To Be Blunt: The Professional Cannabis Business Podcast

102 Prolific Cannabis Brand Marketing with Sam Arellano of ABC Brand / Design

May 30, 2022 Shayda Torabi
To Be Blunt: The Professional Cannabis Business Podcast
102 Prolific Cannabis Brand Marketing with Sam Arellano of ABC Brand / Design
Show Notes Transcript

“Without question, consumers are incredibly savvy and I caution any and all brand marketers to underestimate them at their own peril. They're tuned in. They're educated. They're paying attention. They're asking questions and you never want to take consumers lightly. You want to, evoke excitement. You want to compel them to action. And that's not easy to do in this sort of digitally equipped world that we live in so authenticity plays  through.“ - Sam Arellano

Welcome back to the To Be Blunt podcast! In this episode, Shayda Torabi welcomes ABC Brand / Design Founder Sam Arellano. He shares insights on how to build a successful brand in a saturated cannabis market and how branding can help impact the longevity of a business. He also discusses his hopes for the future of the industry from a branding and design perspective.


[00:01 – 17:19] Breathing Life to Cannabis Brands

[17:20 – 22:10] Brands Are a Value System

[22:11 – 28:12] Adding Value Through Technology and Education

[28:11- 35:35] Flower Commoditization

[35:36 - 50:37] Creating Differentiation and Establishing Brand Longevity 

[50:38 – 55:23] Elevating the Future of the Cannabis Industry


Sam is an award-winning, strategic brand marketer with experience that spans sporting goods, consumer electronics, and streetwear. His creativity has landed him gigs with Nike, Incase, and Lululemon to name a few. Prior to starting ABC Brand / Design, Sam was the Chief Marketing Officer at Canndescent- where he architected multi-million dollar, high-margin brands. Rosie Mattio calls him "one of the most prolific marketers in the cannabis industry.”


Connect with Sam Arellano!

Check out the Arellano Brand Co. website.


Shayda Torabi has been called one of the most influential Women in WordPress and now she’s one of the women leading the cannabis reformation conversation building one of Texas’ premier CBD brands. She's currently the CEO and Co-Founder of RESTART CBD, a female-run education first CBD wellness brand. And has formerly held marketing positions at WP Engine and WebDevStudios. Shayda is the host of a podcast for cannabis marketers called To Be Blunt, where she interviews top cannabis brands on their most successful marketing initiatives. When Shayda's not building her cannabiz in Texas, you can find her on the road exploring the best hikes and spots for vegan ice cream. Follow Shayda at @theshaydatorabi


Key Quote:

“Your brand is your reputation. It's your shorthand. It is the totality of everything that you have working together in harmony and consistency and making sure that that message is effective and is targeted to, a very specific audience.  And I like to say go narrow and deep. Know who your customer is and then go to all extent to service them and surprise and delight.” - Sam Arellano


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Sam Arellano  0:00  
Without question, consumers are incredibly savvy. And I caution any and all brand marketers to underestimate them at their own peril, right? They're tuned in, they're educated, they're paying attention. They're asking questions and you never want to take consumers lightly. You want to evoke excitement you want to compel them to action. And that's not easy to do in this sort of digitally equipped world that we live in, so authenticity plays through

Announcer  0:37  
you're listening to to be blunt, be podcast for cannabis marketers, where your host Shayda Torabi and her guests are trailblazing the path to marketing, educating and professionalizing cannabis light one up and listen up. Here's your host Shayda Torabi.

Shayda Torabi  1:01  
Hello and welcome back to a new episode of The to be blood podcast. I'm your host Shayda Torabi, cannabis business owner and brand marketer. If you had to guess what my absolute favorite thing about marketing is, and if my intro didn't give it away already, it would be without a doubt, branding every single time. I remember early on in my professional career working at a tech company in the marketing department and dipping my toes into different aspects of marketing. I did partnership marketing, product marketing, event marketing, and then got to learn under our CMO at the time, who was also an esteemed brand marketer in her own regard, the ins and outs of branding and brand marketing and I just fell in love. Now I pulled this from the internet. But what agree this is a pretty good oversight into what is brand marketing and what does it entail. Brand Marketing describes a long term strategic plan to continuously boost a brand's recognition and reputation. The goal of brand marketing is to develop an ever growing base of loyal customers. This is achieved by continually and consistently communicating the brand's identity and values in a meaningful and engaging ways. Within a company brand. Marketing is an all encompassing, constantly evolving strategy. It defines a brand's approach to communications, sales and products by promoting products and services in a way that highlights the overall brand. I think I resonate with the simplistic framing of brands like Coca Cola or Nike, people recognize a company by its brand name, logo slogan as well as colors. So what goes into building that out and then implementing it across multiple touchpoints is to me the essence of brand marketing. I know that we've talked about it frequently on the podcast before too so it shouldn't be something new to consider. But I think in a market like cannabis that we can all agree on can be saturated, the brand that you are building the vessel, the look field colors, texture, why and what is what differentiates brand A, from brands B, C, D, etc. I spend a lot of my time fascinated at what makes a sticky brand, what draws the consumers attention, what resonates with them and why so naturally when it comes to industry professionals to look up to there has been one on my radar for a while that I am delighted to finally introduce you to today on the podcast. His name is Sam Arellano, and he is a dominating presence in the industry for his brand work. Sam is an award winning strategic brand marketer with experience that spans sporting goods, consumer electronics and streetwear. His creativity has landed him gigs with Nike, in case and Lululemon to name a few. And prior to starting ABC branded design. Sam was the Chief Marketing Officer at Ken dessin, where he architected multimillion dollar high margin brands. And he's been called one of the most prolific marketers in the cannabis industry. In our conversation we reflected on Sam's experience at canned Essent and how that has compared and influenced the brand work he's doing now under his own firm. And he was also at Hala flowers at the time we recorded this and we touched base on his observations at that event, and how branding can help impact the longevity of a business in the cannabis industry. I'm very excited to have Sam on the show today. So please join me by lining one up and let's welcome Sam to the show.

