Laura Morarity 0:00
And being able to take like those behaviors and habits, and all of that incoming information and decipher, you know, what are the connective tissue and pieces that are coming to life from that data. So that’s really important to us. We also saw that there was a huge gap in the sense that not everything is created equal. And labs played a really, really critical role in telling that story. So I’m Dr. Nick McComas, who’s our neuroscientist who’s on staff who spends a lot of time talking about strings. He went through the process with some partners building, what we call now the leafly cannabis Guide, which is this idea of how do we categorize all these items by terpene profile cannabinoid content so that people can get a really strong understanding of how different things affect them.
You’re listening to To be blunt, be podcast for cannabis marketers. We’re 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 1:24
Shayda Torabi. Hello, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of The To be blunt podcast. My name is Shayda Torabi and I am your host. And, Dan, we got a great episode today. I’m so energized because this is like my wish list conversation. And it totally deserves a more thorough introduction. Because I think that part of these conversations is really intended for me to share some transparency behind what I’m doing and how I’m doing it and how my peers in the industry are doing it. And so I want to paint a little bit of a picture for you. So wherever you are to kind of maybe close your eyes, listen to my voice, I’m going to take you on a journey. So I’ve been a cannabis consumer for many years, if you’ve been listening to this podcast, or you know me, you are very familiar that I love to consume. I in particular love to smoke flower. And so for me, there’s one brand that really stands out, that has just been so consistent in the industry over the past decade that I’ve personally gravitated towards. I’ve personally just been a massive consumer of their content. And it was just a dream idea to even think of having somebody from their team as a guest on this podcast. And so, at the end of 2020, you know, we kicked off this podcast, kind of halfway through 2020. And I’ve been having amazing conversations leading up until this point. But I hadn’t really, you know, dreamed of who my dream guest would be. And so I remember being on a podcast, you know, a couple months ago, and someone asked me and the answer that I said was someone from leafly. Someone from leafly, because for me leafly is that platform that is just so education forward, they do a really good job from a data collecting perspective, to culminate opinions and feedback and, and just ratings from different consumers in the industry to provide a really thorough expression of all the many different strains that exist in in cannabis. And so again, as a consumer, I’ve just been super fascinated with leafly. And then of course, having the opportunity of the podcast, it was just like a, I would love to talk to someone from leaf Lee’s marketing department. I just I think that they are so on the money they even sponsored and started to sponsor South by Southwest, which is a massive music tech and film festival that happens right here in my hometown in Austin. And so just getting to see, you know, leafly and cannabis being more incorporated at a national level really excited me, I took my shot, I shot it, I basically went to LinkedIn. And again, I really want to kind of give some clarity around like what, what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. I went to LinkedIn because for me, LinkedIn is a massive platform for cannabis. And I basically like pulled my network and this is after I had already reached out to my guest and invited her to be a guest on the podcast, but didn’t have any luck there. And so kind of in the last couple days of 2020 I was like, hey, network. This is my dream guests. Does anybody have any connection to any leadership at leafly and their marketing department? You know, please help let’s get them on the podcast. And literally within the span of probably like two or three hours I was connected directly to the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications outlets. Laura Moriarty, and we were able to, you know, follow up and schedule some time. And so that is the interview that I’m going to be sharing with you today. And I’m just really, genuinely grateful to get to be in a position to have these conversations. And thank you for listening and tuning into this podcast. Because it really, you know, selfishly, obviously, I want people to listen, but at the same time, it’s like, I just want to be a resource, I want to help genuinely because this plant has helped me so much. And now being in the business side, there’s just so many unknowns. And so I think anything that can provide insight and education and be a point of reference and reflection is, is good. And so I hope to be that for you. So I’ll stop gabbing we will let Laura introduce herself and kick off this incredible episode, again, with Laura morality, the senior vice president of leafly.
Laura Morarity 5:55
Hi, everyone, my name is Laura. I’m a rarity. I am the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at leafly. And we are a destination that helps people discover cannabis. And that’s our reason for being. And it has been an incredible journey to get here. I think if you would have asked me five years ago, what I would be doing, I would be so excited and thrilled about the place that I’ve landed, I’ve had a long career working in consumer focused communications, and PR and social responsibility, on the opportunity to work in an industry that’s all about removing the stigma for cannabis. And really helping people understand something that’s been forced underground for so long, and uncovering that missing knowledge. It’s really a true privilege for me. And so it’s really, really great. And I’m really excited to be here to chat with you.
Shayda Torabi 6:56
I’m literally thrilled listeners before we started recording, I was just gushing because leafly for me is really the resource, I mean, the destination. And as somebody who’s so Canna curious myself, obviously the industry is kind of unfolding before our eyes. But I found a stat You know, there’s 15 million monthly visitors to leafly kind of help us connect the dots a little bit, you know, the brand was founded in 2010. Now we’re in 2021. So a whole decade of cannabis resource and education, kind of what was it like when the brand first launched to kind of some of the things that you’re observing now that are maybe some of the exciting aspects of the industry evolving so much?
