To Be Blunt: The Podcast for Cannabis Marketers

061 Cannabis Trade Shows and Measuring the Return on Investment of Event Marketing with George Jage of MJ Unpacked

August 02, 2021 Shayda Torabi Episode 61
To Be Blunt: The Podcast for Cannabis Marketers
061 Cannabis Trade Shows and Measuring the Return on Investment of Event Marketing with George Jage of MJ Unpacked
Show Notes Transcript

Welcome back to the To Be Blunt podcast! In this episode, Shayda Torabi chats with Geroge Jage on maximizing the benefits of trade shows for your unique goals and what makes a great CPG Brand.  

[00:01 – 16:09] George’s Story, Getting Started in the Trade Show Space, and MJ Unpacked

[16:10 – 33:42] MJ Unpacked’s Role in Bringing Brands to Market and The Benefits of Trade Shows

[33:43 – 43:30] Elevating Consumer Packaged Goods Through Storytelling and Content

[43:31 – 52:34] MJ Unpacked Canvassing for a Star CPG Brand

[52:35 – 53:52] Food For Thought


George Jage is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Jage Media and Jage Media’s national, cannabis CPG Trade Show MJ Unpacked. Jage Media also operates MJ Brand Insights, providing sharp, substantive, and reliable industry intel for cannabis brands and retailers. George Jage is widely revered as a B2B growth specialist and business builder with a proven track record of identifying new markets and opportunities to scale national businesses. George excels in navigating complex landscapes and accelerating financial performance and asset growth for his clients and peers. Before founding Jage Media and its properties, George was Co-founder & Exec VP of the Off-Price Show (1993 - 2001), Co-founder & CEO of World Tea Media (2002 - 2012), and Group Director of the Beverage Group at F&W Media (2013 - 2014). During their substantive growth years, George served as President of Marijuana Business Daily (2014 - 2017), and Chief Executive Officer of Dope Media (2017 - 2019) leading the six-year-old startup to its acquisition by High Times. 

George is recognized by Trade Show Executive as an Elite Leader and is the recipient of the Jerry Valen Award of Distinction for Hospitality & Convention Executive of the Year by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He’s been awarded the Nevada Entrepreneur Award by Business Magazine, named Top 20 Under 40 by Gourmet News, and the Next Generation of Leaders by Tradeshow Week Magazine. George holds a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. He enjoys quality time with his family, camping, hiking, golf, and is continually awarded #1 DAD by his kids.  

Connect with George and visit & or follow on Instagram @mjunpacked

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 Quotes:

“What really creates success in events and trade shows is having this feeling of an executive conference when you have a chance to sit down and have a conversation with somebody, and get to know them, their challenges, and their opportunities. And that is what ultimately leads to a transactional event because people don't do business with companies, they do business with people.” - George Jage 

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George Jage  0:00  
ROI is a very kind of rearview mirror type of measurement. Because when you go to an event, and that's typically focused on lead generation, you might have a three or six month sales cycle to close those leads. So you really don't know how your return was until six months after the end. How much good is that information? Do you moving forward, right? You need to be able to create a litmus test of what is going to create an expected return on investment for that event. And I think that what people need to do is look at a the costs and then look at the number of qualified leads that they generate at that event. And so when you're looking at an event, you need to say, you know, does the organizer qualify their attendees are the attendees that I'm looking to meet with the genotype or psychographic of the attendee meet my objectives for my target audience. And I think that's the best way for people to evaluate what events are going to be good for them.

Announcer  1:02  
You're listening to two B one B 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  1:25  
Hello, and welcome back to another episode of The To be blunt podcast. I'm your host Shayda Torabi and I am so happy to be here with y'all today. To kick this episode off, I wanted to highlight and remind a little bit about my background, I actually got my professional start in event marketing when I joined WP engine in 2012. My job was to help us establish our presence at different industry events which ranged from community events to trade shows to conferences, etc. And during my time doing that, I developed a deep passion and appreciation for events. I mean, I love experiential marketing. Anything that can connect the end consumer with your products in a real time tangible way is really fun for me and to be able to see people's faces light up when they interact with your product, or your team and event is just so impactful because you're capturing that in real time. So when I got connected to today's guest, I was really looking forward to the discussion because it's a topic that's relatable to me. And I hope it's relatable to you too. Whether you love networking, walking tradeshow floors, looking for new vendors or showcasing your brand at different conferences and events, there is a lot to learn from mastering how to drive ROI, or aka return on investment at an event. So ga JJ is today's guest. He is the co founder and CEO of JJ media and they put on m j on impact, which is kicking off in its first year and taking place this October in Las Vegas. I'm extra excited because I'll be in attendance and the conference is all about CPG or consumer packaged goods. And if you're attending that show or any other national cannabis conferences, please reach out because I'd love to meet you and say hey IRL, but I think whether you acknowledge it or not cannabis is going mainstream. We talk about it a lot on this podcast for sure. So being able to see how these brands are being successful by building CPG brands is really fascinating to me. And so this conference in particular should be really good to learn from where the future of cannabis is going to go as we inch towards a federal legalization. In addition to running MJ unpacked and JJ media, George has a history in conferences and trade shows, putting on some of the leading trade shows in their respective industries. And he's won multiple industry awards for his work putting on these massive events. So he's certainly has a lot of insight to share and how to find value in events and navigate them. So without further ado, let's welcome George to the show.