Unknown Speaker  4:46  
Hello, my name is Sam Arellano. I am the owner, founder of Orlando brandco or ABC brand design for short. My background comes very much of varied pursuit of passion projects on neuro background as well as a global brand marketing for Category leaders in consumer electronics and sporting goods and apparel specifically streetwear. My journey into cannabis is the one I like to tell. I'll say that I wasn't looking at cannabis necessarily at the time. So I often say, you know, cannabis found me I didn't necessarily find cannabis, which is kind of a fun and unique perspective. So early in my career, I'll say it must have been the early 2000s midway point, I guess, in my career and so much earlier, I had a creative agency here based in Los Angeles, a different one. And at the time, we service Nike quite a bit. And fast forward to 2019. It was actually someone who I had worked with before at Nike, who was doing a stint at Ken dessen as a consultant. And so it was through that relationship that I was introduced into the opportunity I can destined to come in as first as the interim CMO. After about three months, Adrian, the CEO asked me to stay on and I stayed on for about two years in the Chief Marketing Officer role here in California, Kent. So for those listeners, and viewers who may not be familiar is a category leading ultra premium flower brand here in California, very top shelf, indoor grown flower there at Condesa. We created a portfolio of brands now known as a house of brands for them. And so that was fun in the two years that I spent there. And we ended up launching a couple of brands during the pandemic, which was, you know, not without its challenges, I'm sure that you know, for your listeners who have done something similar if operating cannabis is not difficult enough, try doing it during a pandemic. So, yeah. And so it was January of last year 2021, that Candice it and myself went in different directions. I love the team. They're a great group of executives left on great terms, obviously, and started what is now referred to as our Atlanta brandco, or ABC brand design for short. It was shortly thereafter starting this agency agency 2.0. For me, in this instance, that about three other people that reported to me, and Candice decided to come and join our team. And so that was nice and made me feel quite good that they wanted to continue our journey together. And so it's been about a year and a half that ABC grand design has been working exclusively in the cannabis space across the country, which is part of my reason for wanting to try something new. And it's at the time the blue wave, there's a lot of conversation about administrative turnover that was happening in Washington. Timing, it was good. And here we are just about a year and a half later and things are going great. And here I am talking to Shayda This is awesome. I know that we connected earlier when I was at Kansas and but so happy to be on podcast. I'm just

Shayda Torabi  7:45  
so thrilled to have you on the podcast. I like you highlighted can destiny is such a aspirational brand for so many people in the industry. They're a market setter and so being able to come from that world from your perspective and now to go out on your own not you know naively right because you come from this agency branding design background but to now extend yourself creatively into the cannabis space beyond just the California cannabis market I think is really fascinating and fun. I think we're gonna have a really great conversation today because I saw some of the brands that you have on your roster that you've been working with Seton Smith being one of them huge fan of their brand they're out in Colorado for the listeners who are unaware and it is cool to see your design your creativity bleed into all these other brands and kind of bringing them to life and so I guess to kind of start the conversation off to go back a little bit before we go forward you know what was it like working within to whatever you can you know, kind of communicate maybe we can speak more abstractly but coming from such a heavy hitter like canned Essent the structure of a business I mean you referred to you know the team is having executives I think these are languages that come from traditional industry in business that are for sure being applied into the cannabis industry but it's a little bit of a you know, nuanced evolution. There are certainly multi state operators there's these large brands can't So being an example of one of them, but let's kind of talk from that perspective. What is it like being in a cannabis opportunity that is more than just let's say one particular product or one SKU or kind of one geographical aspect or location to working with this kind of like behemoth of a brand I mean when you stepped in and I'm sure right it was already can destin so you were coming in and breathing more life into this beast that is continuously growing and becoming something especially to your you know, illusion of them evolving into having house of brands just want to get a pulse of what does it look like in a brand that scale operating in the cannabis industry from a marketing perspective? How much of it is really being influence from the actual cannabis industry or how much of that has been influenced from maybe traditional but not cannabis traditional influences as you're trying to do marketing campaigns and packaging and talking to this new consumer. I mean, California has a very educated and loyal customer base to certain brands. So how do you penetrate into that particular market with that background of a business?

