“People buy products from companies that believe what they believe. If you don't start off with a strong belief system, then it's really difficult to create an authentic brand. In this internet world where people see through everything and have access to everything, authenticity is really essential.” - Shawn Gold
Welcome back to the To Be Blunt podcast! In this episode, Shayda Torabi welcomes Shawn Gold, founder of Pilgrim Soul, to share his strategies in establishing an authentic brand with a strong belief system, challenging default thinking, and embracing creative thinking in marketing.
[00:01 – 05:23] How Shawn Gold Started in Cannabis
[05:24 – 18:19] Pilgrim Soul and The Creative Perspective and Ideation in Market Positioning
[18:20– 28:24] Utilizing Product Features for Branding Perspective
[20:00 – 34:21] Influencing Loyalty in the Brand
[34:22 – 43:08] Fostering an Emotive Experience with Customers
[43:09 – 56:04] Leveraging Media and Tools to Effectively Market
[56:05 – 57:43] Food for Thought: What Prompts You to Connect to Yourself Deeply?
Shawn Gold is Founder and CEO of Pilgrim Soul, a mission-driven cannabis brand focused on optimizing human creative performance to gain a competitive edge in business and life. Until recently, Shawn was CMO of Lowell Herb Co., one of the fastest-growing cannabis companies in North America. He has been an advisor to other leading cannabis brands including MedMen and Charlottes Web. Previous to Lowell, he was CMO at TechStyle Fashion Group in its growth to over $1Billion in sales. Before TechStyle he was head of entertainment brand partnerships at Wattpad.com. Before Wattpad, he oversaw sales, marketing, and content development as CMO of Inside Studios. In the early days of social media, Shawn was CMO, head of marketing & content for MySpace, spearheaded the development and implementation of marketing initiatives and campaigns during its growth from 25 to 110 million users worldwide. Prior to MySpace, he was a partner and the founding publisher of Weblogs, Inc., a network of popular blogs that included Engadget, Joystiq, and Autoblog, now part of Verizon. As head of communications planning for Rare Medium, Shawn helped launch digital communications strategies for brands at P&G, General Mills, Nestle, Mattel, and other international brand marketing companies.
Connect with Shawn
Visit https://www.pilgrimsoul.com/ and follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn @pilgrim_soul_creative & @CreativityOnCannabis
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
“The general concept of finding your big ideal as a brand or even as a human being all goes back to who you are, what you stand for, and what your role in society is as a brand.” - Shawn Gold
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Shawn Gold 0:00
You can't advertise cannabis on Facebook and Instagram. So we built a 70,000 name lists of people. The front cover of the journal says please use this journal while you're high. So people who buy this sort of raise their hand say I love cannabis and I love to be creative. So one of the other difficulties of building a cannabis brand is you don't know the customer, you know, everything sold through dispensaries. So I, you know, built a 70,000 name list of people who like to get high and creative. And a bunch of that, you know, probably about 10% of that is in California a little more than 10%. So now I have the ability to go direct to consumer, I have the ability to advertise the brand on a national basis to communicate the values of the brand, really build a national licensable brand create alternative revenue streams. There's a lot of benefits to having a bunch of products that are outside of the cannabis realm.
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 1:29
Hello and welcome back to the To be blunt podcast. I'm your host Shayda Torabi, cannabis business owner and brand marketer, and I'm so glad you're here with me for another episode of the podcast. Today we are sitting down with Sean gold. You might be familiar with his name from some of his work prior to getting into cannabis. Sean was the CMO and head of marketing for a little tech company called my space so shout out to my top eight. He was also the CMO of textile fashion group which houses brands like fab Latics, and reon is savage Fenty line, which by the way, during his time there he helped those brands reach a goal of over $1 billion in sales. And then as if those accomplishments weren't enough, he transitioned into the cannabis industry first by advising brands like med men, and Charlotte's Web before becoming the CMO of Lowell herb CO, one of the fastest growing and most talked about cannabis companies in North America. And now presently, he's the founder of pilgrim soul, a mission driven cannabis brand focused on optimizing human creative performance to gain a competitive edge in business and life. We have a lot to unpack with Shawn. But primarily I want you to listen to how cannabis has been a key player in everything Shawn has done in his roles during all these different brands, and how that helped inspire him to build pilgrim soul, which is a really engaging brand that goes way beyond just selling high quality cannabis products. To me, he's really captured a unique part of the market that intersects not only the plant, but the power of the plant that plays off of our creativity. And it's a really fun conversation. So buckle up. By the way, if this episode resonates with you or inspires you, please let me know. I would love to hear from you and you can send me a quick story or tag me in a DM on social at To be blunt pod. And as always, it is so much appreciated. So without further ado, let's welcome Shawn to the show.
Shawn Gold 3:41
I'm Shawn gold, the CEO of pilgrim soul creative, a cannabis company based out of Los Angeles, and my journey in the cannabis experience is really from probably 15 years old to this moment. I don't recommend cannabis for people under 21. But different time when I was growing up, it was definitely a different time. I mean, drugs were like, kind of cool and we didn't have gaming and you know all the world's information on our fingers. So it's basically sex drugs and rock and roll we used to entertain ourselves. I've always been sort of this add I've always been a you know, considered bright but not a very good student really add dyslexic. And I've come I've used cannabis, oddly enough for focus in my life and for empathy and consideration and creative perspective and self therapy as far as getting a second opinion from myself, about myself. And then in business. I've used it for many years for a lot of the same reasons and when marketing have you know, been more Head of Marketing for some of the top tech consumer facing tech companies. So I use it to connect with customers and again ties with them and come up with our blocks thinking and challenge my own default thinking. And it's been a great thing I have a lot to the plants and how it's allowed me to see the world more clearly in a lot of ways, which is ironic because people think of drugs as distortion. And for me, it's been about clarity.
