In this episode of the To Be Blunt Podcast, Shayda Torabi and Craig Lyon discuss Craig’s expertise from Nike and brand building, understanding the psychosis of what makes someone want to buy something, and so much more.
[00:01 – 10:09] Introducing Craig Lyon and Why He Landed at Connected Cannabis Co
[10:10 – 25:59] What It Takes to Build a Brand of Luxury Weed
[26:00 – 39:07] Pushing Every Part of the Cannabis Experience Forward
[39:08 – 46:37] How Connected Cannabis Co. Thinks Through Their Launches
[46:38 – 56:58] Company Values When Staying in the Top Tier of an Industry
[56:59 – 59:13] Branding Food For Thought
Craig Lyon is a business leader and creative pioneer with a passion for disruptive innovation and building pinnacle brands. As Vice President, Head of Marketing at Connected Cannabis Co., he is tasked with creating the marketing engine that will further establish Connected as the provider of the best cannabis products in the world.
Before Connected, Craig spent 10 years at Nike in various roles of increasing rank within their basketball marketing department. In his former position as Senior Brand Director on the North American Brand Leadership Team, Craig led a cross-functional brand team in strategically aligning brand strategy and go-to-market plans across all products and activations for the Central US and Canadian marketplace. Over the course of his career, Craig was responsible for developing and launching Nike’s basketball Instagram account, the launch of Nike’s Kyrie Irving and Paul George Signature Franchises, and the introduction of Adapt BB, the world's first power lacing performance footwear proposition. Craig’s work has received recognition from notable award organizations, including the Grand Clio Sports award, the Shorty Award for Entertainment, and multiple Cannes Lions awards, one of which received Gold.
Craig earned a B.S. in Telecommunications Production & Industry Management from Indiana University.
Connect with Craig on LinkedIn
Visit Connected Cannabis Co. https://www.connectedcannabisco.com/
and follow them on Instagram @connected.california
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
“Breaking routine and tradition in the industry, let alone a country, is difficult. It takes time, and it takes people willing to take a chance and make a change and actually force it into existence.” - Craig Lyon
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Craig Lyon 0:00
One of the most interesting parts that I've found is the power of the budtender. In this industry, I made this example a couple months ago to my team where I was like, imagine if you went to footlocker and you went to a girl who was standing in front of the footwear wall, and you asked her, Hey, what shoe Should I buy today? Like, no one goes to footlocker and does that, like that's not how it works. There isn't like a source of truth on the other end. Now they're absolutely the regular customers, right? Who come through, they know what they want. I'm looking for this or Hey, did you get that Nightshade? Do you still have it? Like there is that side of it, but the educational element of how people talk about what they are bringing to market is very sporadic. Everyone kind of does it a little bit differently. There are some safe moves, right? Like I can just give you this information and that should hold you off and my brand name will maybe get you to the point of sale, whatever it is. So I think treating each strain like its own entity really helps you think about well, geographically. Where does this matter more?
You're listening to to be one be podcast for cannabis marketers. Were 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 1:30
Hello, welcome back to another episode of the To Be Blunt Podcast. I am coming to you from my home in Austin, Texas. For those of you who might be listening to this podcast for the first time. Welcome. I am a cannabis marketer, brand builder and business owner in the space who operates a cannabis brand here in the good ol state of Texas. I know we have some slow cannabis laws, but I am destined to help see my state change and happy to be a part of those who are helping trailblaze this industry both here in Texas and elsewhere further and forward. So I kind of want to kick right into the episode. I'm really, really stoked because today's guest has a really cool background that when you kind of think about how certain cannabis brands are approaching their go to market or their marketing plans. It kind of reflects some other leading brands and other industries. And obviously as cannabis continues to go mainstream, you can definitely take cues whether it's coming from you know, pharmaceuticals or whether it's coming from the fitness athletics world, or CPG. Obviously, this consumer packaged goods world is a massive industry that I think cannabis is certainly trending towards. But my guest today, he has a background working at Nike, Nike of all brands. And I think that I'm kind of like emphasizing it because to me as a marketer, as a brand marketer. Nike is just notorious for building one hell of a brand. And so when you kind of dig into the psychosis behind why Nike is a great brand, kind of what their messaging is, how they've captured that sentiment with their audience, and also kind of overlay that with sneaker culture. If you are familiar with sneaker culture, it's kind of this idea of sneakers going for an absorbent amount of money, because they have this kind of cachet to them. They, you know, are a certain brands limited edition, it's a certain athletes signature collection, it's a special run of a color or a stitching. And so kind of creating this hype around a product. And so when you kind of pair the two together, you kind of reflect on sneaker culture and you reflect on the brand that Nike has built themselves. You kind of have the cross of who my next guest is Craig Lyon Craig lion is the head of marketing for connected connected is a cannabis company a cannabis brand based in California. They operate a handful of dispensaries, but their notoriety really lies in their strains. And specifically, those strains go to market they do some really fun shit. I'm going to say shit because I feel like it and it also emphasizes how friggin like this is like it's a cool brand. When you kind of start digging into what they do and how they do it. You can really learn a lot obviously from kind of understanding that psychosis of what makes someone want to buy something kind of what is the hype? What is the quality and how do you kind of navigate making the best product that exists in between. So again, to kind of caveat I'm not saying this by any means connected is not a hype brand, but they create a lot of hype and I want to get into that episode for you guys, because Craig shares a lot of really good insight that he learned in his career in Nike, building that brand, what he took away from that and helping apply it to connected now he's newer to connected. So another kind of caveat, it's not to say, again, that connected exclusively has this influence, but it's kind of to help connect the dots of where Craig kind of exists in his role, and kind of his influence of where he comes from and what he's bringing to this brand as it continues to dominate the cannabis market, especially in California. So I've talked a lot, I've hyped them up, I want to just let Craig come on the show and get right to it. So let's welcome Craig and dive right in.
