them and are here to teach you what NOT to do! Let me just say, Facebook and Instagram can be unpredictable and difficult when marketing cannabis-related products.

Our team enjoys what we do and has been known to push our clients out of their comfort zone. When we are allowed to try new creative tactics, we can show our clients astounding results!

If your business is ready to grow fast and is seeking help implementing digital marketing strategies that will increase visibility, generate leads, and grow revenue, then we can help.

Let us teach you what we know and create something fabulous together!

 

When did you first start working in cannabis?

2017

 

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

NCIA Marketing Committee

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

Do what you love and what you are naturally good at and stop trying to please every client request. When I first started we were doing a lot of online applications systems and complex web development programs for companies. My brain just doesn’t work that way. I was trying to do something that I didn’t like and it stressed me out. I am not a developer and don’t pretend to be. I am creative and love marketing, not backend web development. I had a complex project that my developers could not produce, they continued to tell me that they were almost done, but as a non-developer I couldn’t look at the code and tell if they were actually telling me the truth. I had to go to the client and let them know we just don’t have the team to complete this project and I refunded them all of their money. I felt this huge weight lifted once I told the client they would need to find another web company to perform this project. It was very difficult to do and they were not happy, however; it was the right thing to do. It was then that I focused on what I love to do and that is marketing. We chose to not take on any more complex web projects and now we focus on marketing, since doing that our company is growing significantly and I do what I love, helping companies make more money and thrive.

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

The majority of our clients are B2B. Fohse lighting is one of our clients that I would like to highlight. They came to us with unrealistic goals. They wanted to double their conversions and revenue in one year. I kind of laughed and said, ok, we need to set realistic goals. our contact said, no we are serious, these are realistic goals. They were ready and motivated to grow. They said, let’s do this! They listened to us and for every new opportunity or creative idea we had; they were up for it. We doubled their monthly leads and increased their revenue by 2,332% in two years! It makes a huge difference when you have a client that actually listens to your recommendations and is open to new marketing tactics, and the entire team is on board. They have an amazing sales team that actually uses the tools we have implemented and has done an excellent job converting the leads we have been providing them. Other people in the industry see Fohse marketing and they ask them who does it, and they very willingly tell them ThrivePOP, in fact, I just recently had a prospect call me and they told me that Fohse told them we kick ass! I said, ok, great that is awesome to hear. 

What’s the biggest misconception cannabis companies have about digital marketing?

That it is easy, or that it [includes only] being on social media. That is part of it, but not the whole picture.

What were you doing prior to cannabis?

We fell into cannabis. I have been doing marketing since 2000, was a marketing director at a healthcare facility and they merged with another health organization and they eliminated my job. I worked at an IT managed service company, managing the web team and doing marketing for the IT company. I started ThrivePOP in 2017. One of our clients that also serves other industries said they wanted to push their product into the cannabis industry, so that is how we started. I sent one of my employees to MJBizCon to help them with their booth, and learn. Since then, we have just been growing like crazy.

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

The biggest issue regarding marketing for cannabis is social media. You spend all this time growing social profiles and FB, Instagram, etc. can take down your profile with no notification and you can’t ever talk to someone at FB or Insta to see why or get it back. So many clients come to us trying to get their accounts back and it is very difficult.

What will get easier in cannabis digital marketing? What will get harder?

I have noticed more and more competition. Everyone thinks it is an easy thing, and it is not. Just because you are in the cannabis industry doesn’t mean you are stashing money in a safe. It is tough. In our town, there are so many dispensaries popping up and I think people don’t understand how difficult it is to run a company.

Trust me, running a company is HARD, especially in the cannabis industry.

What can companies do to ease their digital marketing challenges?

Be consistent and track your results. If you don’t have time to do it yourself, which most people don’t-outsource it to someone that knows what they are doing and are an expert.

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

Industry associations. I try to get my clients to join different cannabis associations and I don’t think they really value that. I have joined a few, and it has really set us apart.

In your view, what is the most over-rated digital marketing toolbox for cannabis companies?

I don’t really think of anything that is over-rated.

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

Be consistent and listen to the data. Track your results and be open to changing your plan based on what the data is telling you. Data doesn’t lie, and you don’t want to waste your money on something that isn’t effective.

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

Join associations to learn about cannabis, join associations, follow people that are knowledgeable, and absorb as much knowledge as possible. Don’t just tell people you understand cannabis marketing if you don’t yet.

How can someone contact you, Michele?

www.thrivepop.com

Facebook/thrivepop

Instagram/thrivepop

 

Thanks for sharing your digital marketing insights with us today, Michele.