To Be Blunt: The Podcast for Cannabis Marketers

070 Branding Bud and The Commercialization of Cannabis with David Paleschuck

October 04, 2021 Shayda Torabi Season 2 Episode 70
To Be Blunt: The Podcast for Cannabis Marketers
070 Branding Bud and The Commercialization of Cannabis with David Paleschuck
Show Notes Transcript

“It's time for legalization. We are normalizing the plant and things are moving. And people are learning about it and educating themselves. And that's what's most important.” -  David Paleschuck

Welcome back to the To Be Blunt podcast! In this episode, Shayda Torabi welcomes David Paleschuck, author and Founder of PALESCHUCK LLC, to expound his insights about branding for the cannacurious, attributes to a standout brand, and pointers to best serve our unique target demographic.


[00:01 – 07:06] Shayda shares why October is special

[07:07– 14:29] Cannabis Branding and David’s Story on Cannabis 

[14:30 – 24:33] Brand Positioning  - More than Basic Benefit

[24:34 – 38:54] Presenting a Standout Brand

[38:55 – 49:09] Types of Consumers in the Cannabis Space

[49:10 – 51:59] Food for Thought: How do you best serve your unique target demographic?


With 15+ years of brand-building and consumer marketing experience serving American Express, MasterCard, PepsiCo, and Microsoft, David has participated in developing and marketing many of today’s best-known brands. His career focus has been on brand strategy, brand development, brand management, and integrated marketing. He has developed, activated, and led comprehensive marketing programs designed to connect brands with relevant communities in consistent, credible, and meaningful ways. Since entering the cannabis industry in 2012, David has created profitable partnerships while working as the VP, Licensing & Brand Partnerships at DOPE Magazine and crafted award-winning, cannabis-infused products as the Chief Brand Officer at Evergreen Herbal. David is perhaps best known for his writings and thought-leadership on cannabis branding and marketing. His writings have been featured in Forbes, Kiplingers, The Brookings Institution, The Green Report, Green Entrepreneur, Dope Magazine, High Times, PROHBTD, Cannabis Dispensary Magazine, MG, The Cannabis Industry Journal, A Different Leaf, Skunk Magazine, and New Cannabis Ventures, among others. David’s book, “Branding Bud: The Commercialization of Cannabis” – the first book on cannabis branding – released in April 2021 and ramped to be the #1 best-selling book on Amazon in the “Branding & Logo Design” and “Green Business” categories. As Founder of PALESCHUCK, LLC (, David consults within the legal cannabis industry on product development, branding & brand licensing, positioning, packaging and promotions.

Connect with David

Visit and follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn @brandingbud


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

Key Quote:

“There's a key path that businesses need to take to transform into a brand.” -  Shayda Torabi

SPONSORSHIP is brought to you by Restart CBD. Check them out for your CBD needs

LEAVE A REVIEW + help someone who wants to join me for episodes featuring some serious cannabis industry by sharing this epi

RESTART CBD is an education first CBD wellness brand shipping nationwide.

David Paleschuck  0:00  
But I think generally speaking, the move away from generic cannabis into branded cannabis is what's taking place. And quite frankly, it's no surprise. I mean, branding really is all about consistency in the brand sending a promise and the consumer buying into that promise. And then really, it's a cycle from there. Either you lived up to your promise or you didn't. And if you did, and it was enjoyable, then the consumer will come back. And the keys and cues to experiencing that same thing over and over again, is packaging and branding and all the other things outside of what's in the package. And let me just say what's in the package is the most important thing because you might try it once. If it's not what you thought it would be, then you won't come back again.

Announcer  0:59  
You're listening to two B one B podcast for cannabis marketers. Were your host Shayda Torabi and her guests are trailblazing the path to marketing, educating and professionalizing cannabis light one up and listen up. Here's your host Shayda Torabi.

Shayda Torabi  1:27  
It's the most wonderful time of the year.