Craig Lyon 5:49
Well, my name is Craig Lyon, I'm vice president and Head of Marketing at connected canvas. And I think what's been most interesting on that journey, as I come from, you know, I spent 10 years prior to that working in Nike. And I was kind of, in many ways a product of kind of the Nike culture that the world talks about, right? I was an intern, I spent a little time before that playing around in the music industry as a video promotions specialist and, and just kind of cutting my teeth there for a little while in New York. But I came to Nike and kind of was entering the space really thinking about advertising, working in brand communications, spent a lot of time early in my career in digital, and landed in basketball, where I spent a huge majority of my time and kind of got into true brand marketing and brand building with signature athlete franchises. So as I exited Nike, let's see, um, like four or five months ago, something like that, as I exited was interesting, because I started my search, not thinking about specific brand names, or specific companies. Even at that point, I was really focused on areas that excited me. And it was about luxury goods and like high end hospitality, I love the energy of sneaker culture that we had spent so much time building where we were building these like high commodity goods. And the beauty of Nike basketball at that time was that we were building you know, everything from $100 and shoe that could get a kid in the door that you could find that at Kohl's or famous footwear or whatever it was all the way up to a $350 power lacing, you know, adapt piece of footwear that we were building and that spectrum fascinated me. But I loved the energy that we put in to those highly sought after product collaborations and partnerships. So what was funny is that I had somebody a friend who had also just recently left Nike who had reached out to me and said, Hey, you know, there's a company I think is really interesting. I think it's worth you know, you like just from us talking, you should talk to these guys. And that was really, as far as it got. I was the first company I had talked to about the world of cannabis. You know, I've been familiar with the product I had heard of the brand through really friends in California. And it was so different than any other opportunity I've thought about in cannabis. Because the brand had built this unbelievable almost cult like following like this real passionate backing of like, this is some of the best stuff if not the best stuff on earth. And that blew me away was a side of cannabis, I had not really thought about existing. And as I started to think about all the things that were important to me and what I wanted to do next, I realized that the company hit all of those aspects just in a space that I had not gone out looking for, and getting to meet Caleb counts. And the group that kind of started all of this, you know, 1011 years ago as building a dispensary because they couldn't find a place that they could count on and then trying to raise the bar of what that best product on the shelf looked like and that dispensary because they couldn't find it consistently. And hearing kind of that upbringing. And a company that was built on so little revenue going to marketing was just fascinating to me. And the idea that we were at this big inflection point of what is about to happen, what we are doing now is building out this family of brands, this standard of excellence and quality. And as I look back now, a few months in and you know, and understanding what it is, I find myself really lucky to be around a group of people that have welcomed me into that industry as an outsider, because we share the sentiment around quality standards and how we not only hold our products to those standards, but the people and the expectations of how we operate. And kind of coming out the other end of that I find myself almost like laughing and like this was the place I've kind of been getting ready to be for the last 10 years, this kind of energy in the moment of kind of what makes connected a little different than everyone else. And that's been kind of the road to hear maybe like the most roundabout way to get there.
Shayda Torabi 9:41
No, that's such a dope introduction. Obviously kind of before we were recording just to give the audience some context. I really appreciate when I get to talk to guests like yourself who come from non traditional cannabis specific backgrounds, right? Obviously Nikes a very iconic brand, both being a business being a multi National Business, it's just so iconic, people recognize just by the logo, the brand mark, they don't even have to know much about the company to know the tenure of it. But taking that kind of submersion that you've spent the last decade of your life in and being able to kind of emerge and apply it to a company in the cannabis sector, I think is really exciting. And especially doing the due diligence to dig into connected because in Texas, we don't have the luxury of one going to a dispensary. Kind of the sub of that is I don't have the luxury of picking a particular strain, I am kind of at the mercy of whoever the dealer is where the situation is. And so I think as cannabis has kind of gone into that mainstream, you are starting to see more brands emerge to create some differentiation in the market. I think there's two parts to that right? On one end, branding sometimes is just taking a commodity and making you like the commodity because of the experience that the brand is presenting or what the brand stands for, or the way that the brand looks or feels. But part of that is also making a superior product. And so I think cannabis is an interesting intersection. Because at the end of the day, there's certainly people out there who just want to get high, they're just looking for a good deal. They're looking maybe for that experience of consuming cannabis. But then you get into this next level, which I think is where I believe connected is kind of existing in which is more of this luxury, experiential. Like it is cool to be consuming connected cannabis. And y'all have really kind of set the bar in terms of not only California cannabis, but I believe cannabis kind of in general. And so just pulling some things that I've observed from the brand that y'all have published on your own accounts, designer weed. And I think that's a term that is not new, necessarily, but it certainly isn't as accessible kind of at a national level. Because I don't personally see that type of connotation surrounding brands, let's say in Colorado, or even some of the emerging markets like Illinois, or Maine or things like that. And so is that something that you're observing is exclusive to California, is that something that you're observing connected, kind of helped establish, I mean, kind of helped walk us through a little bit of where the brand really started, and how the brand has kind of continued to present itself in the market to kind of continue to win. I mean, you mentioned it to like, they wanted to make the best weed they could find because they couldn't find it. And so what does that look like to build a brand around making the best weed? Yeah,
Craig Lyon 12:31