Unknown Speaker  4:13  
My name is George stage. Currently, I'm the CEO and co founder of JJ media, and we are the producers of an event called MGM Pac that's dealing this October, we'll get to that in a little bit. We also publish MJ brand insights, you know, kind of as a jumping off point. I always tell people this is really kind of a full circle of pulling together all of my life experiences to do what I do today. I had a arable distribution business when I was in high school man in college, was able to help my friends get their access to their cannabis. And after that I got into the trade show space and I was able to really just kind of unexpected career path. My dad's business was really struggling he had a liquidation business And out of necessity, we ended up having to create a tradeshow for the off price jobbers in the industry because they're not really welcoming the big manufacturer shell, because they're selling the manufacturers last season's goods for 70% below wholesale, so they're always kind of a sideshow. And we were able to take that and bring 20 exhibitors together and launch the first off price special show. In 1993. At the Debbie Reynolds Hotel Casino moving Museum, where Debbie performed nightly, there was a hotel show. So we basically moved all of the beds and furniture out of the brooms and shoved them in the back of the hall and let the exhibitor set up and have little showrooms that they could display their goods to buyers in the market at the time, it was exciting, we took that to being a show that was close to 185,000 gross, square feet of space. So pretty big size show, but we didn't have any event centers that we could do that show in in Las Vegas when we did the show there because the manufacturer show took over all the big convention space. So we actually set it up in a tent structure. And we actually own the tent structure company at one point. But I mean, I remember doing an event in the Rios parking lot with 185,000 square foot Ted four megawatts of generated power 2800 tons of air conditioning, free blowing into that thing, like 24 hours a day. And it was 120 degrees outside in Las Vegas. So definitely add some interesting challenges and cut my teeth on the event space pretty quick. And I really love it because you have this opportunity to really bring people together and create some transactional or commercial value for these companies. And you know, every markets a little bit different for the off price show. A lot of our customers did 70 80% of their annual sales volume at that show. It was a very hardcore order writing show because these guys had liquidated inventory that they could sell and it was gone tomorrow. But anyways, after we sold that company, and I ran it for two years and our management contract, I moved to Las Vegas, and I started a couple other businesses not related to tradeshow space. And somebody had asked me and said, George, is there a trade show for the tea industry? And I knew nothing about tea at the time. But I said, Well, this is interesting. There isn't one and it seems like a category that has a lot of growth potential. So we started world tea Expo. And 2003, we had about 65 exhibiting companies, but we grew it into being the largest trade show in the world. We had a online education platform taught and taught people how to become t sommeliers. And we had a global t championship, we had a world tea news that gave people updates on what was happening in the tea industry. And that was a really amazing event. I just, you know, you really bringing people from all over the world, like we had groups coming in from Sri Lanka and Kenya, India, China, Japan, Taiwan, some beautiful, beautiful places in the world that you know, they're manufacturing this product, that's the second most drink beverage in the world next to water. So as I wrap that up, was when I started getting in the cannabis industry again, and I really didn't have a relationship with the plant after I got out of college. Just I think I got consumed with life and work and trying to build my career. And this guy calls me up out of the blue. And he says, George, I heard you're going to be available. You know, as a friend of a friend, he goes, let's start a pot Show. I'm like, huh? It's totally just random. And he goes, Well, we can be partners, you can run it. And I said, Are you going to put up the money? Then he goes, No, I don't have any.

Unknown Speaker  8:26  
So anyways, that ended up leading to the executives, or the owners over in handheld ventures. He had talked to them and say you should talk to this guy, George, he knows what he's doing. He can really build your trade show. So they reached out, they were looking for a publisher at the time. And I said, that's not really kind of the scope of what I do. But I can really help build and scale trade shows. And they said, that's what we need. So I came on board and was able to take them from being a 20 tabletop show to well over 1000 booth show over at the convention center really helped build out the kind of, you know, integrated media portfolio with the publication both online and print. And there was some really, at the time when I came on board, there was one full time employee Chris Walsh, who is the CEO today who's just a phenomenal business editor. And I really enjoyed working with Chris over there for the years I did. And it was the fastest growing tradeshow in the entire United States. At a time when there was a lot of events kind of crowding in the space. Unfortunately, I had some disagreements with the owners that needed to be resolved legally. Man, after that, I had an opportunity that the investors adult magazine, were looking for somebody with some media experience. And I've always been fascinated by that consumer side of the media x is a completely different animal. And now the team up there, the founders did a phenomenal job of just kind of creating a truly authentic brand. That was very meaningful to a lot of people and they had a really interesting business model where they had their state additions because cannabis is tough when you have trying to do something on a national level. From a media standpoint, you really have 36 individual markets that you have to cover. It's not easy doing that, but That was an interesting experience. And I feel I did as good a job as I could, we actually ended up selling that business to High Times, holding Corporation, High Times has been a little bit off their publishing game of late, I think, because they're highly focused on building out their retail brand stores. But that's their business now. And after that, I ran another company for just kind of an interim stand launch day and micro cap event for the cannabis industry called MJ micro. Going back to my time at MJ biz, I always saw that there was going to be a shift in our industry towards, you know, cannabis being a CPG industry. And you know, MJ biz and a lot of the national shows are very supply side focused. And those are great, because I think people that are looking to get into the industry, it's a really helpful resource to kind of see what types of products and technology are out there. But most of the mature businesses in the space aren't looking for infrastructure and supplies and software anymore, they have their systems in place. They're looking for access to capital opportunities for partnerships for mergers and acquisitions.