Shayda Torabi 5:23
Please help us dive in a little bit more to on your background, you have such an esteemed, you know, roster of brands that you've been a part of. And I think that, from my perspective, trying to help kind of have that conversation as a marketer who's listening on the other end, some people perhaps might be in the industry, some people perhaps might not be in the industry yet, but they're trying to understand the path to you know, I mean, you're now the executive and the CEO of your own company, a cannabis brand pilgrim soul. But prior to that, you've been in leadership positions with other leading, I mean, really well known cannabis brands like med men and local herbs. And Previous to that participating in brands in the e commerce space related to fat, blood eggs, and savage Fenty. And prior to that you were the CMO of my space. I mean, you've really been a part of some really key brands come from a high level abstract perspective. Yeah, and as a marketer, I just want to kind of pick apart that a little bit more, you know, how do you find yourselves in these roles? What value do you think you added to these companies? And how did that bring you ultimately to founding your own company?
Shawn Gold 6:38
Yeah, so an interesting thing for like young marketers who are listening to this podcast, like, I've done a lot of different things. And I've jumped from well, even in tech, I've jumped from a head of marketing to one of the top blog companies to my space to you know, in these things didn't exist, social media, didn't really it was nascent. In its experience, when I was cmo, my space, they help drive that from 25 million to 110 million users worldwide, really helped launch the blogs space, the commercial blog space within gadget and auto blog and launch them the first online ziens word calm in 1995. And a comic called wattpad, which is a global storytelling platform for mostly young women, fanfiction. So there was that and then I went to a company called textile hope rebrand that company, which is an e commerce company, as you said, shoedazzle just reorders lingerie brand fabrics. And that was e commerce, which was a, you know, I say that, like, the secret to my success is really just all been about data and empathy. And I used to say, before, I had access to data, it was really about empathy. Like what drives people, what do they want? You know, how do you build, you know, influential, emotive brands. And then you make these guesses, you use data, you make these guesses, and then you, you know, it's sort of like a ready fire aim, strategy and marketing. You put it out there, you look at the data you optimize, but you can't rely solely on the data. That's the difference between good and great marketers is they really understand they can combine again, empathy with the data, even know like, if athletics we was a, probably we have more data than any other fashion company in the world, like we know, it's a big now multi billion dollar over a billion dollars in sales, the textile group. But we still go to people's homes and go in their closets and ask them why they wear this or how they shop, how they think about dressing. And there's so many, you know, we just reveal things that you just don't see in the data. So it's really important to connect with human beings. And they constantly surprise you, we would have our influencer dinners, you know, once a month with our customers and would always, always, always learn something new from just an in person, meeting with someone the cannabis business. So I've been a cannabis user for years and I've used it in for business. You know, for perspective and ideation, we're going to empathy. I got connected with the Stanley brothers out of Colorado.
I was helping them sort of do with some branding stuff in on the west coast. And then I invited Adam Bierman, CEO of Mad Men to dinner with those guys. And I really liked you know, some people find him off putting he's brash, but super smart. And I just liked his approach. So I connected with him and I started helping him with some SEO stuff and fundraising and just some branding stuff. And then I worked in the tech business with the guy who started who can see the whole role or company brand. And I was advising those guys lightly. And then I connected With Mad Men got mad men to invest in them, then they asked me to come on as the CMO of law. And you know, law was a really unique brand probably got more publicity than any other brand. And you know, in America, it was the first brand to really elevate the packaging of cannabis in a significant way. So that brand new is for Simon Sinek the why of the brand would be to elevate the integrity of the cannabis experience. And we thought we had our favorite chocolate brands and wine brands and Kentucky whiskey brands, and they all had this nomenclature and came in this beautiful packaging. And, you know, it was an emotive unboxing feeling when you dealt with this product. And, you know, other thing we loved came in a plastic bag. So, you know, we're just like a medicinal, you know, canister. How do we you know, so we thought, how can we really bring it to that same level. And we built a brand that was about heritage and craftsmanship and sustainability. And when you build brands, you have to think about who you are what you stand for what your role in society is. A lot of cannabis brands, unfortunately, I've been focusing on their brand is packaging. And a lot of these things are the afterthoughts. Like, let's make this really good. Let's make this poppet at retail, which is definitely important. But people buy products from companies that believe what they believe. And if you don't start off with a strong belief system, then it's really difficult to create an authentic brand. And when this internet world where people see through everything and have access to everything, authenticity is really essential. If you can't fake authenticity, you shouldn't be in this business. That's just that's like someone famous said that. So with lol It was about we had these PR threads that we were always playing out how do we play on the sort of organic aspect of the brand? How do we play out the craftsmanship and the heritage piece of the brand. Sometimes, you know, law had its ups and down peaks. And a lot of a downside was not living up to those brand tenants. Clearly after I left the company, and after the founder left the company, it was just it was run by people who really didn't. Were giving lip service to what the brand really serviced what we brand was born out of. But then we also did a lot of really great creative hacks, you know, creativity, I mean, like publicity hacks, creativity, a lot of people think of creativity is like, no holds barred open ideas. But the best of creativity is really about comes from constriction and constraints. Like when you have you're putting a box, you can't do this in the cannabis business all about that. I mean, they're, you know, you couldn't think of a more a brand from a marketing perspective that is, you know, inhibited and strange can't advertise on social media can't advertise on Google. So we did some really great hacks early on, where, you know, we applied to Coachella to be, you know, the first cannabis brand as a sponsor. And we made these Coachella crowns