Okay, everybody No, it's not Christmas is not the holiday season it is October baby and I'm excited because I'm a Libra and my birthday is coming up. Not to mention there are a whole slew of Canvas events that are taking place this month that you may or may not be going to, um, if you are I would love to meet you IRL. A few of those to put on your radar. I'm going to be in Vegas later this month at mjbizcon which is kind of like the pinnacle of cannabis conferences that are kind of one of the Oji cannabis conferences and kind of piggybacking off of that will be MJ unpacked, which is a consumer packaged goods kind of focused cannabis conference more on the brands. So I think those are both going to be super wild. And also very informative. Kind of the gist that I'm getting is if you're here in Texas or maybe Austin, you're more familiar with what South by Southwest is very chaotic, very fun lots going on. I'm getting the vibe is that that is what mjbizcon is going to be like lots of after parties, lots of networking. So if you're going I'd love to meet you, I would love to connect and if you have any parties or any ideas on things that are going on, please put it on my radar because it's my first time I'm going to be the noob in the room and yeah excited but also really looking forward to when it's all said and done so I can reflect on everything. But those events are taking place kind of you know later October and then after that I will be flying to Oklahoma City. I am going to be a speaker at okay women can it is a event put on by okay women can is a nonprofit in Oklahoma that is intended to help women in particular get involved with resources and just navigate the cannabis industry. they've partnered with IHC international hemp coalition as well as the Texas chapter, which is how I got roped into it. And yeah, just super honored to get to be reflecting and representing Texas. Super excited to get to speak I'm going to be talking about how do you educate yourself so that you can educate others which is obviously a key thing that you know, reference here on the podcast a lot. And yeah, there's just going to be so much going on also my birthday, like I mentioned, so I'm turning older, my birthday semi ripe for mjbizcon. So I don't know if I'll have too much time to celebrate. But if you see me in Vegas, you can buy me a joint or an edible I will happily accept both of those. But getting into today's episode, I have the pleasure of having author David palace shock and he is the author of branding bud the commercialization of cannabis. His book has become a best seller number one on Amazon in two different categories. And if the title doesn't give it away, we're talking about branding in today's episode and y'all know how much I love branding to me out of all the functions of marketing. This is the one that I resonate the most with. And so to give you a little bit of background about who David is, he's got 15 years of brand building and consumer marketing experience serving he formerly worked with American Express major brand, MasterCard, major brand, Pepsi and Microsoft. So just clearly some big heavy hitter companies that

have built really well known and well you know I don't want to say liked all the time but well you know appreciated consumer brands he's participated in developing and marketing many of today's best known brands so obviously reflecting on his career he's been and you know and roles that have touched on brand strategy, brand development, brand management and integrated marketing. He's also developed, activated and lead comprehensive marketing programs designed to connect brands with relevant communities and consistent, credible and meaningful ways. And he entered the cannabis industry in 2012. And he has created profitable partnerships while working as the VP of licensing and brand partnerships at dope magazine and crafted award winning and cannabis infused products as the chief brand officer at evergreen herbal. He's best known for his writings and thought leadership on cannabis branding and marketing. And his writings have been featured in Forbes, the green report, green entrepreneur, dope magazine, High Times cannabis dispensary magazine, MJ retailer, the cannabis industry journal, and so many others. So his book came out in April of 2020, actually on 420. And it is a wealth of knowledge for anybody who is really anybody I think in the conversation, we definitely touch on acknowledging, you know, I'm somebody who comes from the industry a little bit. And I'm also coming from the culture of cannabis. I've been kind of a lifelong cannabis consumer, and also have a marketing background. So whether you have a traditional marketing background, whether you know nothing about the industry or everything about the industry, I think this book does give insight into you know, just kind of David's personal experience as it applies to the cannabis industry and specifically into branding bud. And so yeah, all that to say, definitely hope you enjoyed this episode, David shares a lot. But Furthermore, hopefully you check his book out because I do think his book is a good articulation, and polls for anybody who is looking to actually build and establish a brand in the cannabis industry. So without further ado, let's welcome David to the show. It's been a long journey for me coming into the cannabis industry. I've now been in the industry, almost 11 years. But basically it all started in 2012 when the I 502 law passed here in Seattle, Washington, we're in Washington State I should say. And with the passing of the 502 law, in Washington State, recreational cannabis and adult use cannabis became legal. And I saw a lot of my friends leave Microsoft and Starbucks and Amazon and other companies to get into the industry here whether they were cultivating or starting dispensaries. And so I thought it was very intriguing and thought I was in the right place at the right time. So I left Microsoft and joined a few of my friends and started to consult with them as they created their dispensary that now a chain of dispensaries in Washington. And I started to see that I did have skills that related I've had 12 years working at American Express and MasterCard. So I understood about transactions and purchases, and the difference between specifically a shopping experience into transaction. And with that knowledge, I was able to help them better understand how to develop and design their dispensary's. I had also owned an art gallery many years ago. So I was good at putting things on pedestals and merchandising and laying things out in a way that made sense. And then coming back to the difference between a transaction and a shopping experience. It was clear once the dispensary had started to open up were opened up that there were different types of customers and different types of cannabis customers have different types of levels of knowledge and experience. So what we were trying to do is figure out how to best serve them. For example, a transaction. A transact door is somebody who's buying their gas or coffee and wants to get through quickly. So in this case, they want to pre roll during lunch and they don't have much time they know exactly what they want. And if they get stuck behind somebody that is asking the most basic of questions, whether it's what's the difference between indika and sativa? Or what's the difference between THC and CBD? Or what are all these form factors I'm staring at here. You know, what's the difference between flowers waxes and shatters and beverages and edibles and sublingual slips and transdermal patches and then how do those affect me differently so that in itself can take hours to really explain thoroughly to somebody so understood quickly that it was not only about Merchandising, and setting up a dispensary in a certain way, but also understanding who the customers were. And so over time, with my previous new experience in the cannabis space, it was an opportunity for me to go join adult magazine