I started all of it with you know, there's a big difference I've always felt between branding and marketing, right? Like, branding is built on a value set, right? The mission of this company every day for connected is to come in and breed, grow and sell the best product on earth. And that's not a quantity game. That's not an expansion game. That's not the business model. That is our goal every day to come in and work towards pushing that level further, right, pushing those ceiling higher. And I think because of that, you parallel that to marketing is like your messaging, your product, storytelling, how you share the things that you are bringing to life, the outcome of that branding, and who you are. And I think in many ways, it was just a choice that was made at connected, right, we weren't going to get to as many states as fast as we could and slap our name on a jar no matter what was in it. This company is about what's in the jar. And we do spend time talking about artwork and all the things that go on the jar. Right. But what we are about I think is just a little different is that that has been the standard. And in some ways, I think that that probably comes as a byproduct of the competitive landscape of California, because there was and continues to be a real fight for the best product out there. And I think because Caleb and some of the early members of the connected kind of the origin story, and so many of them, especially on the cultivation side are still working with the team, right are gems, and a lot of the girls are the same people that were there when we started. And I think that collective nature of the mission here is about the product is very different in then the way that others from California have looked to expand or how brands on the East Coast could even think about it. Right? You're not actually coming from this ingrain decades long culture of how the industry grew and where you're coming from. And, and I think so much of that is actually just believing in that. Right? There's a reason that we've kind of been positioned in that place. Not because we went around telling everybody this is who we are, it was because it was who people made us. And I love that nuance of any brand like that has to be able to sit itself not in its business model but in what makes you you what makes you different. And I think for us it has been unequivocal Chase and almost quality control level of like, this is what it takes to go in that connector jar. Right. This is what the standard is going to be. And I think that's been just a different approach. And I think because every market is different. One of my favorite learnings in my first few months with connected is that northern Cal fornia in Southern California, two different things. If you're in the industry, you know that and I think I was very excited to learn a whole different scope, right? In my time at Nike, I remember working across continents, and everything felt so sporadic and small because you had to be 30,000 feet up because you couldn't be on the ground. And in all those places at once, I've enjoyed so much being able to get really granular and talk to our team about the differences in the way that certain products move different ways in different markets. As I think about what designer we eat, or what the pinnacle of the industry means. I think it also puts us in a position to think about what cities make the most sense in what states that make the most sense, for our product for what we offer, there are people that show up that are not looking for the bag or the jar that we're selling, because they're just to your point, just trying to get it like they're not looking for the best thing they've ever found. But there are people who will literally go and in a tourism sense go looking for what it is, I want those people to wander their way into a connected door in California and find that or any other door that's working with us in that sense. So it's a very different strategy. When you think about we are looking to be the top shelf and every door not be every door, we have three unbelievable retail doors in California, the people in those doors blow my mind, they are some of the most talented and dedicated bud tenders and store managers and just people who have been with this brand for a minute, that want to grow with the brand that are going to grow with the brand. And I think that's just a very different culture than somewhere where we are just trying to turn the wheel, right, where is the number and I think that's made us particular about who we want to partner with, and the way that we interact and even make some tough decisions on things that we do and don't want to do. Because nothing can get in the way of making the best product on Earth.
Shayda Torabi 16:51
I appreciate that distinction. I think it is something just to kind of take a step back and understand who is your consumer? And what are you trying to sell to them and realize that yes, again, there's like multiple ways to be successful and trying to understand really, truly like, what is that brand proposition? What is the value of that brand that you're trying to deliver. But taking a step back understanding that a lot of connected I mean, I realize you're vertically integrated. Not to get into that necessarily, because I've had plenty of episodes where we talk about vertical integration. But I think for me, while you are vertically integrated, and you have the storefront are the doors to use your word that you're selling through, it seems the brand is really focused around the strain, the genetics, these unique flowers that you've been able to cultivate, I was going through your social media, it looks like you're doing both indoor and outdoor grows, it looks like the scale has gone up a lot considering I know that y'all do specific small runs as well like limited editions. And I want to pick your brain on that because I saw one recent one I guess you're doing is night shade. And you also you've partnered with like a local designer in California, not local, maybe necessarily but like a very well known but like up and coming designer to do some kind of custom type of drops. And so obviously talking to you to my brain just starts kind of jumping around. It's very interesting, but also not surprising that they hired you in this position, because I think a lot of the parallels between how the sneaker market is this kind of designer sneaker market, like you were highlighting, you know, yesterday, you can go get Nike at you know, whatever general store, but there's obviously also going to be these luxury products that people are going to covet, and they're going to want bringing in the designer weed conversation knowing that like yes, there's going to be the generic strains that everybody has access to, but really kind of creating some sort of drive for people to find the best, but also, then what is creating the best look like and so kind of help walk us through what are some of those top strains for you? What is some of the history behind it? I guess also with the thread and the filter of like, I know what different genetics means I know what different strains you know, based on the terpenes and cultivars and indoor versus outdoor, like I understand that. But why do you think that these strains have become so popular? Like why are they the best? Is it because of a certain collaboration? Is it because of the limited nature? Is it just because of the brand that the company has built over the years they've been in business? kind of walk us through that a little bit?
