How a major cannabis marketer pivoted during the pandemic

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As it markets pot to the masses, cannabis company Cresco Labs
has often relied on its secret weapon—Mindy Segal, a James Beard
award-winning pastry chef who partnered with the company to make a
line of cannabis-infused edibles called Mindy’s. The
Chicago-based chef has touted the treats at live events, including
one called “Flavor Trip,†that was held earlier this year at
her restaurant, Mindy’s Hot Chocolate, targeting retail buyers
and other influencers in Chicago’s arts community. 

But those and other experiential events that are a cornerstone
of cannabis marketing are now impossible with Illinois and other
states where Cresco operates under lockdown due to the coronavirus.
As a result, Cresco has had to overhaul its marketing. 

“We’ve moved from experiential and education that is more
alive to experiential and education that now we are trying to do
through content, through digital forms,†says Greg Butler, chief
commercial officer at Cresco Labs, one of the largest vertically
integrated multi-state cannabis operators in the U.S. 

Butler—who joined the Cresco Labs in early 2020 after stints
at big advertisers like Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Molson
Coors—explains on the latest episode of the “Ad Lib†podcast
how the company has pivoted. He also breaks down Cresco’s
portfolio approach, under which it has created distinct brands for
what he sees as the three distinct segments of the cannabis
industry: medical, wellness and recreational.

“We recognize that those consumers are very different in their
needs,†he says. “That takes you away from a branded house into
a house of brands, where we have different brands for different
consumers, addressing different needs.â€

As with many industries, the pandemic has been a mixed bag for
the cannabis market. While cannabis operators have been deemed
essential business in many states where pot is legal, social
distancing has meant dispensaries cannot function as normal.
Regulations vary by state. For instance, the state of Nevada shut
down in-person dispensary visits, but allowed delivery services and
later
loosened the rules to allow for curbside pickup.
In
Illinois—where Cresco runs several dispensaries branded
“Sunnysideâ€â€”regulations allow retail outlets to open, but

they must adhere to social distancing rules requiring patrons to be
at least six feet apart.

The measures have not dampened demand. Pot shops sold $37
million in recreational weed in April, trailing only the $39
million monthly total in January, when recreational pot first
became legal in the state,
according to a recent report in the Chicago Sun Times.

Still, the rules have forced major changes at Cresco, which had
previously emphasized in-store experiences in which associates
would spend a lot of time educating consumers about the newly legal
category. “Obviously, with everything going on right now it would
be irresponsible for us to do that—to have that many people in
our stores,†Butler says. “We’ve really changed our entire
business model from in-store browsing to pre-order pick-up,
priority pick-up for medical patients, and really eliminated that
in-store browsing piece to more of a virtual browsing piece,†he
said, referring to website upgrades that include real-time
inventory information.

The marketing changes include more digital. That includes
sponsored content, such as a deal with Vice. One article is called 

“A Guide to Smoking Solo: From virtual smoke sessions to creative
indoor activities, here’s how to smoke weed while
self-isolating.â€
The series was sponsored by High Supply, a
new brand Cresco recently unveiled aimed at the economy end of the
recreational pot market.

 

Source: FS – Advertising Blogs !
How a major cannabis marketer pivoted during the
pandemic