Shayda Torabi  11:00  
You have such an interesting story. And I just want to kind of kick back to you, my background is actually in corporate events. So I spent about five years of my early career, flying all over the world setting up tradeshow booths, navigating it. And so I resonate with kind of the way that you're speaking about events in terms of building that kind of opportunity for people to come in person to network to get business done. And it is really fascinating to understand some of the data points around these trade shows, because now I think trade shows are, obviously there was a period with COVID, where we weren't meeting in person, people were having to get creative. But now that things are opening back up, I think there's even more of that excitement to get back to networking and to be in person. And sure, obviously, Vegas is kind of the epicenter of events, but kind of transitioning into MJ unpacked from that CPG perspective, help us kind of walk through CPG from your eyes, I'm familiar with what CPG is that maybe for the listeners who don't really quite understand because offering it up on my own a little bit. To me, I think when cannabis was in the black market, or the illicit market, it was like their relationship was oh, I need a dealer. weed is not legal, I just need to go to somebody, it was a very kind of one, maybe two type of product market, you were either getting flour, or maybe someone was making homemade brownies, etc. Now you have this really sexy like marketplace for people to really turn these products into brands. And I think that's where I've started to fall in love, specifically with being able to have this podcast to try to address that brand identity, you know, like why would someone pick your product over someone else's product on a shelf. But also then speaking to the end consumer who doesn't maybe resonate with every product on the shelf, they're looking for somebody that story they can relate to. And so it kind of goes into why someone is then leaning into, they don't really realize they're picking a CPG product or what a CPG product might be. But that's kind of what they're looking at. So for the listeners who are building these Canna brands, maybe not at the high level of some of these larger players in the industry, kind of help them understand the role that you see CPG playing and ultimately how you see MJ unpack being able to be the guy to encourage that type of community and foster that type of conversation.

Unknown Speaker  13:20  
Sure, sure. I mean, like going back, like we could probably have a 40 minute discussion, just talking about the psychology and the value and the statistics around why trade shows and events and corporate events are so important. But staying on a CPG I mean, you know, consumer packaged goods, that's what you find at the grocery store. It's tide pods, it's granola bars, or whatever cereal you're buying or whatever. And really, I mean, this is a we are our entire economy is based on consumerism. It's about having a product and building a relationship with an audience and the consumers to create trust, transparency, some type of emotive value or connection with your product and consumer experience. And what's really interesting about cannabis is that I mean, the whole idea of creating a relationship or kind of some type of emotional response from somebody with your brand in most traditional marketing is great. And you can kind of create these commercials, you can get a little lizard animated on screen or whatever and make yourself memorable. Both cannabis, I mean, you're truly creating an experience, right? Like you're taking my product and you are going to get high and have some fun and hopefully, and so there's a lot of power in creating a connection with that brand. And some people have been very successful in doing it so far in the cannabis industry. But there's been so many new brands that have been introduced just in the last year and it's going to continue to be this floodgate of new brands entering the market, partially because we don't have a national market. Yeah, we have a collective of these individualized state markets. And that's really kind of gets into what we're doing with MGM pack. Well, the whole real tenant of why we created this business is that this is a consumer packaged goods industry. And the most important trade events are going to be focused around brands and retailers. And it's really that kind of shared responsibility that they both have to create the engagement to really hear on the journey, which is a consumer. Before the call started, you know, we're talking that it's really interesting that those relationships with the consumers right now live with the retailer, which is very unusual and CPG. Ultimately, those relationships will live with the brand the same way that when you go to the grocery store, you might have a particular beer that you like, or a particular brand that you like, and they're all available and the shelves are pretty full. You know, right now it's I go to my local dispensary. And if I'm in the mood to have some chocolates, they've got one or two selections. And if I'm in the mood for some gummies, it's one or two selections. And certainly there's a broad offering of flour that people are typically shopping based on its THC levels or its other cannabinoid levels that they have in that product, and more so than maybe the farm that they're grown on. But once that farm puts up button, a jar and puts her farm name on it, it's a brand.

Shayda Torabi  16:10  
What do you see, the MJ unpacked, I guess, formation of this particular event, because I was going through the website, and it's talking about, you know, reimagined layout. And having gone to so many different trade shows, I was really like caught by that particular piece about the event. Because I do think that things like events are not new, like events have existed experiencial marketing has existed. But obviously, as specifically cannabis continues to trend as it's trending, I mean, you kind of highlighted a little bit of an aspect, which I'm curious to kind of pick apart as well, because we can't cross state lines. with cannabis products, things are a little bit more isolated to the States. And so when you are putting an event on, obviously, you're trying to sell the idea of your product. But I mean, it's not like a traditional industry where I can bring a bunch of my product to the tradeshow floor, setup, you know, maybe meetings and then sell my product right then and there, it kind of has to be done a little bit more fragmented from my observation and where I sit in the industry. And so I'm just curious how you're addressing that with MJ unpack to kind of how you see cannabis evolving, as it does become more open, more federally legal, how trade shows are going to play a role in the accessibility of bringing those brands to market in a new and engaging way.