Unknown Speaker 19:23
I think the biggest thing that I've felt coming into this is that the way that this company was built almost feels like there was an over investment in r&d in the early days. Like they overdid it, because they wanted to live in that space so badly. And it turned out to be maybe the most defining definition and what makes us different. Our breeding program is something unlike anything I've ever heard of right in terms of not just the volume, but the level of experimentation. What are we looking for? What experiences are we trying to create? Or what experiences are we trying to create a product for? The baseline in a sense Have questions that go into what are we chasing in terms of terpene profiles and cannabinoid kind of like, all of these elements come together. And I think what's most exciting for me as we think about some of these new strains that the team is finding its stride now, in creating new space. Right, that is one of the most interesting things that we've heard from people who are some of the first in this last couple of weeks to get their hands on Nightshade. It is something different. You distinctly know, the moment you were there that this is not the same that you recognize pieces of it, right? You feel like you have some of that if you've been with the brand for a while, but it is very distinctly in its own space and profile. That's hard to find, I think. And I think people discredit in many cases, how hard it is to scale, right? growing this product and doing that in a bunch of different environments, right? Whether it be mixed light, or in or out like with, there's so much variation in what we do and so much tinkering. Like, it is such an incredible process. When you think about all the variables at play, that is something that we are trying to understand. What does better in this environment versus this? How does this change here or there? How do we take this learning and apply it here? And if it doesn't work there, where should we go with it? The willingness to experiment comes at cost always right? You could just churn out the same things, if you really feel good about it and be okay. That would not be in service of the mission of chasing what we believe is better and more exciting product out there. And some of that I think is going to get uncomfortable for people to be honest, because we are working through blind testers, which is a brand new program that we're really excited about, in many ways, because we want to see where this goes, the world has kind of come down to like, Well, how do I know what this is? Well, here's the cross. But in reality, just like you and your parents, right, it's not a times b equals A B, it just doesn't work that way, there's so much more to it. And I think we want to try to help people understand that we don't just want to be exploring into these new spaces and new profiles and new experiences and effects. We also want to talk about why we're going there and change maybe the way that people interact. I think you've actually done an episode on terpenes too, right like of the world is doesn't quite know that level, I have found more and more people have told me this ativa indika thing is kind of the easy way out that everyone has just elected to take. And I think we feel a responsibility because we are playing further and further into that classification, not really giving you enough info, to really understand what is in that jar, what is in that pre roll what is in whatever that bag may be. So as far as things that I'm excited about, I will tell you that a huge draw for me in the world of connected and the family is alien labs, I think what Ted has created and what this team is doing in terms of standard and selection, it is exactly what connected is about it is the pinnacle in that space. And xeno was a strain that has entered my life in an amazing way. And that I've really enjoyed. Nightshade, like I mentioned is something pretty spectacular on its own. It's just different. I think people are really starting to find new palette and new experience in that as well. And then like I said, I think the most exciting things that we're getting into is how those genetics are playing out beyond premium indoor, right beyond those classifications that are what you could call our bread and butter. Right? When we talk about designer, we there's not a lot of people talk thinking about live resin, when you say that we're working through, you know, best in class hardware, right, we've just launched all new all in one disposable hardware, all new 510 threads. And like these things have like a different feel to them. And I think we've talked a lot about like, hey, like we spend the time and the energy, making the oil in there, out of everything that's just ours, right? We're not running out and buying the stuff on the internet, not calling anybody out. But I'm pretty sure that's how it works in certain spots. Right? We are growing this, we are building this from the ground up. And now we have the actual hardware that levels up to the material that we're putting in there. So that standard is about what we're about. And I think that's maybe when people have said designer we and that term predates my time it connected, right, you're talking about the things that you come to expect with luxury items. When you buy an Hermes bag, there's more to it than the bag, I always joke around like when a bag comes in a bag, you should know that there's something more to it. And I think those are the elements that have been so interesting because we have the ability to play in a space like that to present something that we're as excited about as Nightshade in a way that's different than the way we present others so that we can show that differentiation and cater that product to people who are really interested in trying it in that sense and also be protective of the things that we only want to be available in certain spheres and certain spaces. And I think that's what is changing in the strain game is that every strain has its own its own journey, its own life cycle its own way that it becomes available or shows up and goes away. And I think that's the power coming from Nike and that franchise mix. Right in basketball. It was how do we We get the Kyrie franchise and the Kevin Durant franchise and the LeBron franchise, and the seven other things that are all working independently to all not cannibalize each other, but actually lift each other up and find a rhythm and give people something to be excited about next and creating launch culture. And I think those are the things that we're really excited about seeing happen in this industry. I said to a team the other day, before the sneakers that people went to stores and waited in line to buy shoes, that dramatically changed the entire way that the scope of that happened is just no longer how it used to be. There are a number of the arena's that cannabis plays in that we'll see those kinds of dramatic changes happening. And I think for us, we want to be a leader in that space. And that requires you to try some things to have a spirit of r&d to kind of be chasing that dream of building new and exciting and better products, not how those things generally are built into the business model. But actually starting with that vision upfront.
Shayda Torabi 25:59
I love that you highlighted alien labs, I noticed that they were a collaboration with y'all. But from my understanding, and you kind of highlighted it. So I want you to dive a little bit deeper on it. They're a brand themselves who does very similar, right? It's not like they're in a different part of the industry or sell a different type of product, they sell pretty similar products. And so how do you make a collaboration like that work to your advantage to kind of use the Nike or the basketball example to like, you have all these successful people, most people would assume I don't want to collaborate with them, because that is going to cannibalize or that is going to, I don't know, degrade the brand, to some extent, but you're obviously seeing it as an opportunity. And almost as an accelerant.
Unknown Speaker 26:39
Yeah, I in many ways think that the addition of alien labs to the connected international family, right? That was a major moment. And that now connected has the ability to become this family of brands, right to find new extensions. It's not a offhand partnership, right? We build and we build our lines, and we build and grow and cultivate, and talk through process and create new challenges. All of that happens collectively. Now the selection process, right, and the way that those things happen, and the things that the brands are looking for, those have remained the identity of the brands, right. And that's been a really interesting nuance in this right that it is without question its own independent brand and space and following and energy. But the moral compass behind both brands is about growing and breeding and selling the best product out there. And that common ground I think, is the foundation that Ted and Caleb and the team that brought that whole merger and whatnot together. That's what made that so powerful is that we weren't signing up to like talk about things together, we were signing up because you can bring all of those people into one room. And now we build together, we are one collective team driving two distinct and Pinnacle brands in the space. And I think for a long time, our you know, even our account partner saw us as kind of this like mashed up like thing together. And we're really trying hard to make sure that people understand like each of these brands has its own identity and space, and following an attitude and tone. And if you anybody who follows default stad knows that Ted has his own tone. And that's what's so special about this, that's what can make connected different is that we can bring new voices in and use that shared method, the shared vision and hope of what we are trying to accomplish. That never changes. It just gives us more aperture and more people to bring into the mix and to learn from each other and to grow together. But to grow independently and find ways to help the same way we talked about franchise mix between strains. The same thing holds true between those Pinnacle brands, those brands that kind of make up the marquee of what connected international has in store.