Laura Morarity 7:42
Yeah, when leafly started in 2010, it was really a spreadsheet where people crowdsource strains. That’s really what happened at leafly, that the California Medical market had just opened. And the founders of leafly really wanted a way where they could understand what the strains were that were out there and the effects that they had on people. So they started this great strains database, that is the kind of the origin of where we are today. And the leafly strain database has about 5000 strains in it today, where if you’ve ever perused a leafly strain database, and the amazing reviews that people write, like some of them are works of true art. It’s such a great resource, not just for learning about the strains that you may have already purchased. But we’ve also, you know, added in the last year, some technology that helps people match based on terpene profiles, and other you know, factors of the plant, how to find a similar strain that may work for you when indica sativa hybrid isn’t enough. So that strain based database has really evolved over the last 10 years. We also have an incredible editorial team and news team, which I’m privileged to have on my team. And every day that they’re out, hitting the ground, trying to find the stories and help people understand what’s happening in the industry, whether it’s breaking the news on kind of vaping lung illness last year, and really helping people navigate that situation to you know, I think we have a strain list coming out this week on minty strains, because that’s a really new trend, that we’re seeing that a lot of people are loving the mint strains. So that’s something that we continue to do. So that’s grown over time, more than 9000 educational articles on leafly. Today, built up over 10 years to help people find whatever they’re they’re really looking for. And then kind of the final piece that’s really evolved over the last 10 years and come to life in the last two is that in legal states. leafly is a shopping destination now that we take all of that learning and knowledge and we now help people not only to discover the cannabis they want but discover that dispensaries near them that offer it so that they can place it for an order for pickup and delivery. And so that’s a real great value that we offer to businesses, in the sense that we’re helping people through that discovery process and bringing them in their door
Shayda Torabi 10:15
gets super remarkable because obviously, like when you’re painting this picture of a database, it’s very, you know, functional in the sense of, it’s your experience, I think that’s something that I’ve observed as a cannabis consumer, specifically through my, my usage of leafly as a resource. And as an asset. Everybody’s experience is somewhat different, right. And so I think that’s where kind of starting to paint a picture of what someone can expect, in kind of a peer review scenario is really helpful, because it’s, it’s just helping continue that conversation of discovery ultimately, and something that I really love that y’all have done that hopefully, you can help give some color around. Maybe some of the the marketing, you know, the marketing mindset behind it is, I think, the periodic table that y’all have developed. And so one, the visualization of that, I think so going from kind of like a database where it’s very functional. It’s like, okay, here’s the strain name. This is kind of what someone’s experience was, but visually being able to attribute. I think a lot of the science behind it is really where I’ve observed leafly has really connected the dots as a cannabis consumer. So it’s beyond just, Oh, I like you know, Bubba Kush. But it’s Oh, Bubba Kush is actually high in this terpene. And this terpene is associated to this effect. And it really just helps connect the dots. And, and then for me, I got to see the periodic table kind of up close and personal when y’all did that SXSW activation a couple years ago, yeah. And it was just, again, as a marketer, like so exciting to see cannabis be be brought to light in that way. And and so I just I love that y’all have kind of led the charge really, in that regard? And so I’m just curious, how did that conceptualization and visualization really come to fruition for the brand?
Laura Morarity 12:05
Yeah, I think from a marketing perspective, there are a couple of things that are really, really important at leafly, that guide a lot of our kind of philosophy on these things and how we tackle them. One is that there’s real power and transparency and data. And that is a really core fundamental belief that we have at leafly. And because we built such a large database, that, you know, probably 35 40% of the traffic of those 100 million plus people that come to leafly each year are coming into that strains database to really understand what’s happening and strains and being able to take like those behaviors and habits, and all of that incoming information, and decipher, you know, what are the connective tissue and pieces that are coming to life from that data. So that’s really important to us. We also saw that there was a huge gap in the sense that not everything’s created equal. And labs played a really, really critical role in telling that story. So I’m Dr. Nick McComas, who’s our neuroscientist who’s on staff who spends a lot of time talking about strings. He went through the process with some partners building, what we call now the leafly, cannabis Guide, which is this idea of how do we categorize all these items by terpene profile cannabinoid content, so that people can get a really strong understanding of how different things affect them. And when we pulled in all this lab data, from the terpene profiles of a lot of these strains, we saw some really clear, really clear themes. And it wasn’t necessarily when you arrange thing indicas sativa and hybrid that gave you the best indication of the effects you were gonna feel it was really those terpene profiles, and that it was a lot easier to start aligning yourself to a terpene profile. For instance, me personally, I’m always going to dig strains that are like mersing dominant. So on our site, those are the blues, and caryophyllene dominant, those are just the ones that work best for me, give me the best vibe. I feel great. I’m going to sit like I did on Saturday with some mendo breath and binge all of bridgerton it’s going to be great. Like, that’s, that’s me. Those are the strains I like. I have colleagues who are really into the oranges or the terpinolene dominant strains, they love them the energy that those bring them the creativity, they feel great about those those make me want to know my arm off. So by you know, pulling those things into us, as simple as we can make it color coding system that helps people navigate their own preferences is really great. And what I really love about the system too, is that it helps bud tenders and it helps bud tenders guide people as well. So it gives like a comment language for bud tender and a consumer to have a conversation and say, Okay, did you like this strain or not like the strain? Why did you like it or not like it and then they’re able to reference the leafly database and say, okay, you hated this strain, that’s a blue, maybe we’ll try an orange. And so there’s a little bit of magic in that. And it’s been a really fun project that we continue to evolve on. And, you know, from a marketing perspective, really, the next step is how do we apply that to personalization? Okay, you bought a curiosity? dominant strain, you gave five stars. Let’s give you some similar strains to try that you might buy it the next time you go to a dispensary?