David Paleschuck  10:00  
And I did and what that allowed me to do as the vice president of brand partnerships and licensing was to really meet many people in the industry across states, and start to understand the industry, the various products that were being created the different mindsets in different states, the different cultures, in different environments, and really sort of positioned myself for a period at dove magazine, almost four years where not only did I work there, but I started to write a three page article called branding, but which was really looking at the developing brand landscape over the course of the four years. And as I started to see that change, and morph and looked at it really with a critical eye of somebody that has an MBA, and that worked at, again, American Express, MasterCard, Pepsi and Microsoft, I was looking at products as consumer product goods, I was looking at them in very different ways than most in the industry, certainly early on. And that really led to the book. And the book is really a roll up of interviews with hundreds of producers and processors and cultivators and influencers and attorneys. And you name it, the folks that really make up the industry. And sort of my take, if you will on the history of cannabis and how that rolls into stereotypes, I guess in more modern times, and now breaking those stereotypes with the legalization of cannabis. So that's really been my almost 11 years in the cannabis industry and what has brought me to where I am. So just to finalize that the book was launched on for 20 of this year. Wink wink. And so with the launch on April 20, the book is launched and I continue to talk about it on clubhouse and on my podcast. And to my surprise, the book has actually gone to number one on Amazon in two categories, which is both the branding and logo design category, as well as the green business category, in books. So that I really think speaks to the time of where we're at, you know, the, it's time for legalization, we are normalizing the plant and things are moving, and people are learning about it and educating themselves. And that's what's most important. So full circle, that's what brings me to the cannabis space. That's been my history in the cannabis space. And here we are today,

Shayda Torabi  12:22  
I absolutely loved that little history about yourself, I think it's so important for my listeners on the podcast to get a understanding of who our guests are, because I think that you kind of hit the nail on the head, especially representing you know, the more corporate culture that you came from, and how that I do believe for better or worse is not only influencing, but really driving the cannabis industry. I mean, you said a lot of words that I really want to re emphasize for the listeners. I mean, you talked obviously about CPG consumer packaged goods. I talked about that topic a lot on the podcast. And prior to hitting record, you and I were just sharing some similarities in the sense of while I don't have the procedures, history and experience that you bring to the table branding is something that I'm very passionate about in my career outside of cannabis as well. And so being able to observe how the industry has evolved and is continuing to evolve and the importance of understanding, you know, ultimately at the end of the day to me CPG is you have a product sitting on a shelf. And why is someone going to pick your product. And so in other words you highlighted for reference I wanted to reiterate is merchandising. I think those are some really key but very also nuanced ways of thinking about cannabis products and ultimately, branding. And so kind of to kick it off, I really wanted to understand from you because I did get a copy of your book and I read it and I loved it. I mean, I think there's a lot of information in there for people, whether they are newer to the industry and just trying to get a pulse to people like myself who've been steeped in it for a while. And I've gone through a lot of different history of the industry as well as history of the plant, and then bringing it into just yet the commercialization the branding of bud as you put it. But in the book you were talking about generic brands versus brand names, and I thought that it had a really interesting history that just kind of helps us touch on the importance of building a brand in general. And so I was hoping you could kind of reiterate that for us right now.

David Paleschuck  14:30  
Sure, well, essentially, generic means unbranded, if you will. So in this case, in the case of cannabis, it's interesting when you have unbranded cannabis, and I think for those that are most experienced with it, that's what cannabis has always been growing up in New York. It was either brown or green and it came in a baggie and you were lucky to get something of today. We're certainly out on the west coast. We're at salutely jaded with, with not only the ability to purchase many types of cannabis but in many forms as well, and then many brands on top of that. So really generic just comes from in the cannabis space is really buying non branded cannabis from cultivators that may often sell through a dispensary, or legally sell through a dispensary. And typically, it's really based on the strain more than anything else. In some states where it's still legal, you can actually smell the cannabis and ask for it. They call it deli style, which I think is funny coming from New York, but that's what they call it out here. And for example, in Washington state that's not allowed, everything has to be packaged. So once things move toward being packaged, then the move away from generic if you will started to happen. There are some house brands for lack of a better way of calling it where a dispensary or adult use store has a relationship cultivator. The cultivator may really focus on cultivation, and may not even understand branding. So the fact that they have a relationship and they're able to sell it through the dispensary, or adult use store with their brand layered on top of it, that happens often as well. But I think generally speaking, the move away from generic cannabis into branded cannabis is what's taking place. And quite frankly, it's no surprise, I mean, branding really is all about consistency in setting the brand sending a promise and the consumer buying into that promise. And then really, it's a cycle from there. Either you lived up to your promise or you didn't. And if you did, and it was enjoyable, then the consumer we'll come back. And the keys and cues to experiencing that same thing over and over again, is packaging and branding, and all the other things outside of what's in the package. And let me just say what's in the package is the most important thing, because you might try at once. If it's not what you thought it would be, then you won't come back again. But once you get beyond that hurdle, and have a quality product, which is really a given, then it really comes down to have a coconut smile, right? It's not necessarily about carbonated water, sugar and food coloring. It's about how it makes you feel.