that we were giving to people out of cannabis, sort of groovy hippie rhaetian, sort of crowns. And they sent a cease and desist letter and said, No, you can't be a sponsor. We use that as really a publicity platform. First cannabis brand, you know, rejected from Coachella. And we were building towards that we were thinking about that. How do we get this we needed that letter that said, You are here we reject you as a sponsor. And that was you know, and then we started we made these Valentine's Day bouquets that we added cannabis that we started sending around to celebrities, and they were freaked out and love them. And, and then we took out a, you know, the brand has always been about social justice. And we've hired a lot of people who were convicted of non violent cannabis crimes. And so we took out a billboard across from the LA County Jail, cost us 5000 bucks, it said recently pardoned, question mark. We're hiring, you know, as low level company around 100. And then we hired a couple people. It's not so easy to hire felons, but we hired a bunch. And you know, that was picked up by the New Yorker, magazine and Newsweek magazine. And so those are some interesting things. Then obviously, we opened up the cannabis first cannabis cafe in America, which was global news. And then I got into my brand. I did a collaboration with Notorious BIG his kids, CJ Wallace. He had a brand who was looking to build a brand that was about cannabis and creativity. And I was thinking a lot about creativity. I purchased a bunch of URLs around canvas and creativity before that. And so we did this collaboration. I gave him seven different strains and the next high for creativity and said smoke these rank these Tell me what your top three are. He did and we created this creativity blend of his time. Mixing three different strains together. And then we donated a portion of the proceeds to the California prison arts project. And we sold, we only made 10,000 bags, we sold them in like a week, it was a hit. And then that inspired me to go on, kind of lean into the idea I had been thinking about and create kokum Sol creative, which is again, it's a creativity company where cannabis is one of the products. And I saw at low that really the future of cannabis brands were going vertical, really trying to own a specific slice of the market and be a category king in something whether it's sleep or creativity, or, you know, or bliss or sex or whatever it is. And then also, again, having a strong belief system, and being a mission driven company, and really leaning into that. So, you know, pilgrim soul, the mission is really to help people tap into their innate creativity. The number one TED talk of all times by this guy, sir Kenneth Robinson, It's entitled, how schools kill creativity, and we desperately need to bring it back. And so the brand is about helping people unlock their creativity. It's not about really teaching them to be creative. It's about teaching them to tap into the creativity that we're born with, to sort of get past judgment, get past default, thinking, you know, get past fear, all these things that are really bred into us, like in our school system with, you know, where mistakes are bad and standardized tests and linear thinking and to all these things in cannabis is an amazing hack for creativity, it stimulates the frontal lobe, which is the idea production part of the brain. And it suppresses an area of the brain called the dorsal lateral cortex, which is the area of you know, kind of a judgment area of the brain. So when you're daydreaming, you know, the dorsal lateral cortex is sort of repressed. And then, but cannabis, you know, itself, you can smoke, you know, so I'm working with some of the top scientists and these guys at abstracts labs, in Irvine. And they do the oils for Stravinsky and jack career family and did the oils for Josh D, who invented the O g strain. They're like, surfer scientists in California, and multiple PhDs. Now in chemistry. We analyzed over 100 strains and index high for creativity, and also secondary and tertiary states of mind. So creativity and focus and euphoria, creativity and relaxation, we made 3d models of the terpene and cannabinoid profiles of these different brands and sort of match them up to states of mind. And all the states of mind are really based on survey data from consumers, like on leafly, when they say this is you know, euphoric, or you know, happier. That's all from survey data, but consumers saying how it makes you feel. So I created four different blends of cannabis very focused on creativity, the creative focus, blend, and a creative imagination blend and a creative awareness blend, creative reflection, blend, and you know, mixing multiple strains together. But you can still smoke my creative reflection and blend and think about your ex husband to your mortgage. Now, there's no guarantee that you're going to have a creative experience. So it was really essential for me to create other products that enhance the efficacy of cannabis, and from branding perspective. So this is really from an efficacy perspective. But there's a lot of branding benefits, as well. And so I have this curriculum, I've created these journals that are meant to be used while you're high. And that is sort of guardrails on the experience to ensure that you have a great experience. I'm creating a bunch of other games of these ideas, scratch notes and other products that are, you know, again, meant to like ensure that you have a positive creative experience when you're using our cannabis or anybody's cannabis. And we started marketing those journals six months ago, before we release the cannabis. And they've been really a smash hit. We've probably sold over $3 million worth of those journals, mostly using Facebook and Instagram. And you can't advertise cannabis on Facebook and Instagram. So we've built a 70,000 name lists of people the front cover of the journal says please use this journal while you're Hi. So people who buy this sort of raise their hand and say I love cannabis and I love to be creative. So one of the other difficulties of building a cannabis brand is you don't know the customer you know, everything sold through dispensaries. So I you know, build a 70,000 name list of people who like to get high and creative. And a bunch of that, you know, probably about 10% of that is in California a little more than 10%. So now I have the ability to go direct to consumer. I have the ability to advertise the brand on a national basis. Communicate the values of the brand, really build a national licensable brand, create alternative revenue streams. There's a lot of benefits to having a bunch of products that are outside of the cannabis realm. Cookies, one of the top brands in California for sure. It was a brand, it's much more than just cannabis. It's a lifestyle brand, where they have, you know, clothing and other products and music as part of their brand. And that's great. It's a big asset and a leg up and connecting with consumers and making an emotive connection. But what I'm trying to do is even tighter than that, and that our products are not necessarily all our products really are about the cannabis experience and enhancing the cannabis experience. So I mean, I'll have hats and T shirts and things like that, but