Shayda Torabi 28:52
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 a 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 CBD calm and use code to be blunt for $5 off your next purchase. Thanks and let's go back to the show. I guess that's an interesting point that I'm not even probably as versed in as you are and certainly not as versus like the California cannabis industry is just because, again, I think genetics and strains and different cultivations and even different brands that are built from these different cultivations like using gelato as an example it's very popular have really knows what gelato is. But obviously, y'all have strains that are derived from crossbreeds of gelato, or I probably am butchering this, also, but there's deviations of these different strains and genetics, right? That you're then able to go through your r&d process, and then make your own unique kind of strain on the market. And so I guess from an abstract perspective, I'm understanding, there's these other players in the industry that are uniquely good at what they're doing. But by kind of coming together, you're just able to kind of cross share and learn and kind of trade different, you know, whether it's growing tips or the actual genetics themselves, it's just kind of I think, disrupting the industry in a way that's leveling it up completely, because now you have these major industry players that are putting products on the market that are really fucking good. And people are having the appetite for more of that type of experience, more so than not. And obviously, California being, I think, a driver in terms of like, there are more rap songs written about California weed than any other type of weed, right. And it's just becoming this expectation, also, of greatness. And so I guess, yeah, it's just it was an interesting tidbit that I my brain is like processing right now. And I'm like, Oh, that's really interesting.
Unknown Speaker 31:14
I think we have been a little bit bullish. And I mean, you can imagine this perspective will make sense, right? That, if you're really thinking about as the industry looks to, you know, whatever the nationalized industry looks like of the future, right, which I think we've talked enough about legislation, and in our early conversations of like, who knows where exactly that goes, but let's say that that's where it goes, I think there is an interesting nuance to who is going to find the top of that mountain, who are going to be the brands that elevate in that space. And there is really interesting thought around California and just like your bill on a heritage, it's just different. There's just something different about being born in California, in this industry, and being born in Florida, or New York, or Michigan, or Enya. Not to say that those those states aren't gonna have incredible markets with incredible opportunity for everyone to play. But I think about how our product holds up on the international scale, right? And where that is, where's that cup? That's the cup I want to sign up for. Right? Like, and those are things I think are why so many people say like, well, even like the award circuit is kind of like you get asked, everybody has their own opinion of what matters or doesn't matter, or what's in the mix or not in the mix. My favorite competition is hearing our team in Arizona, talk about how they believe they are starting to try and do their best to surpass even some of the markers and success metrics, or a team in California. Now the team in California is like, No, we got to play it. But that competition I love, right. And that's the energy of what we want to do as we look to grow and do that, that that's what we bring to each of those spaces, which is just so different, because it actually makes some of the decisions easy, right? Where do we want to go? What allows us well, we're cultivators, right? Are we're coming here to grow the best thing that's available in this territory, no matter what that territory is. And and I think that's where the expansion fun starts to get really well. Yeah, that
Shayda Torabi 33:05
brings up an interesting point, too, right? Like, yes, you can pay attention and obviously to like accolades are nice, and y'all have won a lot of them. So it definitely gives that exterior validation, I think from a consumer who maybe can't tell or differentiate you from someone else, or might not know that a particular strain that they like, is actually your strain. But I love hearing the almost like you put the blinders up. But it's just like you're challenging yourselves. Like you're really focused and so passionate about the plant at the end of the day, that you really want to uplevel that whether it is new strains, or new extractions, or like you said, even new technology, which I think is such a funny conversation to have with anybody in general who consumes cannabis, especially here in Texas, we sell a significant amount of CBD related vapes and delta eight vapes. But I get a lot of consumers who are complaining about the batteries. They're like, Oh, well, you know, my battery doesn't work, or this particular cartridge is doing X, Y, or Z. And I'm like, yeah, it's because the technology just really isn't as advanced. And so when you look at cannabis, kind of in, in this spectrum, it's you can make the best extraction, but then you're at the mercy of the tools or the devices that exist in the marketplace. And because everything's new, again, like not vaping is new all of a sudden, but I think the market is evolving and pushing that further, not only into like, what's inside the cartridge, but what is the delivery mechanism. And you're seeing that, especially in California also through I mean, I remember going to Colorado when they first had legalized and it was like super challenging to find consistency and edibles. Meanwhile, California is like, oh, we're introducing micro dosing, and Ooh, here's, you know, these little, they're gonna release in different time periods. So you can have this different effect and they're really pushing the technology as a market. And so it makes sense that y'all have found a sweet spot not only in the actual substance of the plant, but also in that delivery mechanism as well.
Unknown Speaker 34:57
And it's so funny because I think all of these pre can see prebaked behaviors in this industry that have been just interesting because I've come in and anybody who's worked with me in the past, I was like, I just asked all the questions that come to mind. And for me, that's been an interesting back and forth around. I'm so excited about this new hardware that we've pushed from the 510 threads. But this all in one, it's amazing, because we built this piece of hardware ourselves, we did not go through the way that ever like, we went. And we started from the beginning. And there are two things that that just stand out to me in this that are like, these are the real like, these are real stoner problems like this, like we are solving real live action like catastrophic events. And this all in one has two things like it's simple enough, and that it's got a longer lasting battery, so that you never have the thing where pick of this thing to run. And I've still got some oil in there. And the other side is that they've created this incredible almost like V shaped Angular reservoir, so that you never get to that like squared off bottom, where you see that last little drop in there and you can't get to it. That doesn't start with somebody that's thinking about the bottom line, right? That started to something to thinking about, man, what is the most frustrating thing that happens to a regular user of this product? Like what is the thing that drives you crazy, those are kind of it like other than that are the draw which the draw on these things is crazy. And even just like that refinement was something that this group decided, we're going to make the material inside this thing, at the level that we're going to, we can't just put it in the same thing that everybody else is putting it in, it just doesn't help us in that sense. That's why I think we're approaching batteries with the 510s the way we are because we want people to get that in their hand and understand if it's got our name on it, if it's got that palm on it, or if it's marked alien labs, it is coming at you with something different. And I think people are going to start to talk more and more about that as we have been a premium indoor flower company. And we will always be at first a premium indoor flower company. But we are coming for everyone right on the top level of all of these different spaces. And I think it's been amazing to see what some of our partners are doing and start to develop that and see those relationships, that real respect. I love seeing that in partnerships that our team is excited about with a puffco with parts of this industry that like I didn't know anything about a year ago. Right. And I think it's amazing to see where the energy comes from. Because the opportunity is crazy when we bring those things together to create in spaces that nobody else can.