Shayda Torabi  17:26  
Absolutely no, I couldn't agree more. I definitely think that a brand is defined to me like by the simplest idea of creating that experience for their target consumer. And I think so often. And even personally speaking, I think trying to figure out you know who your target consumer is, is a little bit of a challenge because I think there's a lot of people who want to be everything to everyone, especially as cannabis does go mainstream, it's you know, hey, this is for everybody. This is for your mom, this is for your brother, this is for you, whether you want to feel relaxed and just have a better night's rest, or you just want to personally take it for recreational purposes to enjoy music or books or just being outside a little bit more enjoyably. And so it is really interesting as the traditional kind of practices of building a brand are then being applied to the cannabis industry. And so in the book, you actually have a quote that said, products are designed to bridge gaps in the market. Those markets have specific customers and those customers have specific needs, needs not necessarily connected to the product, or even consumption of the product. This aspirational approach to marketing is how products are sold to consumers. And so I was wondering if you could expand on some of the key things businesses need to be considerate or rather conscious of as they set out to grow their business into a brand? Because again, to me, I don't really think I think businesses can be brands, but I don't think all businesses are brands. And there's a key path that businesses need to take to transform into a brand.

David Paleschuck  19:04  
Absolutely. And that quote is so well said, well, starting off there are needs which are real, and there are needs which are perceived. And so we need to start to think about what are the basic needs? And then what are those needs that we aspire to, you know what its most simplest form we are living, we are consumers and we live in a consumer society. And we no longer look at cars as a means of transportation getting us from one place to another but rather a social status symbol. And so we've really moved beyond the basics. And I often talk about we live in entertainment economy, everything is about entertainment these days. Few things are really about the basic needs. So when you start to think about that, you start to think about the lives we lead, or even more importantly the lives we would like to lead. There's so much room for a brand owner to start To really hook these people into making them believe that their products really create more than just basic benefit, but rather something bigger. And you know, I think in marketing, it's really intriguing. If you think about the course of probably the last, I don't know, let's say 100 years in marketing, maybe slightly less 75 years in marketing, everyone was initially focused on benefits, the benefits of a product, and the benefits of a product or let's say, a car, you know, miles per gallon, it gets better gas mileage than the others, or other types of benefits, and there's millions of them. But initially, that was the key, this product helps you with something that gets you from point A to point B, it can do it cheaper, it can do it faster, it's more convenient, right? That was sort of like the initial launch into the consumer product goods, space and into sales and marketing. But then we slowly moved into how does a product make us feel? over time? Once our basic needs were satisfied, then it was really, how does something make us feel? So is it a coconut smile? Is it Don't leave home without it, or priceless? Those are things that make us feel comfortable and trusting. But it was more about feel. And then over time, it was more about really what we aspire to or what we believed in, you know, whether it's just do it or those types of thoughts and taglines, which, you know, pulled us along as consumers. And finally, I think we're in a place now where it's more about what we believe. So we buy a product because we believe in the brand's message, and we associate with that brand, because they're in alignment with our perspective on life. And we've gotten just to a really different place than where we used to be. So you know, when I break down what you just teed up, for me, it really is a combination of what are our basic needs, and what are, you know, aspirations beyond that, and really, when we start to develop brands, and one of the things I often talk about is creating a meaningful cannabis brand. And really, there were four pillars to that there's an equation to me that that pulls it all together. And even though it's much more complicated than an equation, I tried to break it down that way. And so the first component of the equation is really the consumer and who they are, what they believe. What's their lifestyle? Can they consume cannabis discreetly? or non discreetly? Or indiscreetly? What's their need state and ritual? When are they consuming? How are they consuming? Is it tincture in the morning? Is it a bomb hit in the morning? Is it a sublingual slip in the evening? Is it topical? Or a bomb? Or a bath? oil? It could be so many things. But what is that? And how does that fit into their lifestyle, and then really, that drives the form factor. Again, if they are a mother of three, they might in most likely not be lighting up a bowl in their living room, where if they're a single individual, maybe they would, you know, or if they're a patient, maybe they won't smoke, but they would use a sublingual slip, or a transdermal patch. So there's so many different scenarios could be again, out at lunch, you know, and they can't come back to the office smelling like weed. So there's different rituals and need states that drive the form factor, which helps people choose their means of consumption. And then lastly, it's really the brand archetypes. The brand archetype, or a brand archetype is really all the packaging and the bells and whistles that overlay the product. That is really a shortcut, if you will, for a consumer to better understand what this product is. Is it wrapped in kraft paper or recycled paper? Does it look more earthy than maybe there's cues about being organic or being a type a certain type of product? Is it flashy and bright, maybe that implies other things. But at the end of the day, that brand archetype including the letters, the fonts, the colors, the packaging, the material, that all is the outermost layer to creating the meaningful brands. So it really comes down to it's the consumer. It's their lifestyle, it's their need state, it's the form factor and it's the archetype that's overlaid which really creates a meaningful brand for people to relate to on both real and perceived levels.