they're not really going to be they're just for people who maybe have a deeper connection with our brand. But all great brands are really about you think about how do you elevate your customer? How can you help them become a greater version of themselves? You know, how can you help them reach higher goals, and the gift that they give you back is loyalty and profitability. If you think about it, you know, how can you help them express themselves like Apple does or reach their goals like Google does, or a sense of lightness and playfulness? Like, you know, Jimmy Buffett or Star Trek or inspire their like sense of freedom like Harley Davidson, like what is your you have to really think about who you are what you stand for. And, you know, and again, what your role in society is as a brand. And it needs to be authentic. And it needs to be founder driven. When you do that recruiting people is so much easier, marketing is so much easier getting people to stay at the company, especially, you know, when you you know, we think about younger people today, working for something, people don't want a job, they want to you know, they want to make a difference. It all possible, it's so hard. I mean, it's a luxurious thing to work for, you know, to do good and do well and make money and make a difference. You know, not everybody gets a chance to do that. But a lot of people aren't today are not striving for less, they're really trying to accomplish that. So when you help people do that, and one, you build a great team. And that just really just amplifies itself. And it comes across to the customer in a pretty significant way. So those are all things that people take for granted. Like, again, there was a CEO of one of the top cannabis companies and they built the company, they're like, Oh, we need a social justice strategy. Like, as an add on, like, that's important, we should really have one of those. And then you know, it's crazy, they're thinking about that. But to think about that, as an afterthought is detrimental to the brand. And so they're you know, this bunch of different things you can do to create influence and loyalty in a brand.
Shayda Torabi 22:57
You shared so much like juicy goodness, I really appreciated all of that. Because I do think that my passion in my heart lies in branding, I think when you look at the cannabis market, kind of reflecting on what you were saying, right? There's one this air and this aspect of people who obviously they want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. I think there's a lot of people also who never saw an opportunity like myself, especially being in Texas, currently, where there was even a possibility of working in cannabis. And then you talk about the social justice component. Obviously, cannabis being a schedule, one drug kind of positions it at that cross section of, Hey, we have a lot of work that needs to be done so that we can actually enjoy this and leverage this. Both. There's obviously the medicinal conversation, you outlined a lot of other aspects of, I guess the proper, we're be meshing, right, whether you're, you know, dosis. And you're focused on bliss, and you want to just have this kind of, you know, particular customer who likes the ease of the functionality of this little type of vape pen, versus I love what you had articulated about Lowell, obviously, the breadth of the company has gone through a lot of different variabilities and changes but kind of pushing that boundary of like, Hey, we want to build this brand. And we want to be able to have this conversation with the consumer in this particular way. I think that's where I'm observing cannabis is transitioning, obviously, for better or worse, we are going into the mainstream, and you are having to compete now for the consumers attention. And so trying to figure out what is that conversation that you want to have whether it is reflecting again, on my position, CBD brand in a state like Texas, trying to navigate legalities and regulations as our state goes through those different steps comparatively to you know, companies operating in California, a much more legal market, but I would also probably emphasize a much more strenuous and regulated market and so trying to navigate all those different variations as you are trying To kind of cut through the noise of like, like, what am I serving? Like, what am I doing? What is that unique product. And I think you said it also earlier to really nicely, you know, you used to just buy weed in a baggie, you used to buy it in a plastic container. And so there's definitely those brands and those businesses, who that's not their selling point, maybe their selling point is something else. Some other components, some other experience was actually in the bag, perhaps. But I think getting into these other areas and getting people to think both critically and creatively is really key. And you also highlighted it about pilgrim soul in terms of, I saw something on the website around being creative, it helps unlock yourself. And I think that, you know, we're our biggest cheerleader, and we're our biggest, you know, setback as an individual. And so being able to leverage cannabis, not only from a business perspective, but also from a creative perspective, I think is really beautiful, because I think we talk about creative, you know, creative and creativity and being creative, really abstractly, but then actually, like leveraging cannabis for that outcome, like I'm sure people listening are like, yeah, I smoke cannabis, and I play the guitar or I feel better, you know, writing, but to actually get people to think about this particular strain is what my body's responding to, that allows me to be in the best flow state or when I consume this product, and I have these other tools at my disposal. Like, I love the journal, I think, again, it's so simple, but also elevates, and you call it I guess, kind of like insurance on the cannabis itself. And so I want you to talk a little bit more to now kind of about the creative process, as you see it through pilgrim soul to kind of jumpstart that conversation. I saw one of the articles that you had on the website, and it was around, I think this is kind of asked what about cannabis in general, right? Like there's not enough data and research to fully attribute where cannabis is helping or also perhaps hurting us. It's really funny, my boyfriend, he has a copy of the journal as well. And he is a true creative. I mean, this guy is talented, he can take a pen and he can draw whatever you know, you tell him to come up with. And it's really good versus me. I draw like a child with stick figures. I'm creative in other ways. Yeah. But he asked me this question last night, which was really fitting for me interviewing you. He was like, how do we see cannabis actually attribute ID through things that you can hold up and say like this was creatively done on cannabis, platinum record, can you actually attribute it to cannabis or this really famous painting was the artists on cannabis when they painted it? Can you actually attribute this, you know, accolade, or this thing to the cannabis process or through cannabis consumption in your creative process. And then I was on your website, you had this article around rappers and the creativity of the flow state when they are freestyling versus when they are, you know, spitting or speaking or singing lyrics that are right, more standardized. And so it just kind of gave me and him this nice little bouncing off point of obviously, there's many things in life that we can attribute, the ability of consuming cannabis to elevating that creative experience to unlocking to empowering us. But still, I think the data is coming. But so knowing that you kind of sit in that position, both with your breadth of experience as an executive, just kind of in this high level, I mean, e commerce obviously there's a lot of data to back up those claims and things like that, cannabis in general, obviously trying to navigate all these different scientific points, whether it comes to the combination of strains or terpenes, or even the mechanism for consumption to then how you see pilgrim soul kind of helping be that conduit to having a little bit conversation or helping give people the framework to understand cannabis and creativity better paired through that understanding
