Meet Kary Radestock. Based in San Diego, Kary is a cannabis industry packaging expert. In addition to her creative packaging, Kary is also the Marketing and Advertising Committee Chair for NCIA (2021-2022)
First, a little background about Kary Radestock:
I came from the high-end commercial print/mainstream packaging background and cut my teeth in the LA market working mostly with Ad Agencies, Entertainment, Automotive, Museum, Music + Fortune 500 companies.
I saw the need for professional packaging development/production in the newly emerging cannabis industry in 2015.
After researching the industry for nearly a year, I quit my corporate job just 2 months shy of my 20th anniversary and launched Hippo Premium Packaging as a sole proprietor on March 1, 2016.
When did you first start working in cannabis?
In 2015 when I heard from a supplier that the cannabis market was really pulling out all the stops when it came to their packaging, I immediately got my medical marijuana card and headed to a dispensary to investigate.
I was disappointed to find edibles in baggies with cheap stickers and lots of mason jars full of weed. I scratched my head and thought “I don’t see any of this cool packaging I’m hearing about – but the industry sure does need help”.
Do you sit on any industry boards or associations that you’d like to mention?
I am honored to have the opportunity to serve on the National Cannabis Industry Association’s Marketing and Advertising Committee for the past 5 years, this year (2021/22) as the Chair.
What lesson did you learn BEFORE cannabis that’s been most valuable in cannabis?
Success is built on a series of failures. We post and talk about the things we’re most proud of – therefore many people only see a series of successes. This gives an impression that the road is easy – the arrow climbing sharply upward.
But, pitfalls and setbacks are around every corner and it’s my job as a human being and an entrepreneur to find the resiliency, commitment, and belief in myself to rise up with optimism after each defeat.
Is there a particular cannabis project you’d like to highlight?
Gosh…that’s like asking me to name my favorite child! I’m proud of the longevity spent with and the beautiful work produced for women-owned, Garden Society, a Sonoma-based manufacturer. I love the packaging decorating prowess of the Hi-Klas (AZ) Vape Cartridge line and I’m currently excited about completing a new hemp CBD tincture line printed on Mohawk’s Hemp Renewal stock.
What’s the biggest misconception cannabis companies have about marketing?
The biggest misconception is that packaging should be easy. “It’s done all the time!”
But there are more than 30 ways a project can go wrong and only one way for it to go right.
And, that is for all 30 people touching the project throughout each stage of the development process, to do their bit perfectly. Professional packaging production uses all the lessons learned along the way but each project is custom, with its own set of challenges.
In your view, what is the biggest cannabis marketing & branding challenge facing cannabis companies today?
Lack of access to capital.
There are so many amazing brands trying to launch that never make it due to being under-capitalized. Couple this with 280E, jacked-up rental rates plus exorbitant licensing fees, it leaves little budget left for marketing & advertising.
What will get easier in cannabis marketing & branding? What will get harder?
Harder = Intense competition – there are literally thousands of cannabis brands flooding the market in every state. Retailers won’t be able to carry them all.
How will they choose? If the brand has a presence in the market, it’s a no-brainer. But if they are unknown, it will come down to how they look. The branding and packaging are the easiest way to ‘judge a book by its cover’.
What can cannabis companies do to alleviate their cannabis PR and branding challenges?
Brands must continue to focus on building customer loyalty using direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing tactics.
Many brands are beginning to develop these strategies strengthening their foothold. Operators who carry a distribution license are able to sell and deliver directly to consumers, eliminating the dispensary (and therefore passing the savings directly to the customer). Savvy California brands are developing and deploying these DTC strategies which is helping to counter the difficulties competing with the black market.
In your view, what is the most under-rated tool in the brand marketing toolbox for cannabis companies?
Data – Dispensaries and cannabis companies with a DTC strategy have so much data at their fingertips: consumer profiles, buying frequency, and product preferences. In the future, I believe we’ll see personalized variable data direct mail campaigns as well as complex cross-media campaigns using text, email, and direct mail to drive loyalty and build brand and product awareness.
In your view, what is the most over-rated tool in the branding toolbox for cannabis companies?
What’s the BEST piece of advice you give everyone you work with?
Measure twice and cut once (triple-check everything).
That, and allow enough time for proper cannabis packaging ideation, development, and production (60-90 days for domestic, typically).
What’s your advice for people who want to get into cannabis brand marketing?
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the cannabis Industry is like mainstream…it’s a whole new animal with a whole new set of challenges.
Use your expertise to the fullest, but put yourself in your client’s shoes when developing your offering and tailor your solutions to meet their specific challenges.