Shayda Torabi  24:34  
I really appreciated that because I mean again from my background, and just like where my passion like gets lit up, it's thinking through all these different things like you highlighted, you know, who am I selling to what need Am I closing a gap in the market? Not only that, but then obviously How does the package get presented? What is the color, what is the font, what is the you know, form factor, as you mentioned, because I do think those We're all different variables that ultimately do make up the components of perhaps why a brand is more standout than another brand. And so to kind of follow up on that, again, in the book you were talking about, which I thought was so fascinating again, I think there's, you know, even mentioned, you know, traditional marketing over the past 75 years and I do have a marketing background as well I have an MBA background as well. And so I do think that I'm somebody who comes from the more traditionally taught and educated concepts that relate to how do you market products, or how do you market things, but obviously, with technology advancing the way that it's advancing, there's lots of tools that make marketing more accessible to people without having to have such traditional backgrounds. I don't think that one is necessarily right or wrong, but just how things get kind of framed in my mind and my perspective and so in the book you brought up a story reflecting on cereal boxes, and how kind of the identity inside the cereal box perhaps you know, maybe wasn't that much different than the one in the next box but it was what the packaging was it was what the messaging was, it was what was contained on the exterior of that box that was making that consumer feel something to want to pick that particular product and so kind of taking that history rather kind of of marketing and packaging and applying it and imposing it into the cannabis industry. We operate in an industry CBD hemp is kind of an aside to that because we can sell direct to consumer more easily when we're dealing with CBD products it's obviously federally legal I can be on my own website independent I can do marketing tactics and do campaigns and and just create a much I think easier path to create that consumer experience compared to the legal marijuana industry which I know is opening up in terms of being able to have certain aspects be direct to consumer but because it's creating certain barriers whether it's your product has to sit on a shelf with you know maybe four or five other types of products that are equally same same but different or whether it's your products are isolated to let's say Washington State versus California you know, you can't cross state lines and even though some brands have transcended that by setting up operations out of state we're still limited and so I'm just curious kind of how you approach that and how you would give somebody some sort of you know guidance into how to start approaching it when you're looking at you know, okay well I want my product to be in a dispensary I'm let's say making an edible but my edible is sitting amongst you know, four or five other products. What is kind of the you know, the tip of the day, if you will for someone who's looking at how do I set my product apart from someone else's knowing that I'm in a really competitive and saturated and restricted market.

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.

David Paleschuck  28:58  
Well, that's a great question. And the one that figures out that question is the winner really, but there's different ways. One is, and the way you just teed up that question is, there's four products or five products. Let's say that you're sitting on a shelf, how do you differentiate one from the other? And I think the truth is, is that let's step back in the real world. People are bombarded with marketing and marketing cues in brand cues all the time. So more often than not, by the time you're going into a store to purchase something or getting online to purchase something. You've experienced it in one way shape or form. You've seen it in an advertisement in a billboard. You've heard it on the radio, your friend wore it, something like that. But in the cannabis space, according to the statistics, which I'm a little skeptical about. But according to the statistics, most consumers walking into a cannabis dispensary, or adult use Store, are not familiar with many of the brands and don't even fully are not fully sure of what they're going to buy once they walk in there. So that makes it even more confusing, right? If you walk into a space where there's beverages and there's edibles, and there's topicals. And there's flour, and there's pre rolls, and there's waxes and shatters, and butters, and you name it, right, I could go down the list and people are lost. So how do you now the question is, how do you do that? And really, I think it has to start off with bud tender education, surprise, surprise, not making your product necessarily neon to stand out on the shelf. But But tender education. And really starting with the frontline, who is there talking to that confused consumer, it's the bud tender. So if you can educate bud tenders about your product, if you could sample your products, if you could do vendor days, where you can go into the adult use stores, or the dispensary, and have a brand ambassador that's knowledgeable about the product. That's really important. And I think that's really key. So when somebody does ask, what gummies? Should I buy? Or this is my first time here, I have a low tolerance, what do you recommend, or I want to sleep, or I want to be active, whatever those questions are. It's the budtender that's really directing them. So I think, first and foremost, it behooves any brand to buddy up with the bud tenders in to create educational programs, and incentives, if you will, to really help them educate. And even in a more perfect world, educate them about cannabis consumption, not necessarily their brand. But course if they're footing the bill for the materials, and the marketing assets, of course, it's going to be about their brand. But that's like the first thing, then we start to get into how do you stand out on the shelf. And again, that first way is by the bud tender pointing towards your product. But beyond that, there's different ways. And really, I think, you know, when you think about it, that the next thing really up is price, you know, what can somebody afford to spend on something, and I could work my way, you know, really through the consumer journey, if you will, but but let's flip that around for a moment. Now, let's say you are a brand, then you have the ability to create any type of product or form factor, what would you create? And that's maybe even a bigger question, you know, like, Where are the gaps in the market? Where are people suffering? Where do they need a different type of product, there was a product that came out not too long ago, called Canna bumps, which was a white powder, although it was THC, and it got laughed out of the market, and many of the dispensaries that carried it for a moment, you know, ditched it very quickly. So that being said, I think there's both sides of the coin, which is really what do customers need? And how can a brand, fill that gap? And then the other side of it is, what does the brand uniquely have that special to it that can differentiate it on its own? Is it a cultivation brand, and for some reason, they have this amazing, special product, because maybe they're in a special place like, I don't know Humboldt County or Mendocino where, you know, the light is perfect, the sun and the moon and the stars, and everything else that affects the plant is perfect, then maybe that's what their brand ethos becomes. But I think it can work both ways you can create brands that are meaningful because of the skills and skill sets and experience of the brand owners, other people that are talented and capable, can come to the market and see a wide, you know, an opening in the market and say, Hey, we can do that we can offer a product up to those consumers and help them so there's lots of ways of coming at it, and therefore, you know, lots of cannabis products out on the market.