Unknown Speaker  10:26  
Yeah, let me see if I can try and unpack that. But there was a lot there. We'll start with operations in sort of organizational structure, I think you were making a point about what I would call, there is the legacy side of the business, right, amazing. Growers, cultivators, scientist, lab technicians, people who really understand plant medicine, growing some of the best product in the world, really here in California in particular. And so interestingly enough, this will tie into sort of our thesis and our reason for being, you know, here at ABC brand design. And, and, and that is speaking to the operations and the structure. And you're alluding to the fact that can, Destin is a behemoth, you know, behemoth is relative, right, so maybe big fish or medium fish. And in the California pond, of which, you know, California is, I think, less the sixth largest economy in the world. But when compared to a tariff sand or curaleaf, or something like that, it's not comparable in any regard. Now, that being said, Canada said it was and it remains to be a category leader. And within that structure, I found serve on the executive leadership side, you have very well educated individuals, we're talking HBs grads, we're talking Kellogg grads, people have a relationship with the plant, if you will, but are really looking at time horizons and looking at opportunities to create, you know, wealth for themselves individually, and as well as their shareholder tribe and their investors. And that was mostly the case of canvassing. And one of the reasons that really attracted me there is because I wanted to learn about fundraising, I wanted to learn about all the series that were needed to kind of grow sort of the vertical operation. And so a kid so my experience was really sort of weighted towards that executive side, at the time that I joined, there was quite a number of executives on the team, because we were looking at multi state expansion. We even had executives for a lobbying our state, you know, sort of legislature, all of that stuff. Unfortunately, late 2019, the capital markets dried up. And over the course of the next two years, we had to run the business as a solvent business. And I'm happy to report by the time that I left that we were cashflow positive, and beyond breakeven. So that is a bit of a unicorn, at least in California cannabis, and more and more people are doing it. Now with different types of operational structure, you might have heard some of your guests referred to it as like asset light or something along those lines. So it's great to hear with all of the XX taxation that we have in California, that there are still some business people out there who are clawing away at a marginal profit. And so my experience at Condesa was one of you know, very forward thinking relative to, you know, building something that was going to be valuable as an asset as part of a portfolio should you know, the publicly traded companies coming from the east want to look west for acquisition. So that was really our goal at the same time on the other pole. On the other end of the spectrum, we did have amazing cultivators and you know, people who knew the product really, really well, where we struggled to some degree. And where I've found a lot of organizations struggle is the operational sort of acumen that needs to exist internally in order to bring product to market in an effective and efficient way. In California, we have a proliferation of brands because we have an outsized supply and outsize suppliers when I say so with that. There are people who believe a logo and a jar label creates a brand and or swag creates a brand. And that's my opinion, that's not the case. And in my experience, that's not the case. And so we have upwards of 1000 brands, that's no joke here in California. And I thought, well, that's not sustainable retailers here in California, if you miss a ship, like a shipment, like there's, there's so many other brands that want to steal that shelf space. So I thought, well, that's not sustainable from a business perspective, because there's going to be variability and harvest and things of that nature, even manufacturing. So I said, Well, what can we do to support the industry in a way that we thought would be valuable or invaluable? And so our thesis and our reason for being and hopefully, this addresses your first question is that is we saw an opportunity within the marketplace that said, if we can do what we did Condesa and that is educate our sales staff, right educational materials, do all of the necessary blocking and tackling that marketers have to do in California cannabis, as well as amazing creative as well as amazing brand design and brand new engineering, and value props, and all of those things if we can do that at the same time. I love that we did for CANDACE It would that be valued for prospective clients across the country. And I'm thankful to say that this is checked out in year one. And we had an amazing year one you referenced Seaton Smith is one of our clients, they were great. We vertical operation in Colorado, we created a retail store for them, which is the flagship store in Lewisville, Colorado, which we're very proud of. We launched in 2021, we also launched a b2b business that was primarily a cultivation in Greenfield, California created that brand as well. And then got to work with a streetwear icon Hans, which is for something that listeners I guess the closest proxy would be like a supreme, this is a 20 year old streetwear skateboard brand with wholly owned stores around the world. And so they're coming to market this year. And so they tapped us, I would say largely, because what you alluded to earlier that was we have our background and my background, in particular coming from traditional, I guess you would call it CPG. But having that sort of intersect of art, music, fashion entertainment, so it was nice to work with how to get that kind of nod.

Shayda Torabi  16:06  
I'm just so enamored, I mean, looking at the work that you've done both through Canvas and and especially through ABC design, it is so cool. I don't know if that's like the proper term. But just like as a consumer, like when you see something you like, that looks sexy, that looks very like high level it looks also approachable, maybe perhaps to some consumers where just like fits and it flows. I mean, using Sina Smith as the example right, I'm familiar with that brand in a different capacity. And so then to see and I have not gotten the chance to go to Colorado, I'm excited. I'm going next month, the cannabis marketing summit to participate, but I want to now plan a little drive by to this Eden Smith location and go check it out personally and kind of, you know, I think for me, that's where some of the fun is specially with the podcast, especially having guests like yourself on the show, being able to see these things in real time. And in real life, which is what the consumer is experiencing, right? They are purchasing these products, they're shopping at these dispensaries, they are supporting these brands, and you know, you touched on it. And I'm really curious, especially given your background, I can Ida what I think you know, makes a brand but you said your brand is not just your packaging, your label, the swag that you produce, or you merch and sell. So, from your perspective, I mean, you did touch a little bit too on the creative, the art kind of all these other attributes, and perhaps, you know, kind of side by side industries that can play very easily with cannabis. Would you say that those are some of the influences that you incorporate into what is a brand or brands identity? And how do you start to shape and look at these businesses that are coming to like Huff, for example, that does have this already established brand presence, but is now trying to penetrate into the cannabis market. Again, you mentioned California being so saturated, where if you're not ready, there's another brand ready to come step into your spot when someone comes to you. And then they're like, I want help with my brand. What do you tell them? What do you look at to give that brand new identity or to actually create a brand? From perhaps nothing in this industry? That is cannabis?