Shayda Torabi 37:23
You just really truly built this like fanatical brand. And I was going through you're instagramming 188,000 followers, and I'm gonna be very bullish and specific when I say this, there's a lot of people who are buying shit out there. And I don't believe that y'all are buying any of your engagement or followers whatsoever. And I can tell that because every post has just like done, like ongoing comments from legit people in the industry. I mean, I had john cappetta of high times on my podcast a couple months ago when I saw a couple posts where he's literally being like, this is fire this is the best like I love it. And so you have these industry leaders who are legitimate fans, you also that have consumers who are legitimate fans, and so it's a nice sweet spot when you've actually built something that is viral. I mean, you've literally created this ecosystem and you touched on it it's like you're building it for I'm gonna say the means the means the world the stoners, the potheads who are like, oh man, like I love this plant, but like yeah, I hate when I get a really good cartridge, but then you pair it with bad technology. And then it just kind of degrades the whole experience or the luster of wanting to go get the hottest newest thing and I don't know, you know, maybe we have to get into it. I don't know if you like or dislike brands like cookies, but obviously they in a very similar but separate category have kind of capitalized on this fanfare of, hey, we're releasing a specific product. And obviously I saw y'all doing it with Knight Shea too. It's like, hey, we've limited drops, they're gonna be at these dispensaries. Like if you get it good luck to you. And if not like that was our run. And I think that that's done obviously very specifically. It's because you want to create this exclusivity, this experience for the lucky few who get it and not in a negative way, just in a smart marketing way. It's how you're bringing your brand to market. And so to kind of extend on that I want to hear from you how you kind of go through that process of launching products. I mean, you kind of mentioned thinking through launches and obviously there's the component of getting placed in certain cups or award shows or awards or things like that. But does that play a factor in it? Or is it really just Hey, we got this new strain we want to partner with this artists we want to make a really cool, I think night change on a really cool bag or the container that it was presented in like does every strain get that treatment? Is every strain or product launch something completely unique to that particular product? Do you think through what are the dispensary partners we're going to launch with? Is it just our dispensary? Are there any celebrity collaborations like obviously there's a lot of different touch points to it. But just observing again, you've done a really good job of building this brand that people pay attention to and they want to know what you're doing next.
Unknown Speaker 39:59
So I guess the first things I give you is that I firmly believe that every strain is different in that just the way even just the moment in time that it comes to life differentiates it from something else. And that's everything from the volume of it right to how we talk about it to what are the experiences and effects and things that are there. And therefore, how do we want to talk to people about this? Right. One of the most interesting parts that I've found is the power of the budtender. In this industry. I made this example a couple months ago to my team, I was like, imagine if you went to footlocker and you went to the girl who's standing in front of the footwear, a wall and you asked her, Hey, what shoe Should I buy today? Like no one goes to footlocker and does that, like that's not how it works? There isn't like a source of truth on the other end. Now there are absolutely the regular customers, right who come through, they know what they want. I'm looking for this, or Hey, did you get that Nightshade? Do you still have it like, there is that side of it. But the educational element of how people talk about what they are bringing to market is very sporadic. Everyone kind of does it a little bit differently. There are some safe moves, right? Like I can just give you this information. And that should hold you off. And my brand name will maybe get you to the point of sale, whatever it is. So I think treating each strain, like its own entity really helps you think about well, geographically, right? Where does this matter more, right night shade, for example, because of the way that it made Caleb and the team that was selecting it feel we only made nitrate available and a half pounds back. Because back in the day when they first were selecting things and something like this would come to your like, I've never seen anything like this before. Because it's just got its own personality, its own character. That was step one on ha why the team was like this needs to go on its own look and feel it's not in a connected jar, it's not available as an eighth, because back then you got the big boy bag, or you didn't that was that was that was the only choice. And I loved hearing the team talk about that nostalgic feeling. And us finding a way to translate that into a half ounce mylar bag that comes inside a beautiful piece of packaging in that box. But it's just a very different delivery, there is no connected strain that comes in that model. And if we hadn't treated it as truly its own space, we wouldn't have gotten there. Now there are other sides of efficiency of like the way that the connected jar, our new packaging goes. Those are things that can blanket cover the benefit of making all of our product better. One of my first questions coming into the role as well when we say the best, because every industry this holds true, but like what is the best even mean? is not like super subjective. Like, I could like this. And you could like that. And I might like these terpenes more, which means this is way better than that. And my favorite answer I got from anybody was it was a very like direct answer back. And it was like, well, freshness has a part to do with this, like our ability to deliver it to you, at the height of its lifecycle is a dramatic difference. Like where you get it in that timeline. I thought that was mind blowing. Because I was thinking about it like our product sells through at a rate where we really do know when someone's going to buy it roughly and move within reason they're going to use it in the course of those and you kind of know how you could chart out the moment in time where somebody gets that product. And we've got a whole new run of packaging that is going to vary literally in your hand feel like this is airtight water, like nothing is getting in or out of here. This is the most secure vessel that anyone's ever put a pre roll in or put my a fan or whatever it is. Those are decisions that we're making that will impact all of our strains, right, or all of the strains within that family and allow us to tell better stories and help people understand, you know, what that profile looks like and what they can expect and what's different about it. And I think that's why I'm having so much fun with our blind tester program. Because we're actually allowing people to give us commentary without any preconceived notion, without any where with all of what the crosses were. And it's amazing even hearing from some of the bud tenders or people that are really involved in giving us feedback right now, their ability to pinpoint those things, right with that and understand it and describe it without kind of the cheat sheet. Like no describe it from your experience. And we're seeing range and we're seeing some consistencies. And then we're able to share that and use that in a new way to kind of help educate people. And in some ways that's just about being willing to take a jump on a certain strength. And