Shayda Torabi  34:05  
Now that was wonderful. I think obviously, sometimes maybe people's approach to that is thinking of It's a trick question, right? Like, there's one path to the top or there's one way to be a successful brand. And you obviously articulated so eloquently that there really isn't one true way to be successful. But really it's figuring out understanding like where you're playing, what is the market, what is the need, what is the gap, what is the opportunity, what is your passion, what is the skill set that you and your brand and your team bring to the table and trying to take again, these traditional practices of brand building that we have seen be executed so greatly by brands like Coca Cola, and Pepsi and MasterCard, and a lot of these companies that you do come from who have established some differentiating point to something that maybe isn't so different when you get under the hood. But that creates that you know, effect for that consumer to want to consume or try or be loyal to your product, which is another aspect of branding that I'm really keen on is how do you build that loyalty? Right? But I do think that we have an interesting consumer. I know we talk a lot about target customers, when you're dealing with branding, you obviously reflect a lot about it in the book, but just for, you know, kind of fodder. It is hard. And I don't want to discredit that, right? Because I think there's definitely the traditional cannabis consumer, perhaps maybe more like myself, and maybe like yourself, where I will try anything, you know, and so maybe if I go into a dispensary, the budtender, I can have that conversation where I'm speaking a little bit more their language of understanding, you know, hey, you know, what is the new product I should try? Maybe they haven't tried it, but they're like, Hey, you should try this, because it's just that, you know, came on the market, I'm a little bit more open to that, compared to, which I do you think is driving the industry, right? That new consumer who perhaps maybe isn't so comfortable smoking something, or they maybe don't want the highest dose of something. And so reflecting on that kind of thought process, there's so much space in the industry, I think, for people to be successful. I mean, you mentioned all these different form factors, right? Like I was just in Colorado, I just tried a newer brand to me, it's not a new brand. But Keith, they're making a cannabis soda. And I think cannabis beverages is obviously very popular. And I do talk about that a lot on the podcast, just reflecting on. Again, when you start looking into the data, it's interesting, I think headset pulled some of this data, but they had a report a couple months ago that I was digging into, it's like the number one performing cannabis beverage in California is a micro dose. And then the number one performing cannabis beverage in Washington State is like 100 milligrams per bottle. So you know, there's a huge disparity in relationship to the doses of the products, but both are equally successful by the data. But it really just kind of breaks down into, you know, time place, consumer, target customer, and things like that. But I definitely agree in terms of when you're in a dispensary experience, being able to not only obviously, you need to understand the brand that you're bringing to market, but then like transcending transpiring, transferring that information on to the bud tenders, or like you even highlighted being able to do opportunities and experiences where people can connect with your brand in person, which I think cannabis does have a little bit of a challenge navigating just based on the laws and regulations. But obviously, when people can, you know, experience the product firsthand, they can then make their own decisions on Oh, this made me feel this certain way, etc. But I think that going back to kind of the data point, you do have actually the foreword of your book is written by the co founder of headset, which is one of the leading data companies in the cannabis industry. And I've actually had one of their directors, Jocelyn shell trawl on the podcast, really early on. So sometime last year, which is really great episode for anybody who wants to go back and listen to that, where she dives into a lot of just some of these discoveries and understandings that we're no longer shooting in the dark, I think when cannabis first was kind of hitting into the mainstream, and he reflected in the book to a lot of the marketing and branding was very cannabis culture, smoke culture, it had particular colors that had a particular, you know, maybe like messaging or imagery associated to it. But now that I think we're having cannabis not only be more adopted by this wide demographic of people, you're now seeing different types of brands emerge. And so I'm just curious, you know, kind of, from your perspective, sitting in a position where you, especially from your time at doet magazine, we're just observing all these different types of brands, how you've seen the data, of actually who the consumer is actually translating into what products are being successful based on just kind of what the data is actually reporting?