Unknown Speaker  18:09  
Great question. I would say we absolutely pulled from outside influences, I guess to put it simply the team that joined us here and I should note that ABC brand design is a family business. It's a joint venture with my wife, Johanna and I and so were the principles and the team that joined us who came from Kansas and all of us have varied background and interest. But there's a commonality or a common thread I should say about culture and how we view the world and how we view consumerism and our philosophical sort of worldview around what motivates in the psychology associated with that. And so this is the beginning of what makes the brand and what compels consumers. And you know, what I would say to operators, or people who are brand marketers who are thinking about maybe understand there's continuity associated with brand expression, and making sure that you show up the same way every single time. But I would challenge those brand marketers and those operators to go even deeper, right? It's about intrinsic values, it's about your reason for being, it's about the difference you want to make in the world. And even if the world is within your regional footprint, right? It doesn't have to be the world in totality. It just means your world or the world where you're trying to create an impact. So I would challenge people to say, you know, it's, it's a value system brands are a value system. It's your reputation, and shape to your brand. And then to be blunt is a brand and I'm a brand and then my agency is a brand and then we work on behalf of organizations who are brands. And so it's shorthand. It's what you want to be known for, and where the investment for some people and I think a lot of people miss this point, this next point. The investment in brand is one that pays back dividends when you make mistakes as one example right So I've made mention of the variability in the industry that we work in, which is cannabis, right, everybody's going to miss the yield from time to time of something's going to happen, whatever may come whatever challenges that may come right, it's going to impact your customer, which in this instance, we're talking about retailers. Now you're going to miss the cycle, the market demand requires you know, that customers retailers, in this instance, fulfill that space, what I'm trying to get at is there's mindshare associated with your brand. And there's elasticity associated with that brand. And so you experience it in your everyday life, whether people can acknowledge it or not, you shot the same sneakers, you set these up the same jeans, you shot, the same sort of housewares or whatever, because you have a good experience. Sometimes, if you pay close attention to your own sort of behavior, maybe you can look back in your past and be like, I'm gonna hold off into the brand that I really likes, has availability, or I don't want to scrimp on quality, because really, I have a good experience with Brand X that I normally like. And then, you know, the gold standard, there's if you're willing to pay more, as you know, for that brand, right. So there's certainly plenty of sneaker manufacturers, but there's a reason why Nike is who they are and command such premium pricing for what they do. So I would say your brand is your reputation. It's your shorthand, it is the totality of everything that you have working together in harmony, and consistency, and making sure that that message is effective, and is targeted for a very specific audience, I like to say go narrow and deep, right, like, know who your customer is, and then go to Paul extent to kind of service them and surprise and delight them.

Shayda Torabi  21:46  
I couldn't agree more, I think it's becoming even more increasingly important as we transition, I wouldn't say exclusively leaving out the physical world, but certainly into a more digital world, you have to be more conscious of the touchpoints that you're able to have with a consumer on a more frequent basis. Now to win, you have E commerce and opportunities to be online, especially when it comes to advertising and doing things digitally. And so I observed one of the things that you I think have executed really well that I wanted to pick your brain on a little bit further, which is certainly some brands especially from a marijuana perspective, you can really only transact in a physical world, right? You're not able to necessarily make sales online. But now in this, you know, transitioning day and age of COVID. And certainly web three, you are seeing more technologies being incorporated into the cannabis industry. So whether you're able to do delivery, or you have some aspect of your business, maybe it's incorporating merchandise, so you're selling merch to your consumers on a website versus this retail experience, then you kind of get into the physical where maybe Seaton Smith being the example they are their own brands. So they have their own dispensary and their own products, versus a brand perhaps like canned Essent, where they are being sold into dispensaries. The question really is around your navigation between the physical and the digital world when it comes to brands and bringing these brand touchpoints to life trying to figure out where is the customer? And how do you have that message in a market where you are forced into certain channels just by nature of what is regulated or legal. And also the opportunity of where new trends of consumers are hanging out being a little bit more digitally native and things like that?

Unknown Speaker  23:37  
Yeah, so for us and in our team, we're cannabis experts by way of helping develop and build the portfolio of brands that is that can Desson over the course of the last couple of years. Prior to that, we operated in the real sort of world context of marketing, which is being driven by DTC. So in some ways, you know, the stuff that we're doing in cannabis is rudimentary from a technology perspective. Now, that being said, it is changing, and you pointed that out. And so we do have cannabis customers who are placing a premium on last mile delivery or just delivery in general, right. And so through those means, so certainly you'd be familiar with like ease, or amuse, or these are just some of the larger delivery partners here in California. And so when we're working on behalf of a brand who has a partner like an amuse or an ease, they're co marketing opportunities for us to illuminate and amplify our clients brands in a way that reaches consumers. And certainly, from a technology perspective, there's types of API, you know, plugged in real time inventory that makes delivery capable, it's powered by some of these delivery partners. So we're seeing that chiasm closing it was it accelerated for sure by COVID Right. So when we were launching brands during COVID, we had to pivot quickly and accelerate our sort of curbside delivery and pickup strategy, just as our customers were pivoting to becoming more digitally savvy and understanding that, hey, you know, the world is, for all intents purposes shut down for, you know, certain moments or certain times within the COVID, sort of time period. But Canvas was deemed essential. And so hey, you know, people, we saw people loading up, but you couldn't go inside, he had to be touched less. And so that was really great for those people who, you know, like us had done sort of direct consumer marketing before. And so while it's great to see, you know, that gap, or that chasm closing, because ultimately, you know, frictionless is the way to go and, you know, in other industries called omni channel, and that is you place an order, and you can pick it up at Target, for example, if you were selling something through target, so we're seeing that alignment happened here in California. And I think we'll continue to see that happened more frequently across the country. But other than that, if you're not working towards that last mile connected point to the end, user and consumer, it's really about education, there's just a lot of blocking and tackling or, you know, depending on the day, I might use metaphors like chop wood carry water, like the basics, you know, and there's the premium value placed on executing the bases at high level. And just because they're basic doesn't mean that they're easy to do try educating, you know, a staff of 150 bud tenders, it's not easy. So we do a lot of that on behalf of our clients. Again, our reason for being in our thesis is that if our prospective clients can look at us as a tremendous value, add based on our experience, our acumen and our high level of execution, and we can do that at a cost comparison premium, that would use gonna save them money, then it's a win win for both of us. And so that's what we do here. That's what we enjoy doing. You could think of it on a pendulum, or playing everything for brand engineering to brand design all the way to executional capability. And we don't do that for all clients. We mentioned seats with a couple of times we did that for them. And we kind of build them into a position where that should they have the resources, they can internalize the marketing department and we can move on and do something else. But should they see the realized value and not want to internalize that and keep a sore, lower headcount than we were a good solution to those type of prospects?