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Shawn Gold 30:02
Yeah, but from the science perspective, so there's a limited science because it's just hasn't been legal and hasn't been sanctioned. And then the other issue with creativity research is that it's done kind of poorly, the definition of creativity is variable. general definition is sort of to create something new and useful. But the benefit of pilgrim soul of creativity is to create, you know, using cannabis does not mean that all your ideas will be good ones Matter of fact, most of them will be shit. But it's better to have 10 ideas and maybe one good one, then have no ideas or a couple highly inhibited ideas. So it's really you know, when you get into any brainstorming session, so I get no judgments, you know, just everyone throw your ideas. And then sometimes you're like, Okay, I want to hear like the first word that comes to your mind, you know, when you hear when you think about our customer, okay, now take the last letter of that word. And give me another idea. Sometimes you need to create these nonsensical, non, you know, non sequiturs to get your brain in a new area, again, to challenge default thinking. But so the science is like the case studies are a mess. And throughout history, you think about one example, you just think about half the songs on Spotify would be gone without cannabis, like hip hop, jazz, rock, and roll EDM, you got to get into into my life by The Beatles is about cannabis. It was just so many and you talk to so many artists, the other aspect of the research is creativity doesn't have to happen in a vacuum cannabis can enhance like the rest of your life in low doses, I you know, we really promote low dosage in cannabis. And a lot of the research shows it's about enhancing the experience not like being the entire experience, you know, so it's about combining both divert, you know, ideation and sort of and reality, you know, and sort of putting previously existing ideas together in new ways combining Tory play, so but how cannabis specifically helps people and you know, when I share some of the things you do, Oh, totally, like, that's, that's how I feel. But it's great for hyperfocus some, like, when I need to go solve, so I said I was somewhat add ish. And I would smoke cannabis to focus. earlier in my career, I would create these decks that ideas for big brands like Nestle and Hot Wheels. And, you know, I come up with ideas, and I get high. And I would get on like, the elliptical machine at the gym. And I would like, go through these decks and just like hyper focus ideas and, and make these connections. And one of the reasons I was on the elliptical machine, one was to get in shape. But the other was that because of this add thing I had, if I was trying to do one thing, I would be distracted, like thinking about maybe one, you know, something else. But if I'm doing like one simple task, like working out, like on the elliptical machine, I can't do three things at once. So I would almost have a simple task to help me concentrate on the second task, which is a weird hack that I was using for myself. So hyper focus is one aspect of Canvas is really great with pattern recognition is another thing, you know, putting seemingly unrelated objects together ideas together, you know, in a new way, sort of processes and concepts. And that's where I get a lot of these aha moments, right? Oh, wow, that's like, but and then it has imagination, more divergent thinking, the ability like a chef thinking about how different flavors would go together to create a new dish or a composer thinking about how different instruments might sound together. And then empathy is another thing that cannabis has been and I've mentioned this a couple times. Already. But you know, you think about Aaron Sorkin loves cannabis. He's using it to write into like, what would this character say what would they feel like? You know, and what would they do in this situation? He's writing about a lot of characters who clearly aren't him and he uses you know, cannabis to create deep empathy. So these are just some aspects of there really is some you know, it's somewhat undeniable and everyone's brain chemistry is different some people get smoke assertive and fall asleep. So these are general concepts and you know, you know, not entirely macro But getting back to like, the human condition when you want to think about like how you build this your cannabis brand that differentiates all these products gets you high. If you're not differentiating, like okay, you know, this I'm looking at which one is the most THC for the money or which is the cheapest or, you know, like which is the coolest packaging at the same price and I want live resin which is the cheapest one. Like we're getting in a situation where cannabis brands are race to the bottom, on price. And the only way to really do that is to create a brand that has meaning and differentiation and, you know, is an extension of your personal brand. And packaging alone does not do that. So there's like, I think about brands, I think about five. There's a lot of ways I think about brands and a lot of different ways. But there's five ways I'm thinking about today that I think would be helpful to some of the people listening is like, ways to think about things consumer loyalty, as you said earlier, humans want to belong, you know, so love and belonging, and they want to be part of social groups, they want to feel there's a part of something that's bigger than themselves, how do you think about your brand in that way, they look for a sense of identity, they look for institutions and alliances and people in groups and communities that can sort of create meaning around and a sense of identity, you know, how can you be part of that? How can you associate your brand new, like network, your brand, with other great communities that, you know, quickly establish credibility in those areas? shared values, you know, we talked about that a little bit. Truth, goodness, alive, newness, uniqueness, simplicity, justice, playfulness, self sufficiency, these are all things that consumers think about, how do you help your brand, you know, resonate, and portray those values. And, you know, again, it's going to be a losing proposition, to