Shayda Torabi 15:42
Yeah, I love hearing the full circle nature of like bringing it back actually into the education for the bud tenders to I mean, obviously, benefits when there’s kind of one system of truth to some extent, right. It’s speaking the same language. And I think that’s where for me and where I sit as a marketer in the cannabis space, I am trying to navigate it on obviously a much less widely adopted level than y’all are. I mean, you’re literally the the leader when it comes to this type of education in my opinion, but it is starting to have those conversations and I always reflect when I’m just having these podcasts discussions are really just discussing with anybody in the cannabis industry in general. me as a cannabis consumer prior to kind of, you know, I would say, maybe the last like five or six years I do think hemp and hemp legalization has opened up more of that dialogue for consumers kind of at a at a really like high level to be talking about terpenes, and Endocannabinoid systems and different cannabinoids, but like prior to that, I literally used to just go to legal states and shop and be like, I want the thing that’s legal and going to make me feel very good. Like, there was just not a lot of education around it, other than seeing leafly start to talk more about the terpenes. But to really connect those dots and for that experience in the store, which also helps enable the bud tenders to make better sales, make better recommendations have better experiences for the consumer that will hopefully make them because that to me is what is, is the magic of being a marketer in this industry. It’s obviously just a plant at the end of the day. But it’s a very powerful plant that can have different enjoyable or more enjoyable experience based on Yes, the terpene profiles, the milligrams, how it’s actually going to interact with your body. And so I just have always appreciated and kind of, you know, just admired how leafly had set up the system, because it’s opened the conversation for businesses and brands and individuals like myself to be able to lean in and have a resource that’s doing the research has the resources, like you’re saying you have obviously these scientists on staff who that’s their job is to help scientifically make sure what is being said, from a marketing perspective is accurate and true to the extent that it can be and so it’s just, it’s cool to see the picture kind of coming full circle, but there’s something else I want to kind of bring up because I have you here and I would be remiss not to help me understand from your perspective indicus the tiva hybrid, because from reading articles through leafly, I know that those are often you know, it’s obviously not it, like you just said there’s terpene profiles, like that adds into the experience, but so much as a marketer, I see we resort to, oh, this is daytime sativa, this is nighttime indika into couch and and I even I resort to those myself as a marketer, because it’s just it’s what consumers know. So I find that we’re in this interesting position where I want to change the conversation with consumers. But I can’t totally because consumers rely on those very limiting categories. But I know leafly has talked about it. And then obviously introducing kind of this system is, in my opinion, slowly chipping away at it. But how important is that conversation for you?
Laura Morarity 19:08
You know, I think it’s one of those things that we knew getting into this, that we were a little ahead of our time, and it was going to take time to change the conversation. And it’s exciting to be in a place to do that. And, you know, while we say like from the effects perspective, we need to start moving away from those terms, because the vast majority of strains that are coming out on the market are amazing hybrids of very different strains, like the creativity within our growing community is just phenomenal. And so that’s just going to continue and independence. The tiva have a really important place from a growing perspective and they always will. So these are not terms that are going to go away. But what we need to start doing is helping people make the transition to that more on even a more sophisticated view but a more complete view that helps people understand the various different things that are going to have an effect on them. So there’s the terpene profile, but there’s also, you know, the cannabinoid content. And I think more and more people are starting to realize that just because it’s high in THC doesn’t mean it’s going to be the best high for you. And so you’re starting to see people say, somebody has a really great terpene profile that has a little less THC could give you a much better and more enjoyable high than necessarily something that’s super high in THC, but you know, doesn’t have the best terpene profile, right. So I think that’s gonna help over time, like the goal is to get people to start leaning more that direction that this is a complex plant. And I hate comparing cannabis to alcohol in any way. But I would love to see people to get more comfortable talking about cannabis, the way they talk about wine, like we know varietals, we like of wines, we’re very comfortable talking about those type of things. And we’re not necessarily leaning in on the alcohol content of those things, but the bouquet, the aroma, you know where it comes from, and cannabis has that same opportunity to really have that kind of rich story around it. One other thing I’d add, that I really am excited about the potential of now that we’re starting to look at terpene profiles, there are two strains that have been on my list that I’ve been trying to grab, like one is papaya punch, which is a very high human lean, dominant string. So when you see it on like a leafly list of like profiles, it’s going to be a bright green, a different color than you usually see. And then there’s a pink lemonade, which is an awesome mean dominant string. So I think there’s going to be a huge opportunity for, you know, growers to start really leaning into specific terpene profiles that aren’t as common like, I think I read somewhere. And Dr. Nick would tell me if I was wrong if he was here, like, you know, 36 40% of mersing dominant strains on the market. And now that we can see that bouquet of like beautiful flowers, in our case, literally, of flowers that we put on on the website, people can spot like the holes where the market has a need, and doesn’t even know it has the meat yet because we haven’t crafted those really interesting flowers yet. So I think that experimentation, that being able to say as a grower, hey, you’re not going to find a strain with this type of terpene profile very often on the market, you should give it a try, I think is really going to start to attract consumers over time and really opened the doors to more creativity than we already have, which is a huge amount.