David Paleschuck  38:55  
Yeah, wow, we touched upon a whole bunch of things there. So let's start off with consumers, right. So there's so many different types of consumers in the cannabis space. And I think of them in six groups, there's really six concentric rings, if you will. There's the Canna core. Those are the folks that consume every day that are most knowledgeable and get deep in the weeds like us. And then there's the kind of comfortable, those are folks that are probably our partners and that are around us, and maybe they consume every so often, but they're still knowledgeable, maybe they consume on the weekends. Then there's the slightly removed kind of casual, they consume every so often. They're interested in cannabis, but it's not really part of their lifestyle, per se. Then as you move out, there's the Canna confused, those are the folks that are interested, but they're not quite sure if CBD gets you high, and they still haven't yet really made any moves to sort of educate themselves. And then after the cannon confused, there's the cannon neutral and you know, there Like I said, they're neutral. And if we wanted to appeal to them, we could, but maybe they're not even worth it. And then lastly is the Canada contra. And those are the folks that are just against cannabis. So when I look at these concentric rings and different consumer segments, I talked to them very differently, right? A Canada confused person or can a casual, you know, they're the person that's in the corner of the pool, in the shallow end, they have a toe dipped in, maybe they're going to come in, but they need coaxing, and you need to talk to them in that way. You need to educate them, like let the water The pool is very shallow, the water is very warm, there's nothing dangerous here where you have a life preserver, we're here to support you in that and you know, you're you're pulling them in little by little, but by the time you're talking to someone that's kind of comfortable, it can accord, you're really talking to them in a very different way. And you're talking to them, as if they're part of the community. And communities always have their own language, always have their own subset of ways of communicating. So I think the first thing is really to figure out who you're talking to who the consumer is, and what tone and what words do you use in order to make them feel more comfortable. And then really, you know, as you pointed out, there really is a difference in consumers for sure. Being based in Washington as his headset, by the way, we did some research many years ago when I was the chief brand officer and evergreen herbal, and created a number of beverages that were not only created with specific information and data points that we leveraged from research. But also, you know, we saw the difference in have and I've completely watched the difference now between what's going on in California with some of the lower dose brands, and what is transpiring here in Washington state with not only higher dose beverages, but those higher dose beverages have even moved toward concentrate, concentrated beverages. So it's been really interesting to see. And let me just sort of share a little bit more in depth. So we created a brand, or a number of beverages here in Washington state called blaze American Cola, and some other names as well different flavor profiles. But what we saw, and we started them off with different dosing, so we would have the same flavor profile but with the 10 3060. And then 100 meg 100 meg being the cap in Washington State 100 Meg's is considered 10 servings. Now 10 servings in a bottle, especially a glass bottle with a crown cap, which everybody knows, is just a one time use like a soda bottle, they're going to drink that beverage. Now really what they don't know is that they're drinking 10 servings. And of course, it's in large letters on the bottle that this is 10 servings. But for the most part, people in Washington State buy a bottle. It's 100. Meg's and they and they consume it that way, the trend has actually gone not only up to the to the ceiling, but once up into the ceiling, it is actually gone now to some of the bigger sellers here and their concentrates like if you will almost five hour energy shots. So again, we're trained if you will to swig the five hour energy shot. So now you're swinging 100, Meg's of THC. And that's, you know, dangerous to a lot of people. Let's put it that way. But there's other people that would consume that. So we started to see these trends here in Washington. Whereas conversely, we're starting to see Ken and some of the other low dose microdose beverages coming out. Now, what's interesting is, those products are appealing to different consumer segments. And we could track that through data from headset and other companies that are doing point of sale data cam, for example, sells, I'm not quite sure if it's a four pack, I think it's a six pack, but they sell a six pack of smaller, shorter cans, which are microdose. And again, the form factor drives a lot of what's going on. Now I purchase a six pack, I could take it to my friend's house, I could treat it like a six pack of beer, we could socialize over it, it becomes a session product, you know, where is that concentrated macro dose product in Washington State. You know, it's really for those folks just really wanting to get buzzed and get buzzed quickly. So you know that said it's different consumer different need state and ritual, different form factor even though they're both liquids, they are a different form factor. And different outer layer brand archetype can has really gone over the top in terms of, you know, their ads, their colors, their billboards on Sunset Boulevard, you know, their connection to the LGBTQ, IAA plus community, you know, there's a lot of that going on. With cans, so they're really appealing to a different consumer segment. And, you know, we'll see over time, which brand has the right approach? And again, I think the answer is there is no right approach. There are different communities with different needs, and therefore different brands and form factors appeal to them.