try to be all those things, you just have to pick your lane, and what you believe in and what you understand, and define your beacons as a brand. And then the fourth thing would be, you know, humans want peak emotional experience. Emotions give life and texture and provide meaning to people. So how can you create a mode of experiences with your customer, I do this with my journals, by helping them really tap into themselves. My first cannabis packaging is a collaboration with four different female street artists, as street artists, and I wanted people to look at my packaging and feel happy, and feel good about themselves and like to own this thing, and have this colorful, beautiful thing in their lives. But you know, that's just part of it. That alone is not, you know, a brand, but it's part of the amount of experience. And then lastly, you know, people humans seek hope. Life's difficult, you know, your customers want groups and, you know, products that provide relief from life's challenges. And cannabis does, obviously, itself is a great product for that. So how do you give people hope with your brand, and, you know, something that's happened to and, and did you know, all these things are really like the key ingredients to cool brands. I mean, if you look at any core brand, they all have all these, you know, five characteristics that I mentioned. So those are some, just a couple of ways to think about your brand. And then you also have to look around corners a little bit and see what's next. You know, I'm talking to some investors now. And they're like, Well, does, you know, cannabis journal popular because everyone was locked down? And was it a COVID phenomenon? And, like, that's a really interesting question. And like, I've thought about that myself. But creativity, you know, guided journals themselves a bit double digit growth for the last 10 years create the ability, the desire to be creativity, creative in the self help category, has had double digit growth for the last 10 years, the World Economic Forum, listing creativity is, you know, one of the top 10 Essential Skills for 2025. We're, you know, evolving into this world of AI and outsourcing, where, you know, we need to really what is our leg up against computers, and in that is the ability to make these nonlinear connections and to be creative. And it's really a competitive edge, and almost any business, creativity. So I'm leaning into this trend of creativity is an essential skill. There's so many other ways to go with cannabis. This is just my lane that I'm choosing. So those are a couple pro tips.
Shayda Torabi 39:04
Those are great pro tips. And I think leaning into the creativity, especially from a marketer, I think sometimes creativity is forced or manufactured, especially if you find yourself in a traditional role where, like, I'm on social media, and I feel like I have to quote unquote, perform, I have to post something, it has to be witty, it has to be, you know, engaging, it has to be something that's going to potentially go viral. And I think that expectation sometimes almost stuns my creativity, that despite consuming cannabis, I find myself personally sometimes a little bit lost. Like I know I'm a creative person, but I don't always feel creative. And I found by just going through the products that you've created, whether it's the journal, or even the prompts online through the creative exercises, I mean, I love this whole concept and again, not that it's belittling it by any means, but they're very simple concepts like the idea of being creative is like Just asking the right questions or hell just asking a question like, one of the exercises you have online is all about set memory. And it you know, lists out, here's everyday household items, garlic, coffee, you know, ginger, this, that and the other. And just take 15 seconds, close your eyes, smell it, and then write about it. It has nothing directly that attributes my day to day life. However, I found that exercise gave me so much just like you were talking about just like, it just brings up different points that maybe you hadn't considered, that helps unlock that creativity flow that may be you know, when I'm driving to work, or I'm in a conversation with a friend, or I'm, you know, settling in after dinner, I think, Oh, you know, this thought I had earlier it gave me this other jumping off point. And so I just think that obviously, you're a very smart and intelligent marketer brand is very, very much a part of your DNA, you can tell that you do care about it at a deep level and trying to understand how do you not only care about it for yourself at a deep level, but how do you then bring that same kind of empathy to the market through consumer products through again, like you've highlighted, so great, this whole discussion, not only just like by providing a great cannabis product to the market, but what are those other ancillary kind of supporting tools that someone can use on their journey. And so I think that's why this conversation for me was so important to have and to highlight for my audience, because I think sometimes there's the building a brand and building a business. And that's obviously super important. But I think when you try to peel back some of the layers, realizing, well, who is building the brand? Oh, yes, maybe we're moving into technology day and age where it's more and more AI. And there's different tools and functions that we can leverage. But like, at the end of the day, it's me, I'm a human being, and I'm the one in my way. And so how do I unlock my greatest self, maybe I do an exercise in the journal, maybe it's, you know, me actually taking a time to listen to a Spotify playlist of some great jazz artists and reflecting on one of the prompts that I read, you know, through one of your social media channels, I think your brand is just really fitting and, and maybe the data helps cement that. But it's kind of helping guide us through I think this wave of pressure that we're overwhelmingly experiencing, as it relates to trying to navigate being a marketer in the 21st century. So kind of the last question to you is given everything that I kind of just highlighted around, like the prompts that you share on some of these platforms, I know that being a cannabis marketer is very challenging to be on Instagram and Facebook in terms of ads. But when you kind of meet the consumer at the human level, to make them feel like their most empowered, creative self, I mean, you have a Pinterest page, and it's so thoughtful and so creative, your Instagram it has you have two Instagrams one is for pilgrim soul, and one is more on the creative side. And that's just showcasing all this great art that people have created in, you know, kind of synchronicity with the products that you're creating. So kind of how do you transfer over from the physical worlds of producing journals and content and cannabis products to actually bringing that to market? What are those different channels that you are kind of leveraging, whether it's social media, or just your own earned kind of media? But I think that's another area that people I think, again, as a marketer, we're trying to navigate the creativity, but how do you actually deal with the tools that are at your disposal? Unfortunately, we're limited in cannabis.