Shayda Torabi 22:54
I so appreciate that perspective. I mean, it’s so true. It’s It’s remarkable to see, again, kind of my personal experience of shopping and legal states where it really is just we have THC and it comes in these percentages. And do you want to smoke it? Or do you want to, you know, eat it, versus now really having access to all the different cannabinoids and more so are being discovered every day. A lot of my episodes, we talk about Delta ages, because it’s a very buzzy new cannabinoid, especially in Texas, but you’re spot on with that presentation of being able to open up from a creative perspective, all these other terpenes that are organic and abundant, we’re just not aware of how it kind of interacts with our bodies and being able to have that opportunity from a growing perspective to play around with genetics and, and just kind of see what is a possibility is so cool to hear from you. So I definitely look forward to that aspect of the market evolving and, and another thing to kind of come around to as I was like poking through on the site, just kind of going off of what you were saying in terms of you know, these different profiles and really trying to get away from more of like the daytime, nighttime, I saw that there was a category for the strains around feelings. And I know that obviously from a medical perspective, you can’t say certain things. So there’s an interesting position that I think a lot of brands are in as they try to navigate How do you market your product? But obviously On the flip side, these these feelings I mean, arouse creative focus, giggly, talkative tinggly I think those are obviously feelings that are very experiential, we’re familiar with them, we like them. And so being able to start to introduce these parameters for consumers to think about those experiences aside from just the I want to be awake and feel good or I want to go to sleep now and be tired is really exciting. And so I’m wondering, you know, what was kind of some of the thought behind those feelings to get those maps? Because there’s obviously a lot of words that can be used Why? Why are those the associations that leafly decided to kind of launch with,
Laura Morarity 25:08
you know, in a lot of ways that has to do with what people are saying, and the reviews how people were describing it. And so, you know, we are very intentional about making sure that we’re not placing effects on a strain, because everybody in the head does have such an individual experience. But making sure there are, it’s easy for people to report the things that they are experiencing, and by using some of the common terms that they’re using in reviews. And I know, I think we have like 1.5 million live views or something like that at this point. So we got a good sense of like, what are some of the common things that people say so we said those, but jumping off of that point, one of the things that I think is also really helpful for marketers is that situation we also find changes what people are looking for in a cannabis product and how they search. So an example I’d like to give is on leafly search itself, like people searching for strains and stuff on on leafly. Once COVID started, the number of people who are searching for cannabis for pain increased exponentially. And maybe it was because people were stuck in their homes, they weren’t getting exercise, they weren’t moving, or they were just feeling like the pressure and doom of the moment that we’re in. But understanding that, you know, the times we’re in call for different things like if you are, you know, I’m assuming strange searches that for arouser arousal are going to increase around Valentine’s Day. I haven’t actually checked that out. But I should probably do that in the next month. But those things tend to change based on on what’s happening, like people are looking for more daytime, fun community, I can be social and meet with my people on a Saturday night, then they’re then they’re looking for, you know, I want to just get a good night’s sleep because it’s been a rough work week. And those those behaviors are also changing too. So people do search by effects. Like there is no question. Obviously the the laws around that make it very complicated for us to manage those those types of things. But I think that’s also the power of giving your customers the ability to review your products to like, what did this help you do? Which is a thing that I think sometimes we give up on customers after they’ve made the purchase. And it’s really, there’s such a great opportunity to continue to engage with them. Especially when it comes to helping other people find their way through cannabis. So if people are really digging your product for pain relief, and making sure they have a way to tell others, that that’s how they’ve used it, I think is an underutilized tool that I see. In our industry in general.
Shayda Torabi 28:04
Yeah, I appreciate the emphasis on that. Because as a marketer, you think, Oh my gosh, okay, I got to market to them, I got to make them like the brand, I got to make them want to make the purchase once they make the purchase then. Okay, good luck, goodbye. And yeah, I was on a panel in Denver, I think it was last year. And somebody was asking kind of very similarly about that. And I was like, Look, if you are a retail business, like I have a retail. And so I absolutely try to capture customer sentiment as much as real time as possible. Because I know anecdotally, that is a lever I can pull as a marketer versus interpreting or me making up something that I think consumers want to hear, always combating what legally I can and can’t say, versus brands who might be direct to consumer, and they’re just doing e commerce, it’s obviously a little bit harder to incorporate that kind of feedback loop. But I think brands need to take advantage of it in this industry and get creative. And so it’s just cool to see how leafly has really evolved from, you know, being this strain Explorer, providing reviews, and then ultimately kind of being really a key educational piece for consumers to go and connect those dots. So kind of on the reviews subject, I am curious, it’s more peer review. So it’s really leading,
Unknown Speaker 29:21
Shayda Torabi 29:22
by the consumers contributing. But honestly, I mean, there’s just there’s so many strains, there’s so many products. And so how do you start to like, for example, I was looking at, you know, buying seeds online, and I happen, I was curious about the seed that I was going to buy online, and I was just trying to do some research on it. And I actually typed the strain name and because it’s, it’s genetics that somebody took this, like a was genetic z, and they’re going to combine in their own strain. And so there’s not a lot of information. There’s not a lot of reports on it, but then I googled it now leafly you know, Article popped up and was like, Oh, this is a good strain. It’s great. There’s So many you know variables that anybody can really make a unique product even you know, somebody growing Pineapple Express in California, I can be a different variety than Pineapple Express in Colorado. How do you start to go? I guess, navigate, categorize organize those reviews of like, this is a legit product, this is a legit strain. versus this is somebody that somebody made in their backyard, and you can’t really buy it like, what is that process for reviews? Is it super open? Anybody can submit? Or how do you even get your strain listed in there to begin with?