I think that's maybe the biggest shift that we've seen in terms of the way that we're approaching that between the delivery. And then I think we kind of touched on it a little bit, but like geographically, there are certain strains that we're pushing that are gonna make more sense in certain markets the same way we think about expansion. There are cities with global appeal with high fashion edges with, you know, where the certain areas and certain cities are. And I think those will be decisions that will have to make around different franchises that come into play. And one of the things I find wild with even just the difference between California and Arizona for us, right, Arizona is bringing strains that have been in market in California for years, but they're bringing them to life for the first time. It's such a different time and setup and wave that flows to see the way that those businesses have to shape. So the ability to treat each strain extrapolates further to being able to extend each strain across each state in its own independent form. When we bring gelato 41 to a new state, it's not the same thing as launching it again, and bringing it back in California, it doesn't mean the same thing. So we have to treat each strain in its independence in its new environment, and in the delivery mechanic that we're going to bring it to life in as something special and of its own. And I think what you're going to see from us is a willingness to play around in some new spaces in some new skew types that maybe no one's doing. Right? And maybe we try it, and we learn from it, and no one likes it. But there's something that they love in it that we take and we move on from there. That spirit of r&d in the world of strain development is something that we want to get into in skewed development and starting to understand where is the future of experience here? And what are those things that could change the way people interact with this product, but also with our brand. And I think that's a fun place to be that we get the right as a marketing team, to be there in partnership with a product team that is paving the way and kind of being a guiding light of like what we want this to be. And I think you'll also see some some partnership down the line of how we're going to help pull some people with us in that train.
Shayda Torabi 46:28
Oh, I have to say, I'm sure Austin, Texas is first on your list for high fashion and global city. So I can't wait for that day. Probably not coming anytime soon, though, knowing what's happening in our state. But something that you said that I really appreciated is the blind testing. I think it's not again, a new concept to businesses, right? I mean, you look at most CPG companies, any product companies, they're doing blind testing, but I don't hear of anybody in cannabis. Other than, you know, anecdotally personally testing Maybe, yeah, like you and your team members are doing it. But it sounds like you're really going and bringing people together, I just want you to talk about it a little bit more. Because it's, I do think it's a way that you differentiate what you're doing and how you're bringing it to market because part of what I believe being a good marketer is is listening to the consumer. And so whether it is picking up on the experience of how they got the product, what did it feel like, you know, what was the bag appeal? What was the smell? How were they being educated about it, and you kind of highlighted it, right, it touches on is that blind approach? It's not you presenting it to them saying, Hey, here's my product. Could you try it? And let me know what you think it's, here's a non disclose non descript product? And, you know, what are your first thoughts,
Unknown Speaker 47:46
I was blown away, at first by even just the notion that the name connected the palm on the jar is enough for someone to trust us in that journey. I love that. It is a real testament to the quality standard and what the brand means to people. It was interesting, because there's a ton of perspective on this right? You can imagine we got a very spirited group and in the industry in general, but in our team and the irony is that like this is no one else is doing this, like there are doors that have like basic outlines, right that like, well, this is the name of the strain, and then you put the cross right here. And then if everybody looks the same, well, not anymore like that. That's not gonna happen that way. And I think as we get into that, in certain spaces, this tester opportunity is as much of anything about building a network of people that want to share this journey with us and be a part of it, right? And do so truly for the betterment of how can we learn what's going on? And how can we do this. And in many cases, were ever other instances of brands not showing genetics, some of the people that we talked to throughout the process would have said, like, Oh, it's because they're hiding something, right? Because they don't want you to know, because it's not a great piece of product, we've actually been able to kind of flip that paradigm a bit. Because we are known to deliver product on that edge, we can put that in that jar, we can build this together, we can bring people along on a journey, that we now are pushing the whole thing forward. It's a challenging right opportunity and whatnot, it changes the way we think about our program. But it also kind of opens up a lot more ears and puts a lot more voices in front of us to help us understand things. We're all understanding this plant and this marketplace, right and the consumer in it every day. And it's going to continue to change because that is probably the biggest differentiation in this industry, then then working in footwear and sneakers and sporting goods. The future is constantly unknown. And at any moment someone has the right to come and change that just how it is that's not gonna change anytime in the immediate. And for a while. We're going to have to be ready to pivot at a moment's notice. And I think that's if you're somebody who is excited by that, then come find me we probably are hiring here in a second. So if that's scary, then this is probably not the space to be right. That those A really important distinction that we're living by every day.
Shayda Torabi 50:02
Yeah, you have to be comfortable with the uncomfortability, especially in a space like cannabis where I mean, even what you put on the label can vary by city to city, county to county. And so having that understanding and having that tolerance is really critical. I didn't realize, I guess, kind of on that vein in terms of packaging, and what you're putting on labels. certain brands are not disclosing as much information as they could to the end consumer. But it seems like y'all are taking the path to I mean, because I haven't personally seen like a latest version of packaging, partially, I think, probably because of the nature of cannabis. But like your website, it's not a marketing website. It's a very flat website. It's like, here's some strains, these are our addresses, you can shop online, and your Instagram is like, here's a bunch of beautiful photos of cannabis, which I scrolled back far enough. And you saw where like, you guys were trying photos were like, obviously, of weed, but like the photography is significantly gotten better, you're showing the close ups of the buds, the colors are there. And so it's obviously more enticing for that person to want to pick and choose your products. But you just sit in an interesting intersection where you don't have to have all this information out there about your products. But obviously consumers are still finding you. But I'm just curious, from a packaging perspective, how much leeway you actually do have considering all the regulations that like do you have to disclose the genetics of a strain? Or is that your decision to do that kind of what's best practice? Or what are you observing in the industry?