Shayda Torabi  45:17  
That was the best breakdown, I think of just the reality of the market. Right? Again, I tried to always be realistic for my listeners on the podcast. And so you know, giving people not necessarily the this is the only way to achieve success. But the reality is, there's many ways to achieve success. But obviously, it does take some work and understanding and crafting to create, ultimately a brand that is going to be successful. Right, I think the whole goal is not to create something you mentioned cannabis, you know, maybe they had better intentions, but unfortunately, maybe didn't fully think through the application and how that was going to land in the market. And so I think that's where we're going to kind of continue to watch as different brands emerge, and hit the market and start to go through this process of ultimately, I mean, eventually, being one of these iconic brands, I think, when we look back, you know, 10 years from now on where things have kind of settled in the cannabis industry, hopefully, it's a little bit calmer, compared to where we've been for, you know, the previous 10 years. But definitely, this emergence of brands is not going away. And you know, your book just re emphasizes, the importance of being conscious and considerate of it as people are embarking in the industry, which is always my hope with the podcast is just to give people the tools and the time to think critically on how to best approach being in the industry. Of course, every state as you just you know, kind of shared again, is different, every community is different. And that's a good thing. And so we need to kind of take these different cues, learn from our peers, learn from the industry as it's evolving. And ultimately brace for federal legal legalization, because I think that's going to, you know, add more complexity into all of this. And I do believe having strong brands is what's going to succeed. So I appreciate you know, you taking the time for being on the podcast and getting to connect and just want to kind of leave it up to you if there's any final thoughts that you want to share?

David Paleschuck  47:17  
No, well, thank you. Thank you, again, for having me. First and foremost, I think what you're doing is fantastic. And I think, you know, really, the folks in the industry need to come together and not only think about what we're doing, and how we're serving things up, but we really need to think about who the consumers are, you know, what their needs states are, what their rituals are. And even more importantly, because the bigger group of folks out there are the candidate curious. So start thinking about the candidate curious, start educating people as best you can start using words that are more meaningful and more definable and less scary. Let's start normalizing the plant in educating the folks that are interested in the plant. And again, there's more cattle curious folks than there are Canna consumers. So we just need to be mindful about that. And really be responsible, you know, responsible stewards of an industry that's just starting out. And that means a lot of the things that are happening on the social equity side, it means creating products that don't have pesticides in it, it means going above and beyond to do the right thing. And I think if we can all do that, then perhaps years down the road, this industry will will be looked upon as maybe the one to look toward for best practices, as opposed to where we are today, which is being on the inside looking out saying what best practices Do we need to really apply to get on the right track and stay on the right track? So those are my biggest concerns with people like you Shayda and efforts of other people that we both know, I think we're headed in the right direction, I think we're doing the right thing. And Time will tell. So with that I thank you again for having me on your podcast.

Shayda Torabi  49:10  
What an informative episode. And also, you know, I guess the good news is there's not really a magic mix of what makes the perfect brand, so much as what is going to be the best brand to service the needs of the customer set and unique target demographic of where your product is existing in. So for example, Texas versus California, Florida versus Maine, who is the customer what is the product and ultimately then building your brand around that so that was a loaded podcast. I always encourage further discussion whether it's with me or with you know, peers in your direct circles, but keep the conversation going. I think these are really important. thoughts to be considered as cannabis continues to go into the mainstream you know we can't shy away from building brands it's inevitable I think especially as we do inch towards federal legalization that happens every other industry you know who is Netflix, what is Apple MasterCard, like these are really iconic brands that have really iconic brand identities and so being able to apply what those brands have done to not only the cannabis industry, but ultimately to your business. Therefore turning your business from a business into a brand is really the magic sauce so Godspeed. Good luck to everybody who is embarking in this industry and trying to establish themselves and building a brand whether you're the brand builder or you're just helping someone else operate their brand so that's the episode today i'd love to communicate with you feel free to reach out on LinkedIn add me Shayda Torabi find me on Instagram at the Shayda Torabi or at To be blunt pod and the more the merrier. Let's keep having these discussions as we watch the industry continue to unfold. With that said, that is all I've got for today. New episode will be out next week on Monday. But if you want to be curious and go explore some of my previous episodes, they're all really great content really great guests sharing their expertise touching on many aspects of what it's like to build a brand, run a brand, grow market and ultimately try to find success in the cannabis industry. talk to y'all later. Bye bye.

Announcer  51:32  
Love this episode of To be blunt. Be sure to visit be Shayda slash to be blonde 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