Laura Morarity 30:37
That is a big question, because there are so many different aspects of that. So I would say right now, like typically, you know, well, let me start with the fact that I think this is the one of the reasons that labs are such an important part of the future of the cannabis industry in the United States. And having consistent lab testing that can deliver results that help build customer trust for growers and brands and retailers, is going to become more and more important because, you know, they’re getting tests for cannabinoid content, they’re getting tests for terpene, profiles, pesticides, all of the other things that that we need to have tested, that experience is lumpy, depending on where you are in the United States. And even within states, there was a lab just shut down recently in Washington State, we’re one of the oldest cannabis markets in the country. And we still are having challenges with labs giving good results. And so, you know, right now, like, if you see a leafly strain that has a flower that’s colored in, it’s because we’ve had multiple labs, test multiple products to get an average of what that terpene profile looks like. So it’s not going to be the exact one for the very specific strain. But it’ll give you the general range. I think, over time, what you’re going to see from us and from others, is more transparency about the terpene profiles of individual products, and how they vary from that norm, or not. So, for instance, a sample set, for example, Blue Dream, one of the most common, of course, cannabis strains of all time, and almost every single one of them has nearly identical, same terpene profile. But then you’ll see one outlier that has the two primary terpenes inverted, so instead of being mersing, dominant, it’s tiny dominant, which is slightly different luxury. But it’s called Blue drink, same plants coming together. Same plant being like being grown, but just, you know, slightly different terpene profile. And so that’s going to be the nature of it. And I think, over time, what we’d love to see at leafly, as we start getting more granular and the Okay, this is what Blue Dream generally looks like, here’s the specific flowers for different brands. So over time, we we envision that will continue to get more and more granular and have the ability to do that. But that really starts with quality lab data. And we’re really picky about our labs right now. Because there’s a lot of inflating of data that happens. So I think that’s a big part of the the future of it. And, you know, if you read mostly plea reviews, I often laugh that everybody loves weed, because it’s I’ve never seen a string, get a low review on leafly. It’s just what is the flavor of good review that it gets. But I think over time, too, we’re just going to see people get more and more discerning. And we are starting to see more and more people say in the review, I tried this strain from this brand. And this was my experience. And it was different from the experience I had when I tried the same strength from this brand. And so more and more I think people right now there is strain affinity. But I don’t know if we’ve really developed brand affinity in the market yet. But that’s going to change quickly, as more and more brands really start to make a name for themselves. I think, you know, you think about brands like cookies out of California that have just become icons of pop culture, and really set trends, you know, we named runs the leafly strain of the Year in 2020. And, you know, right after that salt sales of runs just in general increased by like 44% in the weeks after that, because people are like, Oh, I guess I should pay attention to this strain. And it has genetics that people really seem to find in their flavor profile these days. So we’ll continue to see that evolve. But I think there’s still a lot of there’s a lot of work to do on that topic. A
Shayda Torabi 34:55
quick break to say thank you to restart CBD for sponsoring this podcast. Restart. CBD is a brand my sisters and I founded in our hometown in Austin, Texas, we operate a retail location as well as an e commerce store. And you can browse our wide range of CBD products at restart cbd.com. Again, thank you to restart for allowing me the time and resources to put on to be blunt. I hope you’ll check them out for your CBD needs. Let’s go back to the episode. Yeah, I appreciated the hat tip on just the acknowledgement of testing, I think it’s something that I always like to, you know, remind my listeners, we’re still a new market. And there’s not consistency at a federal level and definitely still super murky at a state level. And even in states obviously, like where you’re coming from in Washington, where you do have this long standing history of the plant long standing much longer than Texas. It’s just so wild to me that we find ourselves in these positions of inconsistency still. And because everything is moving at such a rapid pace, I think the industry sometimes is getting caught up in the consumers obviously wanting to make sense of it. They want access to the product, they want the information and we’re kind of like, wait, well, we don’t have a source of truth just quite yet. We’re trying to navigate it. And so I like you am excited more for you know what is to come but just acknowledging kind of where we presently sit. And the reality is, this is where we’re at. But you said another thing too, transitioning from strains to brands, I do think is an interesting thing to kind of touch on too, just because really, I mean, we didn’t really have the opportunity to have brands prior to the legal market, right. And so it was just so somebody growing something and you maybe knew who the grower was or where that strain originated from. But I still think there’s a lot of murkiness around that aspect of the industry. And so you have now these brands that are really coming out, and they’re helping set a standard, they’re helping set, you know, quality assurance, they’re giving consumers this nice packaging around it. And so acknowledging some of these brands that you’ve, you know, obviously worked with, partnerships are huge to me in the industry. And I think that y’all again, have done a really good job extending your brand into some of those really key partnerships. And so just bringing up like, runs, for example, what does it look like to have leafly? Pick a strain of the year knowing that it’s going to influence the sale of that product? And what does that look like when you’re going and kind of creating some of those collaborations for consumers? Because it’s marketing at the end of the day?