Shayda Torabi  27:15  
Yeah, no, it makes sense. Certainly, there's definitely different needs for different businesses and different brands. And obviously, I think it sounds you know, silly to say it out loud. But we all have different goals. I think everybody's assumption is we all want the same thing out of cannabis, or even cannabis legalization. But in a lot of the conversations I'm having, especially with the podcast, it's been, you know, realized how varying opportunity is in the industry and what is actually tangible, certainly you are limited based on the geography that you are operating in. If you are a California cannabis brand, you have a much different runway just by nature of what is accessible to you, or perhaps the saturation of the market. And so it's more competitive compared to let's say, a state like New Mexico that just came online and it's fairly reasonable to get a license and operate in the state so you're not seeing the same dynamic happen just quite yet. I'm sure it's probably going to come eventually, I think we'll all experience that as we do go towards some sort of federal legalization or decriminalization.

Hello, just want to take a quick moment to thank my sponsor and full disclosure, my company restart CBD, restart CBD is a brand that I built with my sister so we are family owned and women owned we do operate a brick and mortar in Austin. So if you ever find yourself in Central Texas, we'd love for you to come say hi, but we also ship nationwide and we carry a wide range of CBD products. We really care about this plant we really care about educating our customers, this show would not be possible without their support. So please go check us out at restart and use code to be blunt for $5 off your next purchase. Thanks and let's go back to the show. But to kind of follow up with that a little bit with this retail experience I think I'm just so fascinated by the approach to the non traditional but functioning as a dispensary right I mean you're going into dispensary because you are purchasing cannabis products but especially coming from I'm sure California background which my observation of California cannabis is rethinking cannabis you know it's a looks and feels different like yes there's flour in the jar but you're receiving it in this you know makeup packaging or design with gold diamonds around it or you know whatever the case may be is this luxurious kind of consumer driven brand tangible experience that you're creating? And so I look at dispensaries as this means to an end we need dispensaries because not every brand is able to go direct to consumer or maybe they can't operate in delivery because you know, maybe listen I don't know this but California is really one of the only states that has pioneered and had delivery it's now coming online and other markets. I think Colorado doesn't even really have full on delivery just quite yet. So these technologies seem very accessible in some capacities and also not possible and others right so going back to that traditional dispensary model, it's kind of like we need to play there whether we are the dispensary or the brand wanting to get into the dispensary. But the question really is around people are reimagining what the dispensary experience looks like. And so when you are looking at these dispensaries whether your client is the dispensary or they're wanting to open a dispensary How do you envision kind of the cannabis dispensary of the future? And what are the components that make up that environment because it isn't all just going to be transactions I was picking up again, I know we're talking about Seton Smith a lot. But they're, you know, your premier kind of client that fits this conversation. And I want to keep it specific to your experience, but they're doing so much more it's more merchandise feel it's more of this, you're coming in and you're having this whole experience of cannabis, I don't know how else to articulate it without having been in it myself. But knowing from being in other dispensaries. Actually, I did, I went to the Steven Smith tour, I went to their I guess, original facility that was kind of their claim to fame. I think originally they were one of the first that was allowing consumers to walk through and actually see the plant. So when I was in Denver a couple months ago, this would have been probably last year, I got to see plants, right and their dispensaries right off of it like that, to me was at the time knew. Now everybody's kind of, you know, oh, I got plants in my dispensary, or here's, you know, the grow room. What is kind of the new next wave of dispensaries and that traditional kind of retail experience that you're seeing cannabis be exposed to or be inspired to create. And that makes sense.

Unknown Speaker  31:52  
You know, it's interesting. And I'd like to try to pride myself on being a continuous learner. And so having some experience in the Colorado market, as well as now the Illinois market with some of our clients, it's interesting to see the commoditization of flour in comparison, or in contrast to the proliferation of so many branded flower packages in California. So there's a significant sort of contrast, with mature markets driving prices down, there's not a lot in terms of what you can brand in a very meaningful way, unless you've got some sort of intellectual property or, you know, widely regarded, you know, superior technique that's going to yield something that would warrant a branded label. And so it's interesting because you're asking about the future of retail and the future of how this industry, in my opinion, is going to adapt as consolidation continues to happen. And I think ultimately, across the country, we will get to a level of commoditization and price sort of structure that makes a buying flower, you know, very easy to understand very easy to in Colorado, they call it I think it's in the you know, a lot of flowers is in like these bulk container jars. I think they call it the deli. Yeah, the deli style, right. And that's, you know, you can extrapolate that back and you can look, you know, there's a medicinal sort of archetype that happened there, where you kind of go up to the pharmacy counter, if you will, and you talk to someone more educated than you and you let them know what your symptoms are anxiety or glaucoma or whatever it is that you may be troubled with. And you a bag is realized with flour in it, that is some strain that you've never heard of to help you with your condition. And so we've seen an evolution of that model in California, it's not been that so much. It's California, we're very lifestyle driven state consumers here are conditioned and cultured and used to finding their own brand within brands, right? You might be someone who's a very outdoorsy, sports minded person, and you're looking for a brand that looks like REI to you, or connotates, the same sort of spirit. And so that's really what California has been about. And that's why we have so many slivers of you know, urban type brand communication, or we talked about Condesa. And, and that's very luxury. And that was pulling cues from jewelry and fashion and more bespoke shopping experiences like at Neiman's, you know. So that's to say that there is a kaleidoscope of sort of taste and interest and personalities here in California. But I think in the future, we're going to have a sort of consolidated condensed version of that where widely it will be commoditized flour, but for mid and top shelf, you'll have brands that command a premium, and we're starting to see that in Colorado in particular, there's a brand called fourteener. That's quite good at doing this. And that's obviously in a consolidated mature market. So I think California is also going to fall sort of along these lines. but it's it's really interesting to work with some of these big guys who need to delineate and create this brand architecture that is not always under the same brand banner, right, because if you're, you know, a manufacturer of concentrates, you know, an extractor and creating sometimes dispensary, people don't want that same brand and a flower brand. Because the elasticity of that what I call like the brand, rubber band kind of snaps, it's like you guys can be good in this lane. But we don't really want it for this line, because there's specialists that are better. And so it's interesting to kind of see this thing all play out in real time. I think we're all trying to figure it out, to be honest with you.