Unknown Speaker 51:40
Yeah, it's a decision, I think, I mean, there's a CIA data, right? There are things that have to be in those places, I think, like pure outward disclosure of the cross is something Nightshade is in market, there's no disclosure of what that is, it's gone through all of its necessary testing and things like that. But it's just a different approach, right? It's just something that honestly, it's funny, it's not a regulatory decision that people are making, it's just a decision of this is the way that we do things. Right. This is this is why people put banners and tables up and brand ambassadors do PhDs. And everybody has a different meaning for what that is. But it's just kind of baked into the culture of how things work and breaking routine breaking tradition in an industry, let alone a country anywhere, right? We see this in every sense, is difficult. It takes time it takes people and it takes people willing to take a chance and make change and actually force it into existence and live with that, I think we will see that from a number of angles, right even to the way we talked about alien and connected are independent brands that have different strategies going forward on how we're going to do this. And I think that the courage that it's taken from the team to get to that point to make that move, and to lean in to saying we want to help people really understand product on a different level, because most of the people that are coming and finding our brand are looking for us for those reasons, because they want to understand what those that are thinking about redefining the edges of what this plan can do and chasing that want to be along for that ride, want to be in on that. And I think it's really interesting that when you see that elsewhere, a lot of times people can just read up on the three or four things that they know about the old genetics, and all of a sudden, they can give you a really polished answer that they may have just read and not even smoked what they're talking about, that you can't do in this environment. And I think that's something that we're really excited to see what comes to life and continue learning. I mean, that's the reality, if the world is going to continue to change, then we have to be comfortable changing along with it, within the reason of keeping our mission and what we are here to do at the forefront. And that I think we've been through a lot already, that this team has proven is there, our website, our Instagram account, you're talking about parts of this company that were built in its infancy, right that we do not have dedicated staff in the past in these spaces we're not operating with a full social media team, like that's not at this place is because we've been busy in r&d and cultivation and making those things happen. There's a reason that that marketing budget was such a small portion of revenue back then, because that wasn't the focus. And now we're starting to have those conversations starting to build out those spaces. Our website was there to serve one very explicit purchase or purpose. And that was to enable the curbside pickup and pickup like that setup for our three doors in California. That's why the site is what it is. I'm really excited for some of the ideation and things that we're getting ready to bring to light in service of kind of this. How are we better educating people? How are we showing the the broader sense of our portfolio, we're not gonna rush those things, you know, that's just not who we are. We're going to focus on the flower we're going to focus on building new skews, we're going to focus on getting all those things dialed in and, and things like how our packaging looks go all the way down to well how well does that packaging seal this thing up and make this as good a product as it can be? That jar in that tube. That's a whole different approach than like, what story? Am I slapping on this jar? Right? Or what brand name? Am I slapping on this jar? Or what? Like, that's a whole different setup. When we think about entering a new state, it's the cultivation engine, not how do we ship jars there like that? That's not us. And I think that that model will absolutely work for people, those brands will be able to scale, those brands will also not be known for being the bar for quality standards, they will not be the answer to Oh, well, who makes the best weed in your shop? The love the, like the ray, the array of questions that bud tenders can get are so funny to me, because every conversation can pick up in a completely different place than where the last one left off. The answers are all different, the relationships are all different in those settings, we've just got to position ourselves so that we can help educate those teams that they're in with us and a part of that journey, and bringing customers along with them. And that's how I think we ultimately carve out more and more of that position for ourselves, and allow everyone else to kind of play off of the middle tier of the industry. Right. And that's, I think that's just a positioning thing. We're not looking to bring a knockdown eighth into the market, because there's not going to be us. Does it mean that that wouldn't sell I'm sure I'm sure it would I'm sure somebody wants it. And I know that somebody wants it. But there are other ways for us to find accessibility, right. There are other ways for us to build into depth into the pre rolls few range and things like that to introduce people to our brand without buying a half ounce of Nightshade, right if they can get their hands on it. But our purpose is different than I think a lot of those other players and I think that's been amazing to walk into and have it hold up, right 100 plus days in and, and actually not just believe it sounded good, but believe this is how this place is working. And that puts me in a place where I'm really excited for what comes next. And all the things as far as team and growth and new markets and things like that, that are all exciting things that can be on the horizon, the combination of all of that together, this is going to be one heck of a run. And I'm excited to have landed where I have
Shayda Torabi 56:59
what a interesting concept for how to market and sell cannabis. I hope that Craig left you curious, just like he left me curious. I certainly never can get enough for my guests, but kind of to leave you with some food for thought. You know, what is the coolest way that you've seen cannabis be marketed? What are some of the brands non cannabis that you enjoy their marketing and kind of connect those dots for yourself? You know, as a consumer, what do you gravitate towards? What makes you feel like you can resonate and relate to a brand? Is it a celebrity endorsement? Is it a limited edition product? Kind of what are some of those hooks that stand out to you? So that's it. I just want to leave you with some things to encourage you on your journey as you continue through educating and informing yourself in this cannabis industry. And thank you for tuning into the podcast as always, I really appreciate it and plug always for me. If you love the podcast, I encourage you to give me some feedback, leave a review they matter so much iTunes is the best place to do it. You can go look for the podcast on Apple podcasts and give us a five star rating and leave me some nice words I read every one of those reviews that comes in I read every dm that you guys reach out to me about and just really appreciate the opportunities I would not be here without you. So thanks for your listenership and I will be back next Monday with another episode. Until then. Enjoy the day. Bye y'all.
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