Laura Morarity 37:47
Yeah, you know, lately, I guess we’ve done strain of the year now for three or four years. And, you know, we we have a pretty clear methodology on it. So the methodology is half data, like what are the trends we’re seeing on what are the strains that are really starting to trend at dispensaries that are showing up more in search that are showing up more on the news, what’s starting to kind of get momentum as a strain. So that’s one piece. And then the other half of that is, you know, our editorial team takes a really strong editorial lens of, you know, what’s in the public consciousness. And, you know, there are dozens of songs that have been written about rights, like it is a brand that has kind of, you know, created its own kind of virality in a way, that other strains habit. So you kind of take that data driven approach and overlay it with, you know, our editorial decision. And it’s a completely independent decision that, you know, our team makes without input from brands or growers or anyone, just based on the trends that we see. And the the strain that we think’s really going to tip in the next year into the consciousness. And, you know, we often hear especially from our our friends on the East Coast, that it’s really annoying that we choose these California strains. But, you know, a lot of the trends are still emerging from California. And I think, I think that’s going to change over time. And I look forward to the day when we choose the first leafly strain of the year from Massachusetts, or, you know, eventually from a New York, which is going to have a huge, rapidly growing market. And then there’s like really interesting markets out there like Florida that, you know, they have totally different strengths down there because they’re doing things a totally different way. Right. And so, starting to see trends come out of different places is something I know I’m super excited for. But you know, right down California is still kind of pushing a lot of those trends and it’s probably going to be a few more years before we see that really Really shift. But you know, that’s how we look at that. And, you know, the it’s the same with our other big tentpole thing that we do each year, which is the leafly jobs report, which will be coming out in a couple weeks, where, you know, we do the hard work where the federal government doesn’t we count the jobs in the illegal THC focus market. And, you know, we are a huge market, and those numbers this year are going to show that even in a hard year for our economy, and for people with COVID, that our industry has continued to grow by leaps and bounds. And so we’re really excited to share that too. But it’s really, you know, for us marketing is that intersection of great data and an understanding of where’s the unmet need in the market, but nobody’s filled yet. And for us, when we can find those two things, we know that people are going to find value in use out of that, and there’s so much territory in cannabis still, in that that area.
Shayda Torabi 41:03
Let me unpack that a little bit, just speaking on all these new states, specifically on the East Coast that have now gone, you know, medicinal and now even recreation. I mean, I used to be somebody who’s like, oh, I’ve gone to all the legal states. And now I’m like, I can’t even keep up. They’re all flipping and I’m still waiting here in Texas, but they’re flipping on the east coast. And it’s awesome. But, you know, knowing the position that you’ll sit in, given everything that we’ve kind of discussed so far in the episode, with this heavy skewed towards not so much California, but obviously quality, right? It’s like this industry has been around longer on the west coast. And so that’s where you have kind of this foundation already built, but knowing that you have, I’m sure, obviously people on the East Coast are familiar with leafly. I mean, again, it’s synonymous with cannabis. So it’s not that you have to convince those consumers to be on your platform. But as you see the the industry opening up in those states, obviously, they’re growing, like you said, their own kind of genetics, varietals strains. How does that kind of get connected back to leafly, in terms of empowering those markets, to say, Hey, we want you to be growing quality stuff, we want to be documenting it, we want your information. It’s just it seems like it’s happening so fast, like do you have people who are in Illinois and in Massachusetts, and they’re like, Hey, we’re now we’re up and running. Okay, let’s go connect with leafly. And make sure everything’s, you know, kind of plugged in. So we have the database being built out, like, how does that get going for some of these new markets?
