Top Insights from a Cannabis Marketing Professional
Finding a way into the cannabis space can be overwhelming and difficult. As a marketing professional, where do you start and how do you get going?
From marketing executives to managers, there are many positions available if you’re looking for a career in the cannabis industry. If you have been curious about what it’s like to work in this space, or ever wondered how you can leverage your existing professional knowledge into a career in cannabis then keep on reading!
We had a chat with Piers Lawson, who is a marketing professional that when looking for an exciting new opportunity found himself working in the cannabis industry. We asked him the following questions:
What were you doing before you joined the cannabis industry?
I worked at award winning agencies in London that focussed on integrated marketing campaigns for a range of clients. These included Coca-Cola, Lacoste, Rolls-Royce, Amazon and Microsoft.
How long have you been involved in the industry?
I started marketing cannabis brands in 2018. I moved from London to Vancouver and landed a job working for a global advertising agency who had just won the account for a large US based cannabis company wanting to launch a premium brand in Canada.
What was the thought process that drove you to the industry?
It was a lucky twist of fate that I found myself working in the cannabis. Fortunately, it enabled me to develop my thoughts, opinions and perspectives around cannabis which has given me a real passion for the industry.
Based on your previous experience — what skills and expertise have you brought forward with you that has been useful?
Regardless of the brand, industry or product that you are trying to market. All experiences are useful to learn from and bring forward with you in one way or another. One that stands out for me, is that I have experience working in events and integrated campaigns. I certainly leverage my skills in bringing multiple marketing elements, tools and expertise together to ensure marketing effectiveness.
What was the attraction to this space?
Two main things. The first attraction was that everything was new. The opportunity to grow a new product, build a new brand, in a completely new industry was a unique marketing challenge.
The second attraction was the ability to work with incredibly talented people ranging from cannabis growers, lab technicians, Marketing Director’s and cannabis CEO’s to market and sell a product that can genuinely make a difference to people’s lives. It’s an attractive proposition for me as a marketer.
What were your assumptions and expectations before joining this industry?
A naive assumption of mine going into the industry was perhaps the cultural mindset trap of the ‘stoner’ image of cannabis that preceded its legalisation. Just one day working with serious cannabis brands and professionals changed that view.
Where did you get your information and research from before you joined?
Online is the best place to start. There are some dedicated cannabis channels that are useful in providing information on various thoughts within the industry.
Twitter is also a great well of info. I follow a whole range of people from cannabis influencers, researchers, and cannabis lawyers. Each can provide a different perspective or source of data that can help drive better understanding, consumer insight or help inform your marketing strategy.
Now that you’re in the industry, what is it actually like? What are the actual challenges?
The brand marketing challenge is fighting the urge to join ‘the sea of sameness’ that is prevalent amongst cannabis brands. A majority of cannabis brand advertising has been functional — focussed on educating consumers about their products which, in reality, are all the same! The challenge now is building brands that move from shouting about product features, and start talking about customer gains and the emotional benefits.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get involved in the industry?
Get involved in it for the right reasons and keep it simple. From a marketing view, this like any other consumer brand — ensure your actions are market orientated and it’s what the consumer wants, make sure you can deliver what you promise, and position your brand differently from the competition. While this is an exciting and revolutionary space to work in, make sure you focus on getting the basics right.
Where do you see the industry going?
From a marketing perspective, the data set from legalised counties such as Canada is starting to show who the winners and losers are. Producers have spent millions hoping that people will try their brands, but the data shows that brand awareness remains low. I would argue that this is due to lack of differentiation and distinctiveness with most brands looking and sounding identical.
I see the industry learning from the mistakes of others, where I hope we’ll start to experience better cannabis brands being built that shift away from category norms and resonate more effectively with consumers.
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