Shayda Torabi  35:35  
I couldn't agree more, I think it's come up in a couple conversations. So I'll kind of play it out with you and see kind of what your thoughts are just kind of on that vein, right. So I had a gentleman on the podcast from Oklahoma and one of his tips was around, I think similarly to what you're saying, there's a couple of ways your brand, and let's say you have X, Y or Z cartridges, and you're selling to maybe a more outdoorsy audience, and they're not really selling to a female audience. But you know that there's females who are interested in concentrates. In this particular instance, I will go as far as say, because I purchased this was what he was saying, that brand didn't even change the integrity of the cartridge, they just repackaged it to a different brand identity. So here's this, you know, brand, umbrella X, and they have this outdoorsy brand, and they have this more feminine brand and when the packaging is the same product, but they're able to now extend their brand into new conversations to track to a different market based purely on the aesthetics of the packaging. And then I think there's another layer of it right where you can do other types of products. So from flour to concentrates, but maybe under the brand umbrella, they do create different sub brands. I am maybe curious from your perspective, what that looks like in terms of a brand's approach to being able to do that in the market effectively, because aren't consumers smart? Like sometimes, like find out? Oh, this brand does all these other brands? Well, isn't it just the same brand just repackaged, I don't think it's bad per se. But when you are looking at kind of creating differentiation in the marketplace, but there's also been so much saturation in the marketplace. And you realize a lot of people are perhaps white labeling from certain suppliers. And it gets really interesting and murky. And again, I'm not here to say white labeling is bad, because that's how people operate their business. And there are some pretty large successful brands even in the CBD space that are white label brands. So as a brand expert, what is your take on kind of that approach?

Unknown Speaker  37:33  
Without question, consumers are incredibly savvy, and I caution any and all brand marketers to underestimate them at their own peril, right? They're tuned in, they're educated, they're paying attention. They're asking questions, and you never want to take consumers lightly. You want to evoke excitement, you want to compel them to action. And that's not easy to do in this sort of digitally equipped world that we live in. So authenticity plays through. And so what you're describing Shayda is a half assed way, if I could be so blunt, to be blunt, right, oh, the workaround, and that is not a brand. It's a workaround, and it's a short term solution to a problem that's not really being addressed. And so that's what I would tell our clients, because consumers will quickly escalate to the logic that you started to articulate. But isn't this just that from most same guys, and they're making it pink, so they can sell to a woman like that doesn't check out, right? Like, what is different about this product. And then think of it this way, you're going to bring home a pre roll pack or case, packaging, a jar of flour, DRAM of concentrate, and you're going to put it on your bedroom, nightstand or on your dresser, and it's going to be next to photos and pictures and jewelry and watches and picture frames, and does it fit your lifestyle is that a brand, you know, if you're a minimalist, and you have like, I don't know, maybe bad choice of words here, but like a hippie dippie sort of graphic that might not work with your midcentury sort of my point here is like, there's room, there's so many different types of people who enjoy flour, either medicinally or recreationally. And they're looking for ways to connect with something that's meaningful, whether they're choosing, you know, like, look at Target, for example, I use them as sort of critical mass, they've got a design aesthetic with their private label or their I should say, their own house brand, right, that speaks to that sort of core demographic that shops there that wants, you know, very simple, straightforward, easy to understand good for the environment, all of these sort of calculus plays into your reason for being and so if you're just relabeling something, that's not really a brand in my estimation, a brand goes much deeper, and this will go to the beginning of the conversation when we're talking about the intrinsic values.