Laura Morarity 42:35
Yeah, it is an ongoing challenge in the sense that it is growing so fast, and there is so much opportunity. In you know, we’re keeping up a number of different types of areas. So of course, we’re following the news like, are the licenses going out are the licenses going out equitably? What’s happening from just a market getting live type of piece, we’re trying to make sure those dispensaries are on our platform, so that when those people do come to leafly, we have amazing traffic from states that are still, you know, pre legalization, where we’re still the place people go to learn, even if they can’t actually access from a licensed dispensary yet, so we’re still a resource in that sense. So we’ve got to make sure we get all those dispensaries in place. So people can shop, we have to let people know that they can shop online. In most states, not all states, like Pennsylvania, for instance, you can’t even have a menu online. But, you know, changing people’s behavior around cannabis and let them know that, okay, there are different ways we can do this than we’ve been able to do in the past is a big piece. And then of course, there is a strain database as well, where, you know, over time, we’re really working, like our product team is constantly innovating on ways that we can make it easier for people to submit strains to us, which is what people do, we have an email address, where people can submit strains that they have developed, and we vet them and then get them loaded as quickly as we can. So people can start reviewing those strains. And, you know, there’s a lot of like, aka is out there, you see, like, Yeah, you’ve kind of created this strain, but that’s really this strain. And so we’re gonna link them together. It’s not necessarily something new. So there’s a lot of that sorting work that that takes a lot of time. And so over time, we hope to automate a lot of that work more so we can continue to get that information and get it out as a resource and reference for people as quickly as possible. But there’s still a lot of editorial discretion that goes into that. Yeah, sounds
Shayda Torabi 44:49
like y’all are doing God’s work. So we appreciate it. It’s it’s exciting, but it’s over inundated with information and it’s hard to really know what the truth is. And so obviously establishing yourself not only from just like a timeline perspective, but also just proving to be the resource by the quality of content that you’re producing. It’s like, somebody’s got to do it. I’m glad it’s y’all helping us make sense of it. But kind of in that vein, too, and you kind of just mentioned, the industry is, is really booming. It’s really exciting. I think despite COVID, I take the stance that, especially with a technology background, that COVID really helped push our industry online, further in more ways than not this year, and this last year. And so, kind of given that, that context, we are able to do more, we’re pushing more. I know, leafly is a cannabis brand. But leafly to me, is also a technology business. And so I think that it’s very exciting to bring the industry into the light again, I know it’s a very sore subject for some people, they don’t love the corporations, they don’t love the commercialization of the industry. But I think it’s all for the betterment, right? I mean, you need people with systems to be put in place and teams and, you know, organization to help actually execute and achieve a lot of the work that’s being done. And so I am really curious, just to understand, like, how the marketing team functions at leafly. I mean, obviously, knowing we are in COVID. So you are distributed now, or you’re distributed, but you’re also working remotely. But what is it like being the SVP of marketing at leafly? And what are your teams look like? You know, I’m always shocked. Sometimes people are like, Oh, it’s just me, and another person is like, how do you do all that work? And sometimes they share, you know, it’s actually a team of 45 people and, and I just love to give people that insight behind the lens of Yes, leafly is this great cannabis brand, but you’re also a really successful technology company that employs a lot of people. So I would just love to learn a little bit about the operations from a marketing perspective of the business.
Laura Morarity 46:50
Yeah, so there are about 140 employees total leafly. So we pack a lot of punch for you know, you know, and cannabis terms, I guess we are a pretty large company. But, you know, we pack a lot of punch for a small team that has salespeople, engineers, marketing and content on the marketing and content team, which I run, they’re 15 of us. So that includes b2b marketing, b2c marketing and our editorial team. So when you put all that together, it is a small but mighty group of people that, that do all of this work. And, you know, one of the philosophies of our team, because we are so focused on making sure that we’re giving people really compelling information and things that they can sink their teeth is into is this concept that nobody owns creativity. And so that’s one of the ways that we like to run our team, in the sense that good ideas come from everywhere on our team. And it’s, and not even just in our team, like ideas are coming in from engineers from sales folks all the time. And how we bring those to life as a team is really like what our kind of gift is as a group, then, I think for us, like strain of the year is a great example of what happens when our team comes together really well, you know, we can make people really interested in a specific strain and want to purchase that strain, which is exciting for us. But as far as like the day to day goes, you know, because we’re a team that’s on the small side, we lean very heavily into content marketing as an approach for driving people in. And also take an earned first approach to marketing in the sense that, you know, we don’t have huge paid budgets. So we’re not throwing billboards all over the place or putting advertisements everywhere, that we want to make sure that we’re always creating things that drive coverage and conversation. So that’s a core part of our strategy is the something people want to talk about is something that captures their imagination that takes a data point really turns it on its head to make people think, Okay, this is how this can affect me in my daily life and bring people in. We also, you know, people love deals, we spend a lot of time talking about deals, people are two times more likely to try a new product, if it has a deal on it. We know that. So how do we work with our partners to make sure they are offering the best tools to bring new customers into their platform? So those are some of the things that we do. But overall, I would say, you know, we are a small and scrappy team that leans really hard and to clever and creative thinking to get people interested in our platform.
Shayda Torabi 49:43
That’s wonderful. I really appreciated that insight. It’s just it’s so fascinating to me to get to understand. Yeah, like, again, as a marketer. It’s like take the cannabis functionality out your business and how do you empower the team? How do you hire people who are designers, writers, Engineers and kind of, you know, rally them together for the cause, which is creating this business and how do you grow the business. And so it is something that I think is not foreign to cannabis. But definitely, it doesn’t get discussed as discussed as much as as a conversation point. And it’s kind of hidden. Sometimes it’s like, you just see these big brands come up, and you assume, either it’s two people in a garage, or they must be, you know, bought out by somebody else. And I know that leafly has had kind of, you know, an interesting ownership journey, but it is independently owned presently. Correct. Yeah. So that’s, it’s just, it’s, it’s cool to get to piece those things together. Again, that’s selfish me coming from my corporate background of like, how does how do businesses work? And so I hope the listeners get a kick out of these because because I think it’s good to bring that context to the industry, because really, you through the brand leafly is helping professionalize cannabis and providing a lot of jobs and resources for the professional industry as well. So thanks for sharing that little piece.