Unknown Speaker  17:31  
Sure. And our original plan when we started the company back at the end of 2019, and we're going to market in early 2020 is really focused on those state markets, because that's where the industry lives, but also do it, we're creating an exclusive event. So you have to be a brand or retailer with the title of manager higher, so that the conversations can be elevated. And you know, almost all these companies are kind of facing very similar challenges. And probably the most effective learning is peer to peer learning when you're talking to somebody that's walked in your shoes. But going back to the event, I mean, we really spent some time thinking about this that we knew we were going to coming back to live events. But should we and how should we and thinking through like what really creates success in event and trade shows themselves typically early in a lineup of booths, and you've got a bunch of booths and 10. He's walking around and people are scanning badges and handing out their business cards, and ultimately drives lead generation. And sadly, the industry kind of references a statistic that 80% of those tradeshow leads are never followed up on. So those can be look really good on paper. But do they really drive transactional value. And so from my experience as an attendee of a number of events, and being in the tradeshow in business media space for 30 years, is that having this kind of feel of an executive conference at when you have a chance to sit down and have a conversation with somebody, whether over drink, just hanging out and really get to know them their challenges and their opportunities. And that is what ultimately leads to a transactional event because people don't do business with companies, they do business with people. So we want to make sure that our event is really designed to kind of create this interconnectivity. Now, the other thing that we really thought through is that yes, there's plenty of events in like local markets, where brands will connect with retailers or people that are doing matchmaking events. Hall flowers has done a great job out in California with their event which they have a one business day and the other days open to everybody. So it kind of becomes dilutive, or a little bit of Mayhem on the second day. But we want to keep this as a pure business to business play. And again, you know, really have that elevated title. So when you come into our van, we also feel that providing access to capital to these two sub segments of brands and retailers is also critically important at this juncture of space and time in our industry. So we have all these like little breakout rooms and these beautiful like boardrooms with these 20 person wall, not polished board tables in there. So we've actually created something called DC Central at MGM packed so what they're doing is we're converting these into kind of either business suites with soft seating and a board table, video monitors or the standard board rooms. And companies like Poseidon and entourage effect capital, Panther capital, Kenny ventures are KT and trailhead, which is formerly known as JK industries. A number of other VCs have already signed up to basically book their space there. And what's great about it is they typically have holed up in a hotel suite somewhere and they're scheduling their meetings, which, in Vegas, you're wasting half of your week in a cab line or an elevator. And so we can create a lot of deficiency in the capital markets. As I say, I'm not the traditional way that people talk about efficiency and capital markets, but certainly time efficiency for these people to meet with their portfolio investors or portfolio companies, but then also be right there in the middle of the action, so they have access to deal flow, they can meet new people that might start conversations and lead to them having an investment opportunity. As you move through our event that we have a huge lobby space, we're putting like foosball tables, and shuffleboards are working with some local artists kind of lounge acts to kind of come down play guitar, sing some songs, we're gonna have a bar set up there and just really kind of create that business hotel lobby type of environment, like in our lobby, again, giving people the space to sit down and grab a conversation and get to know somebody, all of our content on our main stage is really focused around the retail success journey on which brands are engaged with. So it's, you know, very relevant to our brand companies as well. But when you move on to move into our kind of show exhibit hall, we really refer to this as more of a brand experience all we didn't want to kind of have this north and south grid map of booths that most trade shows have. And I also know for a brand, say in the state of Washington or Colorado to go and exhibit at a trade show that's in a foreign market doesn't make sense. And if they did exhibit a trade show, right now, the price of those booths of most of those events are $6,000, then you get to spend another six to $10,000. building and designing and shipping and setting up your booth becomes very cost prohibitive for the return on your investment right and return on your objectives. So we really wanted to design our floor much more like a retail experience. So brands can participate by taking a product showcase. Each of those showcases have four shelves, they can set up kind of a window display for the product. There's a QR code on there, so attendees can scan the QR code and pull up product literature or video, or whatever the really the brand wants to put into their profile. And then they can also direct message, any of the brand reps that are there and say, Hey, I'm stand in front of your product showcase. I'd really like to talk about licensing your product into my state where I have a producer processor license Can we meet now. They can also access calendar app and say I'd like to meet with you at 330 today and then the brand would be able to say yes or no or can we do it at a different time. And then we have a large meeting area in the in the kind of brand experience Hall again to facilitate those people sitting down having conversations. And that's really kind of the center of the show floor and bringing in a 36 inch Gong. I was just looking at these gongs today, because I want people to bang the gong when they get a deal done. But there's this really awesome Gong, and it's actually called the flower of life. And so I'm like, that's perfect, right? Like, I mean, this is what cannabis is, is the flower of life. So people will be able to bang it and it creates good energy in the room. You know, we're really trying to make this event about having fun, and really kind of creating that engagement opportunity with people. And we are also putting the band back together. I shouldn't say I am but more facilitating putting the band back together, Jim Belushi and Dan Ackroyd are going to be performing live at the House of Blues exclusively for our MGM pact attendees. And we're going to donate 100% of the proceeds of that event to last prisoner projects really helped change some of the criminal justice reform that we need to.

Shayda Torabi  23:54  
That all sounds so incredible, like literally as someone who has grown up the latter half of her life going to trade shows and events. You said some things that I really wanted to kind of circle back around to one you said people don't do business with businesses, they do business with people. And so kind of tethering that to the idea of this experiential type of idea. I think, again, kind of my perspective, what I try to bring to the conversation, especially to this podcast is trying to get people to think through not that every brand wants to go the CPG route or every brand wants to go multistate. But I do think if you are a brand who wants to play in the industry at large, you have to at some level consider these things. And part of that is what is my product look like on a shelf? Yeah, what is that conversation like when I want to be approached by other retailers or to distribute or to scale my business and brand and so knowing that for me, I think ROI is always tricky when it comes to events because it is hard to attribute. I came from corporate technology and so we would go to a lot of tech trade shows and it was always make sure you have things to track the attendees who are coming by your booth, whether it's you captured their business card or the tradeshow had, you know, those QR code scanners, you can scan their badges like, there were always these kind of things put in place to quantify the value of setting up the booth. But I started realizing, and it's again, much harder to prove sometimes. But I do think when you are participating in trade shows and events, you're building your network, and you're also building that brand awareness, it's people who are physically able to see your brand in a space and to start to create some sort of awareness around

