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?
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.