Shawn Gold 43:40
Yeah, totally. So I think about, you know, I've always thought about marketing from like a holistic communication plan. perspective, even in the early days of brand strategy at early internet advertising agency. And we did be able to first Nickelodeon site and again at first hotwheels site, and, you know, I was selling, when I got there, they were selling websites, and I was like, let's sell communication plants. Like, let's sell how we use the this is URL is like Internet 9095 9697. So I would, you know, it was sort of when people like holy shit, this is gonna be big. And I had like a, you know, meeting with the CEO of Mattel about the web, you know about how they use the internet. You know, think of it How does it make what you're already doing more effective? How does it fit into your communication, as it makes your TV door your sales promotion, your in store marketing? How does it make that more effective? That's the way you need to think about it. So I think about contact opportunities with the customer and communication plans and think about how does this thing I'm doing tap into everything else? So you know, when you get to my, like Instagram stuff. There's a couple of ways that reasons I've structured my Instagram the way I have hokum sole creative is my intro I'm website for the brand. I don't talk a lot about cannabis, their talk mostly about creativity, because that's we're trying to establish ourselves as experts in creativity. Here, you you buy our creative cannabis products, because we're experts in creativity, not because we create cannabis products, but you also have to believe that we are working with partners to create the best cannabis products, you know, you rely on the best available science. So our website is expert content on Creative hacks and the history of creativity and cannabis and creativity only. Maybe 20% of the content is about cannabis and creativity. Most of it's just about creativity, and then the Instagram account to make a motive. Like we just, we feature people, and we feature concepts and ideas and funny notions that are like, you know, ideas, or creative reflections that make people laugh, but also be like, hmm, you know, just pause for a second and think that that's kind of true. And that's kind of funny. That's you know, and that's moderate, you know, moderately enlightening. And that's the goal of the hokum, soul creative. And then we have creativity on cannabis, which is the other Instagram account you mentioned. And that's about really, you know, one thing I saw what we had low, we had like a 70,000, following Instagram account deleted, because one of our interns like linked to where you could buy our products, which is a big No, no. And then they also get deleted for reasons that nobody knows. But they don't delete accounts that are social commentary. So I saw this account, I just probably got, it was like, cannabis humor, and, like, 4 million followers. And I think that was a lightbulb moment for me, where if I can create an account that is about social commentary, I can grow it. And you know, that could really be a better approach to my one of my brand accounts. So that's why I have creativity on canvas where, which is, you know, one of the biggest tentpoles of our brand and, you know, maybe the biggest, and we feature artists who use cannabis for creativity. And, you know, we have this sort of very important potheads, you know, little running commentary on there to where if future scientists and the brand is about creative thinking, you know, they created a creativity journal, people would think, Oh, I'm gonna draw pictures or you know, it or, you know, it's about art. But creative thinking is about for everyone. And this brand is about it's for educators and scientists and computer programmers and people who anybody who needs to create an innovator to creatively problem solve. Artists, graphic designers, content creators, very small part of who we're targeting with the brand. What I posted something last week, which was, I was always shocked what resonates with people, there's something on my account that was like, I'm going to get a tattoo that reads Helvetica, but written in erielle. And the first woman who corrects me on it, I will ask her to marry me. And I was like, I was shocked at how many people you know, I was thinking it was kind of funny, to have that resonated with was like, Oh, my God, like, on that person, right? marry you. Or, you know,
Shayda Torabi 48:24
I love that one. I literally sent it to my boyfriend I was like this is so again, just kind of in that same kind of creative thinking vein, it was just like, oh, like what, uh, even just the idea of getting a tattoo of another font, but written in that font. Like that was just so brilliant of a thought I was like, Oh, my gosh, creativity at its finest. And so yeah, you shared and I just, it resonated with me. Absolutely. For sure. So I was one of those people.
Shawn Gold 48:49
And then I you know, early on, I learned that laughter is the shortest distance between two people. So if you can laugh with your customers, it's like such an efficient connection. It says, Oh, I see the world the same way this brand does, you know, that we're human being you know, like, when you laugh with someone at a party, you're like, so much is happening in that moment. That is, you know, underneath the surface, like, I'm with you, I see the world the way you do have the same sense of irony and unvarnished truth, or whatever it may be whatever your you know, whatever you're laughing at. It's like, you know, it's really this efficient human connection. So that's another great hack. And, yeah, I was class comedian in high school, so I'm riffing on that whole thing.
Shayda Torabi 49:36
So I'll come full circle for you
Shawn Gold 49:38
on full circle. like to see the career trajectory of me I By the way, I say it was class community as opposed to class clown. class clown is the person who runs across the football field naked during homecoming. The class comedian is the guy who talked him into it.
Shayda Torabi 49:53
Yes, master of ceremony. That's the difference.
Shawn Gold 49:56
Although I would never mean I mean, fun. person.