Unknown Speaker  25:31  
it. And as I kind of walked you through some of the features or event, I think that the most important part is obviously the benefits. And the reason that we're launching MJ unpacked as a national event this October in Las Vegas, it's actually during mjbizcon week, when the senate flip, we've seen the biggest opportunity for us to hopefully advance some type of federal legislation that will be advantageous to the cannabis industry, certainly safe bankings within reach. And I know that, you know, our government tends to be a little dysfunctional, and it's a little bit of a shame that that hasn't happened yet. Same thing with 280 tax law that there needs to be reformed. They're more, you know, expunging people's criminal records for nonviolent cannabis possession, all of those things are incredibly important. And I think they're all precursors to moving towards federal legalization. I flew actually down to LA last night, just to go to a dinner party. And because it was a private event, it was all C level executives from the industry. And it's important to be their best talking to somebody there. And he's like, we have 54 people in the senate right now that'll support this, once we get done with the midterm elections, he thinks that we're gonna have the 60 votes to pass all the legislation we need to enact around cannabis. So he's thinking it's happening soon. And I'm an optimist, too. But you know, the opportunity right now is that most of the retailers in the brand's besides needing access to capital are looking to expand their footprints are looking to either acquire or apply for new licenses. So they can, you know, have multiple store locations, they're also trying to be able to set up relationships in other states. And that's been such a complicated and harrowing process for a lot of these brands. Because, you know, you go into a state before the license happens, you don't know who's gonna get them. There's been a lot of disasters where people license their brand to a company, and then they manufacture for a period of time, they say, Hey, why don't we just make a similar product to this and sell it alongside it, and then, you know, dumped the license holder. So there's been a lot of bad actors and bad deals that have happened from that. And that's really important that, you know, we have an event that's qualifying everybody that's coming in the room that their existing license holder, and that they can come to the table and bring some value to the conversation. And the idea that going to a big pan industry event where one out of 50 people might be relevant to you that you can come to our event where four out of five people you meet are going to be people that you want to know. And so the benefit for the brands, and again, you know, being able to take these showcases at a very low cost. And then you look at that return on investment conversation, I want to circle back to that I always look at events that people really need to measure three things return on investment, return on objectives and return on experience. But the ROI is going to be a function of that cost. And you know, all these trade shows for a long time have kind of run this kind of model where we'll get really cheap prices from the general service contracts or to set up our registration or signs. And then we'll let them kind of built the exhibitors for material handling charges. And so we don't allow our contractor to charge material handling charges, we package it in the booth. And we also have our 10 by 10 or 20. By 20. booths are completely turnkey booth packages that are gorgeous with great graphics. So they're customized for those companies that want to have a little larger space and just a brand showcase. But it's really just making it the easy button and then not having to go rent it. Same thing with registration, the higher registration company, and then you let them rent these archaic kind of typewriter heavy lead retrieval machines. That is the only way you can scan badges and you got to pay four or 500 bucks from it. And then you don't get your leads for a week after the show. Right? It's like, it's just why there's so much opportunity to innovate something that I think we've all taken for granted. How do we create an event that delivers on all three of those things? ROI, ROI, oh, and our UI. But going back to that return on investment? I mean, I'm sure you had to measure that and report in on how was the ROI for all of those corporate events. And it's in ROI is a very kind of rearview mirror type of measurement. Because for you when you go to an event, and that's typically focused on lead generation, you might have a three or six month sales cycle to close those leads. So you really don't know how your return was until six months after the event and how much good is that information do you moving forward right? You need to be able to create a litmus test of what is going to create an expected return on investment for that event. And I think that what people need to do is look at a the cost And then look at the number of qualified leads that they generate at that event. And so when you're looking at an event, you need to say does the organizer qualify their attendees are the attendees that I'm looking to meet with the genotype or psychographic of the attendee, meet my objectives from our target audience. And I think that's the best way for people to evaluate what events are going to be good for them.

Shayda Torabi  30:28  
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. Yeah, I'm glad you highlighted that. Because I do think that it's not that there's I'm sure you would disagree to the point. There's wrong events out there. There's bad events out there. But I do want to give people their credit that not everybody's goals are the same goals, right. And so you highlighted that to kind of understand and figure out what your goals are. But kind of in the space of the type of event that you're creating is obviously to kind of uplevel that experience for those players who've identified Hey, I want to be very intentional with my spend, I want to be very intentional with who I'm going to be getting myself in front of it's almost like building that perfect relationship, right. It's like if you're a brand who thinks they have their shit together, they've got the right content, they've got the right logo, they've got the right packaging, and they think that they could really blow it up. If they had the right investor, look at them or the right retail partner look at them. And on the other side, you're teeing up these great investors, these great retail brands, these people who can really help pour gasoline on to the situation for these brands to kind of help them go be truly that CPG brand is really powerful, because I do see that's the future of where cannabis is going. I know sometimes people are a little apprehensive, especially coming from kind of cannabis culture is kind of the term that gets thrown around. It's like, Oh, I can't believe these large major brands are trying to get into cannabis, whether it's Pepsi Cola, or a Wrigley brand, or whoever it might be, but my ribbon baby, that's right. PVR is getting into it. And so whether the brands are already in the space, or they're anticipating on getting in the space, obviously right now we do have that kind of gatekeeper being state to stay prohibiting you from moving products across state lines, but kind of knowing that eventually and maybe it's sooner than later, I'm glad you're an optimist, I'm not so much an optimist, just knowing how politics can be really crappy. And you're surrounded by this state of Texas. Yeah, I'm a little sore subject, we just had our legislative session in it. It was wild, to say the least. And so it's just you know, for better or worse, you can rally and you can fundraise, and you can champion certain candidates. But at the end of the day, you know, certain things can get held up in the politics. And so it's kind of like I don't like to plan ahead. And I think that's kind of a sentiment of the cannabis industry. It's hard to plan ahead, sometimes even with good intention, even with the right investment, even with the right brand. But to transition a little bit, I know you obviously have a really deep background in content, and creating content knowing that that is, to me such a centerpiece for any brands. So it's kind of like CPG is the umbrella, right? You're a consumer packaged good. You got the logo, you got the label, you got the can the package, whatever, but like to me, how do you bring that to market, and it's through content in those different content channels. So I don't know, if you want to just kind of start picking that apart? I'm sure you got a lot to say about the content side of things.