Shayda Torabi  39:56  
Yeah, I think it's getting really murky in the industry for Maya observation because there is a lot of you know, people want quick wins. But I always stand by longevity and investing in things that will not just be here today or tomorrow, but potentially hopefully in terms of you know, what's legal, will still be here in 510 1520 years. And I think that's what really inspires me about a brand's identity. I mean, you mentioned Rei earlier, they, to me are such a beacon of a brand because I resonate with it, I loved I will always remember I grew up with my grandmother, going Black Friday shopping, I know it has, you know, some different opinions based on, you know, how you kind of interpreted consumerism, but I loved it, I loved that experience with my grandma was so special to me, because that was our time to shop together. But then as I got older, Rei came up with this campaign, and it was you know, spend Black Friday out in the black, like, go camping, be outside, and my jaw just dropped, I was like, Oh my gosh, that's me to like, okay, and I started seeing Black Friday in a different sense, and changing my habits to be more aligned with who I was growing up into, which was somebody who very much loves the outdoors and loves spending time connecting in nature. And that campaign has just always resonated, it's made an imprint in my brain. I'm an REI member, a co op member, I don't even spend enough to get any significant percentage back, but I just love that I'm a part of it. And when they have their sales, you know, their garage sales, I show up to them occasionally. And I identify with, you know, who REI has made their brand around. And so they to me are always somebody that I look at of how are they doing it? What are they doing? What are they, you know, kind of envisioning for how they're bringing this brand to life to the consumer. And so trying to apply that into the cannabis industry, I think what I acknowledge a lot of times is we have a lot of good ideas or hopes, but then in actuality, putting it into practice, we get hung up based on some of these things, whether it is what I can actually put on a label or package, how I can mark it, what channels can I be marketing? What language can I be using on social media, so my product gets marketed to the right person, but I can't maybe say what it is explicitly all the time, to then, you know, understanding what are these maybe non direct to consumer, but ancillary touchpoints that a brand might have, maybe they're sponsoring a music festival, or even doing a podcast, right, this is kind of traditional media. But non traditional, in the sense of this is a brand activation, I mean, you were just acknowledging to you are a brand, I'm a brand, we have businesses, the podcast is a brand. This is a brand exercise, in my opinion of getting in front of you know, people and letting them know who you are and what you're about and kind of tapping into the ethos of who we perhaps are businesses at that level. And I see it working in some capacities in the cannabis industry. But then I think there are certainly some downfalls to especially in markets like California, which I want to touch on too. I mean, you know, I can't not mention you're at Hall of flowers. Right now, it is such a known event in terms of bringing together the best of the best in the cannabis industry. So maybe the question to kind of follow up that thought of mine is, how many brands are perhaps that hall of flowers right now, who are new brands? And how many brands have maybe been in the industry, let's say five years, kind of what is the mix of the market in California as the snapshot as cannabis aspires to be having longevity, and, you know, evolving as times continued to, you know, evolve, despite the chaos that we have to navigate based on everything we've been talking about from packaging, and labels and regulations, etc. So I'll

Unknown Speaker  43:37  
give you my highly scientific sort of eyeball test. All right, so get ready for this. I'm going to say that 75% of the exhibitors here, hold flowers, I'm in Palm Springs currently are less than three years old. Wow. Yeah. So that the inverse would be 25%, or over three years and older. And so that's dynamic, like find, right in terms of an industry. But it's really telling, you know, you talk about, I think, for some people investing in brand indexing and engineering or the calculus that goes into this, and it is perceived luxury, right, like a thing that I would get around to doing and I'm a business owner. So, you know, I'm subject to the same sort of inefficiencies and that is sometimes you don't want to make that investment or you feel as though that's unnecessary. You know, that's an unnecessary spender things are more critical. But I would argue in hindsight experience launching inefficiently is terribly expensive recalling packaging, because you got the Compliance Information wrong is terribly expensive, expensive. Mistakes are terribly expensive to correct. And you only get one chance to make a first impression. So that rings true in this industry. And so I would say you know, focus on your branding, focus on on getting that engineering right so that a team and a culture that are aligned and then that That message is through everything that you do tactically, whether it's your website or email marketing, or SMS marketing your tradeshow environment in what a 3d experience feels like, you don't want to be making this stuff up as you go. It's very challenging. And it's very costly to make those mistakes and misalignments that confuse people, and they make people pause, where there should be no pause, you want to amplify, you know, your greatest attributes, and you want to minimize your weaknesses. Let's just get business, you know, sort of intelligence and one on one type stuff. But you'd be surprised how many people get that wrong. And I would say, furthermore, founders have to be careful about making the brand themselves, the brand should be the totality of the vision and the expression of that and something that is sustainable and foldable from a competitive positioning perspective. So you know, it's great if you're into, you know, Hot Rod culture in motorcycles, and biker culture, and great make a cannabis brand that that represents that audience and stay true to who you are. But if you're not that, then then don't do that. Right. So that was just an example of, of, you know, when founders can kind of double down on what it is that they represent, because the bringing that community in that culture and, you know, into the cannabis conversation, if you don't align so strongly one way or the other, then it's not good to artificially, you know, make something out, hire someone like, you know, my agency or yourself shade, and let us help uncover what makes you already great that you might be missing.

Shayda Torabi  46:30  
I couldn't agree more. I think that's where I think sometimes to your point, the observation is people want to be everything for everybody. And they lose a little bit of who they are. But there is, at least from my understanding, enough pie to go all around. I know, it doesn't seem like that always in the industry. But the more that you try to stray away from who you are, the more I think the educated consumer is going to catch on or realistically, you're not going to be able to sustain it. Because you can't do everything. That is crazy, though about the amount of brands that are new, or at least the perception of new brands and the California market. Because I do think people assume that because it's so saturated, there's not opportunity for new brands. So I think it is kind of a dual opinion of yes, there's a lot of new people coming in, they're trying to make it will those brands last beyond the three five year mark? Maybe Maybe not, I think there's a lot of things that go into, again, that longevity of a brand. My question for you is, I think it's you know, kind of an age old question. I have to be not just everything to everybody, but from a brand perspective, do you usually recommend your clients do trade shows and, you know, physical events, and they're on all the social media channels? And if tick tock is the next you know, social media platform, they gotta be on tick tock to bring their brand? Or do you try to steer them into a direction that perhaps makes the most sense for their brands? So using the biker example, maybe their audiences not on tick tock so it's a waste of time to be on tick tock versus I think sometimes the perceived marketing messaging is, I got to do it all I got to be everywhere, I got to have my opinion, my brand and all these different touchpoints just to have it, but perhaps maybe that, you know, it devalues your brand, because you're I think the saying is like if you're everywhere, then you're nowhere. Right? Right. Maybe doing too much.