Shayda Torabi 50:01
No, I love that though I think humor and laughter is something that I often kind of reflect on even my own experience. I come from Austin, obviously, and live music. And so, music to me food, those are universal truths. Doesn't matter what language you speak, you can sit down at a table in front of someone that you don't know, and you can share a meal. And you can find some commonality. So kind of same thing in that vein of, if you can make your customers have that human connection to the brand, through laughter through kind of sparking their creativity sparking their thoughtfulness, then you are creating, hopefully, loyalty. And that, to me is a huge component of longevity and a brand.
Shawn Gold 50:42
I was like, say, love, like you've never been heard work, like no one's watching dance, like you don't need the money. which people are like, What? Wait, that's not how it goes, oh.
Shayda Torabi 50:56
Don't get it eventually. Right.
Shawn Gold 50:58
That's another thing you when you try humors you risk failing. But when you make that connection, you know, you really connect. I moved from New York to Los Angeles, and people in Los Angeles have a great sense of irony is for me is easy to connect with people through irony and, and humor and no death LA, just less so. And I had this sort of litmus test road said to people, like, Don't you hate when people ask a question and then answer themselves? I do. And if they didn't really get that, then I was this is gonna be a long conversation. I would you know, there's just kind of nuance one of my favorite all time campaigns of recent time, is, you know, when Nike stepped out and like, just got behind Colin Kaepernick, what do you believe in copper, you know, is what he's about or not, is somewhat irrelevant to the concept that they said, you know, what I'm going to, this is the lane I'm choosing people were out there burning their Nikes, you know, and protesting the brand and boycotting the brand. But they they kind of obviously made a decision who their core customers were and who they were going to support. And it's ballsy to take that side of an argument such a significant way. And I was so impressed with that brand for doing that, again, forgetting about whether that was you know, whether you believe in that or not is kind of irrelevant to really what I'm talking about. We're like just choosing a lane. I think that's part of our previous presidents appeal as well. Like he just chose a lane like there's so much. I was talking with a professor, friend of ours, professor at Columbia, who's black, and it was relevant to what's happening in our culture. And when we wokeness and everything and you know, being canceled here we have a friend who's got a popular podcast, it was canceled. She's like a female Indian woman. And it was interesting, because it was, you know, she's canceled out of context. As most canceled, is it you know, no one's looking at who this person is their history, their right look, wokeness. And this is the great thing about being on a cannabis podcast like you, you can forget what you're talking about. And
Shayda Torabi 53:09
it's kind of reflecting on staying in your lane. And I think sometimes the repercussions that might come from it, but also the
Shawn Gold 53:21
I want to say oh, we were saying Yeah, like the just choosing your lane. Oh, and you're the people Oh, she was saying like the people the only people who aren't canceled, or the outrageous people, the people who like just say I hate everyone, Oh, I hate them too. Okay, cool. Like, it's weird. Like, if you try to please everyone, you get canceled, if you just like, I hate these people, I like these people are fine. We like you, too. So it's an interesting thing that's happening in our world. You know, like, all these things with the, you know, the meeting movement, I looked at the analogy of the 1970s. And, you know, the women's movement, then and the pendulum often has to swing, you know, further than it seems logical. And then it comes back to center where progress has been made. And there's a new, you know, a new line in the sand was acceptable. So all these things happen. And, you know, you'll see, I'm sure that what's happening would happen, you know, with that what happened, it's happening now, what happens next, you know, you have to somewhat give some flexibility to, you know, these cultural moments. And that, you know, that's another, you know, one last thing is like another great brand hack that I use, and it's in the book, actually, in the creative reflection section. I took this famous Ogilvy and Mather technique for branding. And I made it about branding yourself and thinking about, you know, really what your purpose in life is, but they have these two concentric circles. One is like what I do great, you know, as a brand, and the other circle is a cultural moment that's happening and the you The overlap of the concentric circles is your big ideal as a brand, like, how do you take what you do great, and what's happening in this culture in our culture, and, you know, optimize that experience. And the classic example, is the true beauty campaign from Dove soap, where, you know, in the age of Photoshop, it's an interesting time because there's, like, you know, their beauty products, and then you have like, this sort of self image in the age of Photoshop. And then the overlap is sort of like, true beauty. You know, really, you know, learning to really like love yourself and understand that, you know, you shouldn't be influenced by, you know, society. And probably, I put that in more eloquent ways, but the general concept of finding your big ideal as a brand or even as a human being, all goes back to who you are, what you stand for, and what your role in society is as a brand.
Shayda Torabi 56:01
Thank you so much, Shawn,
for sharing your creative perspectives with us.
Shayda Torabi 56:04
I really particularly enjoy getting to tune into your brainwave and learn how cannabis has helped you and your teams navigate marketing throughout all the different industries that you reflect, but of course, especially appreciate you championing the creativity on cannabis conversation. Because to me, it's like a no brainer to consume cannabis to spark my creativity. But I extra especially love the prompts that both the journal and the website provide. So my personal takeaway is to continue to explore those prompts. As I continue to explore how I find my own personal creativity and inspiration navigating the cannabis industry. So today's Food for Thought is for you to check out pilgrims soul.com let me know which prompt resonates most with you. These prompts are simple and fun and really are a great jumping off point to help you connect to yourself on a deeper level, which is what I believe cannabis is intended to do. So thanks again to you the listener for tuning in. As always, there will be a another brand new episode next Monday. And so I'll catch y'all next week. Have a good one. Talk later. Bye.
Love this episode of To be blunt. Be sure to visit the Shayda torabi.com slash To be blunt. 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
Transcribed by https://otter.ai