Unknown Speaker  34:15  
For sure. From a brand perspective, you know, I mean, so much of kind of the buzzwords have been around storytelling for the last couple years. And again, what is a brand right? It's how does somebody emotionally feel when they see your product or they experience your product or try your products and everything else? That's so how's it gonna make me feel and that's what their brand really means, in my opinion of kind of creating that and like I said, cannabis has this unbelievable opportunity because most of the time cannabis makes people feel pretty good. And so you've got a product that has a really powerful way of making somebody have any, you know, emotional or physical experience around your product. But it's got to be authentic and authentic. So storytelling and certainly content marketing and brands using content marketing strategies. To really kind of help elevate them through social media platforms, and other things are great. But listen, I think that we're at such an early stage. And it's like everybody's trying to, you know, kind of get their foot in the door. And yes, we've got a couple of big msos. Some of them more heavily focused on brands like green thumb industries, they just partnered up with can, which has been a huge success story out in California with their low dose and fuse seltzers, and beverages, they acquired The Incredibles brand from medically correct out of Colorado, one of those first pioneers in the space, they're still operating all of these independent operations everywhere else I just talked to a brand is based here in Washington called soul shine. And so they manufacture all of their products in a certain type of equipment. So anybody that they partner with, has to use that same equipment, right. So they're really approaching this of, not only do we want to create our brand footprint in other states, like Arizona or elsewhere, but we want to have that product consistency. So when somebody goes from Washington, Arizona, and they try our product, that they're gonna have the same experience, right. And so I think there's so many different aspects of this. But we know that at some point in time, like there is a tsunami or tidal wave of interstate commerce or federal legalization coming, and we know how much capital these big msos have raised in the billions of dollars just this year alone, to acquire and expand and acquire new licenses acquire existing businesses, etc. I mean, they know exactly where they're going. I mean, they want to have that national, they want to be the seagrams. They want to be the Corps, they want to be the Budweiser, they want to have one of these nationally recognized brands that people trust, and build a relationship with the consumers in these other markets that they can carry across state lines, and eventually internationally. Right. So maybe that's just me, just call me a dreamer someday.

Shayda Torabi  36:48  
You I mean, maybe this is a little taboo. But like, do you see that as the real only path to success? I mean, again, when I look at CBG, I view CPG, in the Procter and Gamble, the PepsiCo, these major brands, and especially when you bring in the term MSO, multi state operator, I've talked about that a little bit on my past episodes before, it's a little overwhelming, I think, for kind of backing it down to a small brand. I mean, I understand Can I just had an episode with their head of strategy Blair on the podcast a couple episodes ago, so very passionate, very excited about what they're up to. But it's like, you know, you can start as a small brand is the goal to build a brand. So great, so qualified, so cool that someone wants to buy you as their potential for that brand to grow with the right investment. And then they can potentially become their own MSO, or their own conglomerate operating, you know, and absorbing other brands. It's just, it seems like the path is to go where the money is, the money seems to be kind of this blob that's taking over everything in the industry, which can be a little overwhelming and daunting, I think, for some of the smaller players who are trying to wrap their head around, you know, going through federal legalization or opening up interstate commerce.

Unknown Speaker  38:00  
Well, it's gonna happen. And, you know, I think it's inevitable. Yeah, it's like banjos and, you know, it's ease inevitable. I think that there's plenty of room across the spectrum. I mean, you know, certainly if you look at certain consumer behaviors, slow food movement, low Hoss, people wanting to buy and source product locally, organic, things like that, and certain lifestyle choices that people want, there's going to be an opportunity for a lot of regional success and localized success for companies, if that's where they want to be. And those companies are going to be, you know, very successful, profitable, certainly more profitable once you get rid of to ADP, which is very punitive part of our tax code that some of these retailers and brands can pay 60 70% marginal tax rates, because it can't deduct normal business expenses. But those are great businesses and they employ people they can provide generational wealth to families and owners, and you know, really actually engaged locally in their community to help support the community with you know, charitable projects and or other things that they can do, which has always been kind of part of that cannabis culture, right. I mean, don't just think about how do I sell we like how do I create a positive image around cannabis use some that can be beneficial to society and to my neighborhood. So me personally, like I went to school for microbiology, I was actually system Brewmaster at a brew pub. While I was in college. That was a great job. I drank basically from like, 10am till 6pm every day for free, and really good beer. But like, personally, I have a preference that there's a local brewery here that makes an unbelievable IPA that I really like it's called bodhisatta by the Georgetown brewing company here in Washington, and like, I couldn't drink a Budweiser, of course, personally, like unless you've probably held my mouth open and poured it down my throat. It's just not what I like. So I'm going to support that localized brewery and if there was a grower here in Washington, and there's somebody that Bremerton that's, you know, making this Lebanese hash i think is fantastic and I love being able to get that from my local dispensary. So I'd rather you know, I think that yes, you're gonna have that CPG side. And, you know, I used to run a trade show for the specialty tea industry and about 80% of the tea industry was kind of the Lipton tetley's kind of mass produced, you know, big CPG companies, you know, Unilever and whatnot. But, you know, 20% of the market was a lot of the specialty, you know, independent operators and retailers. And it can certainly be more than that. And there's no reason that we couldn't see maybe 50% of the US sales or regional localized businesses that have a relationship with their communities.

Shayda Torabi  40:34  
Now, it's a very fair point, it's certainly come up before, you know, kind of highlighting just because these msos are moving in, it still leaves room for like you highlighted these different preferences, diet, supporting local, organic, etc. So I don't think that is the question. I just think coming from the understanding of how the laws are operating right now, with limited licensure and vertical integration requirements, it's certainly making it challenging for brands who have dreams of maybe remaining small or independent and being successful, that path is a little bit murkier. So kinds of to throw it back from, or did you want to say something on that?

Unknown Speaker  41:13  
Well, yeah, and you know, so the way that, you know, most capital markets work, capitalistic markets work, you know, we tend to reward highest quality at the lowest price, right? You know, and that's where specialty you know, teas, specialty coffee, and a lot of specialty industries. And certainly specialty cannabis is going to be able to charge a premium price for a premium product. So I think that some of the smaller guys will be able to continue to operate successfully within those regional markets. But you know, a lot of people I've talked to like, you know, Colorado, for example, it's, you know, a lot of the brands were complaining that it was a race to the bottom, and everybody was trying to sell the lowest priced product with the highest amount of THC in it. And you know, that kind of really, it doesn't really benefit anybody. You know, if anything, you got to kind of, you know, race to the bottom until everybody crashes, and you're the last one that can hit the brakes and pull out, you know, the tailspin. You know, so I think, you know, when we look at cannabis production right now, you know, when we saw these early stage markets come on board, you know, Colorado and Washington, you know, being some of the first move to adult use markets. You know, everything had to be cultivated indoors, there was a tremendous amount of property plant equipment that was required for that it was relatively energy inefficient process, as opposed to using some type of light deprivation greenhouse, where you can capture the natural sun. And, you know, when we look at what's being built on the East Coast right now, like, they're basically producing the same amount of cat like, you know, I have a good friend that consults in the industry. I think he said it somewhere around like 100, growers on the East Coast are producing as much cannabis as 3000 growers on the west coast. And they're automating stuff, they're coming in with huge amounts of capital. So they can set up the systems and the trays and the irrigation systems and hydroponic systems and put the huge canopies up. It's gonna be tough to compete with them from a raw product standpoint, right of just having kind of flower unless that flower. I think when people start really kind of, you know, specializing what they're doing, you know, they're some of them are rolling them in Keefe and adding hash oil and really kind of spicing up the sillies as generous. Yeah. trifecta. And I think it's gonna really come down to is creating a trusted brand relationship with the consumer. And that's, you know, CPG marketing.

Shayda Torabi  43:31  
Yeah, so kind of going, that was great. Thank you. Going back to the CPG marketing and kind of through what MJ unpacked is offering and reflecting on your history with these content, media, arms. What are you looking for, like what to you, indicates a good brands like is MJ unpacked going to be CPG brands that already exist to some level? Like, let's maybe use can as an example, they're obviously well known, they've now got different series of funding, they're in multi states, like, are they almost too advanced to be a part of MJ unpacked? Or are they kind of the prime example? Are you a business? Are you looking for brands to tell their stories, both through media or through these events that are already established? To some extent? Are you looking for products that are like I think can is great, obviously, micro dosing, just reflecting on what you said about Colorado when there's this kind of the race to the bottom? in some regards? I saw an interesting data point with can and then it's actually Washington State. I think, actually, MJ brand insights produced this data point. That's where I pulled it from when I was interviewing Blair, but it was showing the leading cannabis beverages by state and it showed California as was can, and not to get into the specifics, but they're the leader and they're obviously two milligrams of THC versus the leader in Washington State. I forget the brand name, but it was 100 milligrams of THC, probably a law. Yeah, I think that was it. so obvious. Part of that is different consumers, different states, part of it might be the actual brand itself and how they're positioning and the brand look and feel and experience of that brand is, but kind of reflecting on that through your lens and where you sit when you're trying to look out for like, hey, that's a cool ass brand. Like I want them to be a part of my event, or I want to write a story about them. They shouldn't, you know, get some coverage in the media, like, what are you looking for? What is that differentiating point, and maybe there's not one specific thing, because obviously, the beverage example shows the spectrum of dosing, which is so radical to me that you can have these two leading brands be completely opposite ends of the spectrum, there's not really a Northstar. But if you could pick one, or kind of share some insight into how you're navigating what a qualified, you know, Star CPG brand looks like to give some hope for those of us out here who are trying to build some what would that be?

Unknown Speaker  45:50  
Yeah, and so you know, I mean, like listening to companies like bang, that's been around for a long time, and certainly, operating multiple states will be at our show and have a showcase. And companies like soulshine, that's based here in Washington, you know, that's, you know, got plans on the books, and they're actively expanding, and other state markets, and blue shoe farms, for example. I mean, we've got the Blues Brothers brand now as well, that they're partnering up and distributing in Illinois and other states, Colorado, I believe, and they've got plans to expand. So it's really, I think, you know, for brands that we're looking for are companies that are really, you know, kind of innovating in some way. But it's an opportunity for them to put their brand in front of the market, we're gonna have national media there, where they can meet with retailers from other states that they're looking to move their brain into. So they can start those conversations before they even mine up their licensing partner or even acquire a license in that state that they know that they can have those doors open in advance of that. But you know, most of the brands are expanding through partnerships with other produce for profit, licensed producer processors in those states where they can, you know, kind of take their footprint. And there's companies that have licenses that are strictly just saying, Hey, we're open for business. And if you want to distribute your products in Nevada, then come to our booth. And we can, you know, sign a license agreement and start making and selling your product tomorrow. So I think that all of those things are important. And the retailers are also in the same boat. I mean, retailers are definitely looking to expand their retail experience as a product to the consumers and operate in multiple states. And I think those retailers that really understand that they are in the retail business and not just the cannabis business are going to be the ones that are most successful. I just think that the opportunity for brands to be in the room, right, like if you're not in the room, you're not going to be part of the conversation. And this is an opportunity to bring the right people into the room have a very controlled, comfortable, relaxed environment, that people can see what other brands are doing. And other states use that as a kind of market research opportunity. And also to partner up with some of these companies. You mentioned some of those data points. And we were very fortunate we are have strategic partnerships with PDSA one of the leading market intelligence firms in the industry, both with our MJ brand insights, content platform and MJ unpack. But the thing I want to go back to canvassing This is something that I've been talking to a lot of people about lately, I mean, it's something that I've thought about probably pretty heavily for the last eight years. I mean, you know, so much of the kind of social lubrication in our society is built around this kind of going to the bars and going and having beverages, and consuming a series of, you know, having multiple incidences where you're consuming several beverages over the course of an evening, to kind of control what level of intoxication you want to take yourself to. And cannabis, because a lot of times, it's like, you know, when everybody came out in the beverage category, and everything was 100 milligrams, a lot of that was developed primarily for the medical patients that need those high doses. But it means you know, you're kind of taking a capsule of a beverage that tastes really good. And you're like, I'm just gonna take a capsule, because that's going to get me to where I need to be. And I'm going to be high for next four hours. So seeing these companies are using the fast acting nanotechnology around cannabis, to create a quick onset and also offset time, downtime and so that people can go out and start having, you know, multiple drinks. And so this ties into also development advancement of social consumption lounges, right? I mean, I think, you know, we're going to move in that direction. I think, you know, rather than going to a room, it's filled with smoke because everybody's smoking weed together, is going to a place where people are consuming weed. And it's looks and feels a lot like what we've done with alcohol for the last couple millennia. Yeah, I'm

Shayda Torabi  49:29  
glad you brought that up. I just interviewed someone podcast is live now he's based in Vegas, and he said that Vegas just passed or I should say, Nevada, just past consumption lounges. And so I don't know what the timeline is for that to actually be implemented. But you paint a really interesting picture where I think traditional people will be assuming Yeah, consumption Lounge is going to be me being able to smoke my flower in public. Obviously, with the mass adoption of vaping. You can now essentially vape anywhere discreetly and you don't really have to kind of For that, like I need some more private to go be consuming but now when you're getting into edibles and especially these microdose drinks like can't it obviously, is evolving the conversation evolving the market into such a right place. I mean, to use the term also that California has have kind of coined Cali sober, it's like they love consuming cannabis. Why would you want to like you kind of were saying to you know, drink your cap full of this super concentrated beverage that you might like the way it tastes. But if you keep drinking it, it's going to Super sedate you. Or maybe you are more, you know, the medical patient versus the recreational patients. So the recreation are not patient, but the recreational person is wanting something a little bit more for that social experience. And so you are seeing these different innovative products being developed that really I think are evolving the conversation of what cannabis looks like, not just in America, obviously. But in general, as we're bringing cannabis more to the mainstream. For sure.

Unknown Speaker  50:58  
Yeah, definitely. It's gonna be a fascinating couple of years in the cannabis industry see how ultimately the consumer drives that conversation of what products resonate with them and that they enjoy. And I think while the beverage segment has been very small part of the overall sales of cannabis, what Kant has done in California, and then being able to partner with GTI, to be able to expand into I think 20 other states. I mean, that's a game changer. And there was another company that just came out with, I think, a 24 pack, and I apologize to the company that can't remember who did. But you know, again, it's when you look at any other type of food or beverage category, or you know, in that CPG space, I mean, you talk about two different channels, there's at home, and there's on premise consumption, right? For example, going back to the tea industry example, like Starbucks had acquired tazo tea, and you know, a couple million dollars in sales, and they built it into a billion dollar brand. Now, half of the tazo tea sales were generated at Starbucks retail location, so it was on premise consumption. And half of it was through the FDM food drug and mass merchant channel, more or less grocery stores that people were buying the type of product. And same thing with alcohol companies. I mean, they're looking for that on premise consumption. I think those types of conversations about at home and on premise consumption are part of our natural evolution. I think that that's going to be one of the top things that everybody's gonna be talking about this year. It's going to be one of the top sessions that we're going to be producing at our show. Talking about on premises kind of you know, somewhat of a needs Maslow's need hierarchy that we have to achieve, to be able to fully mature our industry. Thank you so

Shayda Torabi  52:34  
much, George, for sharing your expertise. And thank you listeners for tuning into this episode. I always love to leave you with some food for thought. So when it comes to events, I think it's really necessary to establish what your unique goals are. Is it more leads? Is it brand awareness in visibility? Is it secure a contact for a new partner or vendor? We may have different goals and that's okay, but trying to establish what your metrics are for tracking successes will allow you to attribute that ROI that much more effectively. As always, I hope these episodes are informative and educational and if you learn something, please reach out and let me know I love hearing how these episodes impact your life and businesses. Thanks again and we'll be back next Monday with a another episode. Bye y'all. Love this

Announcer  53:25  
episode of To be blunt. Be sure to visit the Shayda slash to be blind for more ways to connect new episodes come out on Mondays. And for more behind the scenes follow along on Instagram at the Shayda Torabi

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