Unknown Speaker  48:17  
Yeah, I don't think there is a prescriptive, you know, one suite of services or, you know, anything prescriptive one way that fits every type of brand. So, to answer your question, it would be the latter of the two scenarios. We're going to take where they are today and understanding what's urgent, what's hot, what needs to get done, and then address it from that perspective, while still keeping our eye on the bigger picture of making sure that they're showing up in a way that is going to yield the highest return on investment and make no mistake about it. You know, we are commercially minded marketing and designers, right? And so we understand that margins are razor thin in cannabis in general, not to mention California cannabis. And so everything that we do, we want to do in a meaningful way that helps move the needle for them. I can't stress that enough. That because we are commercially minded, again, we're partially the team that helped develop cannabic Condesa and incandescent portfolio brands. So you know, the charge there is really efficacy and efficiency and not making those mistakes. And so, I would say to prospective clients who are having conversations with us as we've kind of learned where they are, and a lot of what we do, frankly, because the nature and the in the sort of constraints associated with working in the cannabis vertical. That is the dispensary model. It's really about education. It's really about training bud tenders, it's really about making sure that sales sets understand and that's on the selling side and then on the sell through side creating that awareness and so will it make sense for our clients to do tradeshow? It depends. It depends on what they're, you know, are they maximizing their opportunity in terms of the product that they can inventory in If so then, you know, without maybe an infusion of cash and might not make sense for them to go get more orders, because that's just going to compound the challenges for them in the short term, are they starting out new is there strategic relationships with key accounts like med men or whoever else across the country or in you know, any respective state, and those buyers are going to be the maybe that's the only time that you have to get in front of those people. And so you want to make sure your first impression is strong, and that you're doing the homework ahead of time to ensure those meetings happen. So that's just some of the strategic guidance that we might, you know, provide clients, and then help them execute at a very high level to support that.

Shayda Torabi  50:37  
I love it. Final question. When you are looking at the future of cannabis from a branding and design perspective, what excites you about that opportunity.

Unknown Speaker  50:48  
There's so many talented people coming into the cannabis space now from packaging designers, to graphic designers, to motion designers, to new media designers, and I'm talking Metaverse, and, and VR and all of that stuff. And I just can't wait to see the talent of those individuals who might be working in music right now, or might be working in fashion and see what they might do to kind of elevate kind of what we're doing currently is still very, very early days, as you know, in the cannabis industry, and we still have a lot of different, you know, interpretations and applications and, you know, medicinal and recreational points of view and all of that stuff. And that whole myriad of, of influences is what kind of brings the beautiful people of the world who enjoy plants, you know, plant medicine or flower together. So I love that. And then just adding another layer of design, integrity, and really sort of elevated positioning is is something that we look forward to in terms of contributing, but also seeing others, you know, sort of contemporaries, looking left looking right, whether it's in New York, or in Los Angeles, who are doing amazing things. And for us to be a part of that I think, I think there's room for for that collective creative spirit and high tide raises all boats is what I say.

Shayda Torabi  52:06  
I agree with that. I have one actual final question, because you just made me think of it from your perspective. I know, you know, as a creative, there's a lot of influences that inspire you maybe to like distill it down to a cannabis inspiration, kind of vision board, aside from the brands that you've worked with. What brands are exciting you and why are they doing something unique? Where they're making an NFT? Or are they doing a partnership where it's not cannabis, but it's their brand? And it's some fashion designer? Like what what do you see happening? And you're like that, that is cool. And now I'm inspired to do bigger, better more?

Unknown Speaker  52:42  
Yeah, you know, I used to be sort of like this brand aficionado, when I was kind of coming up and could answer this question very, very easily. I think now, what inspires me more than just sort of like the visceral brand expression is the engineering that goes into a brand to make them cut through the noise, right. So there are agencies that we look up to, are really, really great at launching direct to consumer brands that are far outside the cannabis space, mind you, but to do so in a way that, you know, you see it in subways, or you know, you see advertising and subways or billboards, or you might see like a viral clip that might show up on YouTube or in your social handles. And, and they do it at a taste level that that is very, very high, and an execution level that is equally high in a way that makes you go, Hmm, like, I never really thought of like, you know, how get ready for this erectile dysfunction could be cool, you know. So there's a brand called MC who does an amazing job. And a couple of years ago, I was turned on to them because I was watching the World Series and they had a Kim's logo. It was just very, very simple. behind home plate behind the catcher and I looked it up and it was like they made ed i guess you call it or they do hair loss stuff as well. I should be more versed on them. But I was just blown away that they could capture my attention. And then I think good brand communication evokes an emotion. It predates action, I would say the best, most inspiring thing that I've seen in the last six months, and geez, I should know better. I want to say it was it might have been open sea or Coinbase or maybe you know, shade it but the Super Ball, there was an ad and it just had a QR code bouncing up and down, up and down. And it was one of those crypto currencies and or marketplaces. And I was like, This is amazing. The production value was so great. But still, the cost was so minimal that I was like this is 10 out of 10 It was just a QR code and the people at our house who we were hosting a little small, rural party, they were just like taking their phones out and I'm like that's that's what it's about.

Announcer  54:57  
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