Laura Morarity 51:03
Yeah, I mean, it’s fun to be at a company who’s building just cool tools for retailers and brands and getting to tell them about that. It’s cool to be at a company that is so focused on consumer discovery, and building the tools and techniques and intellectual property that helps people navigate that journey. And it sounds like when you say like help people discover cannabis, it sounds so like such a simple concept. And it’s so hard. And to watch, like so many engineers and marketers and sales people just put their best selves to that really difficult challenge every day is super fulfilling for me personally. But I think it’s a passion for the plant that keeps bringing all those people back to work every day to apply those very technical skills to this really meaningful challenge that we have as a cannabis industry.
Shayda Torabi 52:00
We said it, it’s it’s like this extending opportunities is professional business, but it is a challenge in the navigating it to I guess is always something fun as a former traditional corporate brand marketer, I’m used to the traditional marketing functions. And, and so you know, you assume sometimes I think people coming into the industry, like, Oh, I’m just gonna go to, you know, paid ads, and it’s like, yeah, good luck, like, have fun without in this industry, it’s not impossible. Now, it’s definitely, you know, shifting. But for me, as a marketer, it’s not the first thing I lean into. And so obviously, y’all are very content focused, that is the platform that you’ve built, but it makes sense that that’s, you know, the marketing kind of area that you’ve been leaning into. And so it gives me some confidence that I’m at least, you know, in my corner of the road on the right path by leaning into content, but yeah, it’s it’s not that any one journey to the top is the right journey. It’s just, you know, being very aware of all these different things that are happening in our industry and just trying to make sense of them and apply some learnings back to our own business. So I think that’s super wonderful. And great. But last question, is there anything that is upcoming that you’re really excited to share that leafly is working on? Or influencing? I’m always just curious what’s on the horizon?
Unknown Speaker 53:18
Laura Morarity 53:18
we have some really cool stuff coming. I mentioned a little earlier that our annual jobs report is going to be coming out. February 16, is the date that that’ll appear. And we’ve done just a lot of really granular work to understand the job market and what’s what’s happening, and how many new jobs that we’re seeing. So that’s going to be really exciting. We’re also launching some new products really soon, that help retailers, you know, acquire new customers, and, you know, make their product experience better. So that’s going to be really great. You know, we please really focus on helping cannabis consumers find those dispensaries and get in those dispensary stores. And that’s a really huge value that we offer to dispensaries. And so really excited about those technology products. So those are just a couple of things that are coming in the next two weeks. And so that’s how we expect the rest of this year to go. Like we’re constantly building we’re constantly delivering new things that excite consumers and retailers and brands. And you know, it’s a 50th anniversary for 20. So, we’ve got some big plans coming for that too. So, you know, a lot of good stuff to come from leafly. But I think just in general, like you said, there’s a lot of good stuff to come for this industry and leafly is always going to do its part to be, you know, a voice for that work that’s happening in the industry and be a good steward of it.
Shayda Torabi 54:53
I appreciate everything you shared. It’s been a wealth of information and knowledge. Thanks for spending time with me and the listeners. I’m just sharing your experience. And I hope everybody immediately goes and checks out your social media platform, your website and just gets even more familiar because I do feel like even as a, you know, many year leafly consumer myself, every time I go to the site, there’s always new content, new information, new resources. And, and it’s exciting because we’re revolving and the industry is just just kicking things off. So thank you so much for the time. Awesome, thank
Unknown Speaker 55:27
you so much. It’s been fun. And
Shayda Torabi 55:30
I’m just so humbled, to be able to have had the time to, to have that conversation and to be able to share it with you guys, I really genuinely hope that you learned some valuable stuff from how one of the leading brands in the space is operating, I thought it was really cool to kind of hear the history of the company and kind of how these different assets and pieces of content essentially that they’ve created, like the strain database has evolved, and how it will continue to evolve and what role we can play as an industry in one using that information to our benefit, and also how we can contribute to it. I just think, man, like what we know about cannabis is so limited, and there’s so much more to learn. And it’s so personal to the end user. So there’s a lot of dynamics that go into, you know, what we know about this plant and how we educate about this plant. So thank you so so so much, Laura, it was a treat to have you on the show. And thanks again, listeners. Because without you this show wouldn’t be possible. So if you loved this show, if you loved this episode, I encourage you to do a few things. You know, again, I always kind of highlight, I’m a person, I’m a human being I sit, you know, at a computer and I operate just like you do every day trying to make sense of things. And I would just love to personally be a resource. So if you have questions you want to connect, you can always find me on my social channels online. And to again, helping spread these episodes is going to put that information and resources in the hands of more people. And so if you really valued this conversation and have a friend in the industry, who might benefit from hearing this, please just share it. That’s all I ask. So thanks again for tuning in. If you made it all the way to the end, you’re a rock star and I will be back next week with another episode and until then, hope you guys are taking it easy and have a good one. Bye.
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai