Matthew Herrold  0:01
The brand is an asset, you need to think of it as this tangible thing as intangible as it can be. And it’s broken down into different areas in which you earn equity. And that includes things like recall versus recognition. So the difference of recall and recognition. If you recognize something, you see it Oh, yeah, I’ve seen that. Oh, I’ve heard of good fields before. Yeah, I’ve heard of it. recalls when I say sparkling cannabis beverage, fast acting the best and someone goes, Oh, you strike good feels. That’s recall that means being first to mind when something else is named. Right. And that’s just one one of the areas that you can earn equity in right. It’s brand awareness.

Announcer  1:06
You’re listening to To Be Blunt 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  1:25
Hello, hello. Hello. Welcome back to another episode of The To be blunt podcast. My name is Shayda Torabi and I am your host for all things cannabis, and marketing. And today I am joined by Matthew Harold. He is the director of marketing for good feels a cannabis beverage company that is based in Massachusetts. And aside from that, a quick thing about us we met on LinkedIn. So the power of cannabis and LinkedIn is really strong. And I’m grateful for all the connections I’ve made, and just wanted to champion that little piece of tidbit information. But Matthew is a marketer. That’s really ultimately what we connected on and specifically a brand marketer. So aside from his role a good feels he has a background in health and wellness leading up to his experience specifically in the cannabis industry. He’s also the founder of head stash marketing, a cannabis marketing agency, which we dive into. And we also touch on the cannabis landscape in Massachusetts. As you all know, I am a super nosy and love to learn what other states are up to. And so Matthew graciously shares his insights into what it’s been like building and operating cannabis brands in Massachusetts as well as he shares a wealth of information around branding in general, how to create sentiment and how to keep those customers loyal to your brand. So let’s welcome Matthew to the show.

Matthew Herrold  2:50
My name is Matthew Harold. I am currently the marketing director at good fields, which is a Massachusetts based brand. We are focused on celebrating life and wellness through sparkling cannabis beverages. We’re releasing a fast acting tincture as well. We have some other things on the line that we are not talking about publicly yet. But I’m very excited about what’s happening behind the curtain. And in addition to that, I’ve been building a team for a brand that I’ve been also keeping behind the curtain called head stash marketing. And that is something that’s designed to be real. It’s personal, it’s authentic. It’s a selective marketing agency that’s focused on working with companies that fit a loose structure around benefits corporations, so companies that operate under a certain set of ethics, their companies that make me feel good, and those are the people that I want to work with. So my story of getting into cannabis was a long one. I started you know, I think a lot of people in our industry will relate to this. I started when I was young, I didn’t know what I was doing. When I tried it, I had mixed experiences at times that were really good. And other times they would throw me in a panic attack. I was your super active child and on things like Ritalin and Adderall which I never liked. They changed who I was turned me into a robot change my appetite significantly. And I still remember a really bad experience where I combined concert and cannabis as someone who is in their late teens and it was it was a rough afternoon. when I really started to make the shift into the industry, I had a career behind me in health and wellness. So everything I do comes from this background of working with people directly on their health. something I love to do. And it’s a big, big influence on how I view this plant and the industry, I don’t necessarily view it as something that your typical CPG being marketed to people through the lens of, let’s get people to consume more, let’s get people to kind of let’s trigger those those egos, and really kind of twist the emotions of people so that we can trigger them into overconsumption, get them hype them up, and really not necessarily move the needles that I want to move, which is quality of life, I want to see a sustainable industry that actually makes lives better. And so with that background behind me a little over three years ago, I was the Director of Education for an all female fitness brand, and doing program design, which included scripting and coaching. So figuring out what really works with people to reach, say, 80% in one sentence on a complex idea, I love doing stuff like that. And we had a lot of success, I was changing lives. But I was always hungry for more I had a side brand doing corporate wellness, I became certified in wellness programming, and specifically data driven wellness programming, which learns how to provide scalable programs that actually provide a real return on investment to the bottom line, yet also raise that quality of life for people. So I had just finished a tremendous week, I was getting up at 5am every day, I would work until about 1215, I vacuum the carpets, I go eat lunch, I’d nap and then I do it again from four to 8pm. And I was doing that almost every day 40 sessions a week for one hour. And I woke up from my nap one day and I have three missed calls. And the last one I returned was my mother. And she had several voicemails saying My father was in the hospital. What I learned was, he had gone unconscious made by cried and suffered a massive head injury. And I had to watch as we ultimately made the choice that he he was in fact brain dead and we had to make the choice to let them go. And I also watched my mother

through I think a lifetime of stigma on mental health. She never dealt with her grief or traumas since she was a little kid in her first bicycle accident. There is some irony that she lost her brother in a motorcycle accident. My own brother was in a minor motorcycle accident and then she lost her partner in life to a bicycle accident. And I watched her unravel into what was essentially mania and complicated grief and she needed help for the next like two years and I left my career. Now this is where cannabis starts to enter in. Certainly I consume cannabis at times to help with my anxiety and stay focused fine, even just respite, also a friend and I think this is the most beautiful thing about this industry is the people. A friend started to check in on me a few months after this happened. And it was my Oasis to talk business and look at the spreadsheets. He was newly appointed as Director of Operations and the vertical integration here, Massachusetts they were finishing their cultivation center and charging on to opening up their medical dispensary. And we spent a year doing these regular talks. And then I knew he was nudging me in that direction. Finally, I took that in a bit more seriously. It inspired me to study really hard for about six months. And lo and behold, about one week before for 22 years ago, I trained and got to see every corner of their operation from cultivation to laboratory and extraction to the actual commercial kitchen mind you this was like my third time in the facility. I’d already gotten several tours. And the reason he really liked me is I drew the format from memory as close as I can remember it because I just I was fascinated this point. My first day was in a medical dispensary on 420 and we did a record setting day at calm can hear Massachusetts I had such an amazing time working with people, there were certainly moments to where, you know, we had a real mess on the patient card, side. And so sometimes the date on the car did not match the actual patient’s registration with the state, which is a huge mistake on the state’s side. But legally, we cannot let people in. So even conflict resolution on my first day, combined with making all of those special moments with other people just took my own excitement to a new level. And very quickly, I start getting thrown projects. So I was the only person really entering that company at that time had any sort of health background, specifically, and I had a long one and I was really successful. And so I got to listen to the conversation is being had, and start to think about how can we improve these conversations so that they fit more of that coaching dynamic, right motivational interviewing, getting to the heart of what people are actually looking for, because sometimes what they tell you up front, doesn’t actually match up when you do a little more inquiry. And that led to me getting the chance to rewrite our patient guide, then rewrite it again. In the process. I also wrote our first and second editions of our adult consumption guides, I got to create an event which got thrown in my lap. And out of that came a really nice SAP on how to run our events department. Pretty soon I got promoted into marketing, and got to work with their director of marketing, which was a tremendous experience. He had a brilliant digital art background, and went to art school. So between the two of us, I had a lot of knowledge, motivation, behavior, psychology, he had all of this knowledge and design and how to use all the tools to streamline workflows. And it just led to us having a really good time together. And that included that we were running five in house brands, we had a concentrate brand and included cartridges, we had an edibles line, respectively, that was drip and bite. We also launched the first cannabis infused soda in Massachusetts together that was sip. Then in addition to that, we had some brands sort of on the treadmill making their way towards the front, we had our dispensary brand, the Commonwealth cannabis company, comm can. And when it was time, I left just a few days before COVID really took off. And things really changed. So where I ended up was looking to LinkedIn and really starting to study, okay, here’s the next frontier I want to take on, we didn’t do anything really on LinkedIn. And I began to sort of hack that apart, I started following people and listening. And it was a really great experience. Because the trend that I’ve seen throughout all marketing and all branding is getting really nitty gritty with who you are, whether it’s as a person or as a company and a brand and what you want to be. And that requires a lot of introspection. But once you’re there, it’s also about having the courage to present yourself as you are. And that is because people people can always smell the bullshit. If it’s not real people sense that. And while we’re in a place where sometimes it’s the only thing available on the market. It’s true that right now I think a success factor is simply having great distribution and getting accounts. That’s not going to last forever. And as soon as the brand comes along, that feels real, because it is real. People are going to change their habits and who they buy.

It comes back for me ultimately that I regardless of what I do, right now it’s in cannabis, I want to live a life that I feel is authentic and true. Because that’s what feels good. And that also I think bleeds into my work. I’m very passionate, I want to have a purpose with what I do. And that means for me, after struggling against this for a long time that I only work with companies that I think have a purpose that I agree with, because that’s my purpose. That’s what drives me. And that’s ultimately what’s made me more and more successes as my life has gone on.

Shayda Torabi  15:02
That was extremely powerful. Thank you for sharing that introduction, it seems like you’ve obviously had personal experiences that have interacted with the plant that have, fortunately or unfortunately propelled you into a direction, obviously, coming from a health and wellness background as well. I think there’s a lot of well being to be had with cannabis. And there’s so many applications to the plant. You talked a lot about branding, which I obviously want to come back to, because I think that’s the kind of focal point for our discussion, I think, when we first were connecting, that was what I was resonating with, I was like, Oh my gosh, someone who sees and views branding very similarly to myself. But you also highlighted something else that I want to call out, which is, you mentioned the director of marketing for the cannabis brand in Massachusetts, being an art director. And it just made me kind of reflect on, I think people get caught up in marketing, being this like one dimensional kind of application, like, oh, it has to be social media, or Oh, it has to be copywriting. Or maybe it’s the way the brand looks and feels. But there’s so many sub levels to those efforts, that when you said art director, I was just thinking like, I don’t have an art directing background, but like I love content creation. But the way that I would create content is probably much different than how he would create content. And I think that’s a beautiful thing that ties into what you highlighted as well of being authentic to yourself. And that’s so much a thread of this podcast, the reality is, we’re not all the same, and that’s a good thing. And so it’s like, I don’t have an art director background. But I have, you know, maybe a corporate marketing background, or I have a digital marketing background. And so being able to lean into our strengths, while also kind of hiring or sourcing or creating partnerships or ally ships, or you know, building a team that can supplement some of those areas that might be missing. The key thing to highlight is the authenticity part, you can’t just make a brand and have it look good without actually having you know substantial resources, beliefs, attributes about the brand. So something can’t just look pretty without substance. And so it’s kind of, you know, for the listeners to realize and kind of put their thinking hats on of, I don’t think either one is explicitly right or wrong, but it’s how do you take both ends of the spectrum, and find the sweet spot in the middle?

Matthew Herrold  17:33
When you say, both ends of the spectrum, I just want to clarify, because what you just said was really great. And I just want you to tell me, what are the ends of the spectrum you’re talking about,

Shayda Torabi  17:42
I think for people who are so much on the visual side, and they’re looking at the aesthetics and how their brand is going to be perceived in the market, to the you know, maybe credibility is too strong of a word, but having some sort of philosophy behind why you believe what you believe you’re like, someone can be a really good public speaker, but may or may have a really good thoughts, but they don’t actually know how to turn that into creative content, but they’re not a visual creative. And I kind of look at the spectrum, being from a marketers perspective, there’s so many different ways to market. And you don’t need to be doing all of them as a brand to be successful. But you do need to figure out who you’re marketing to figure out what your niche is, and then pick those marketing activities to lean into that make sense for your brand. So again, some people might look at what you and I are doing, like oh, branding, like, we love branding, I think about how someone’s experience with a brand is going to be when they’re touching the product, when they’re interacting with me at a conference or event when someone is sitting and listening to my voice on a podcast. All those things are things that I think about versus someone who maybe is a data driven marketer, they don’t really care about the aesthetics, they’re caring about the numbers, and you and I know that all of it really does flow together. But again, I’ll kind of throw myself out there. I’m not the most data driven marketer. So sometimes people are wondering, you know, oh, how what’s the return on investment for speaking at these conferences? Or Oh, what’s the return on investment for, like producing this podcast, his podcast, to me is a marketing effort, I make little to no money off of it. I have 110% fun, but for me, this is a branding exercise. This is a way for me to brand myself in the community as a marketer with a voice. And so again, I just think people you know, trying to pick apart the success it’s not that there’s any one activity that is the right activity or the right platform or the right thing to be doing is just what is right for you and what resonates with that message ultimately that you’re trying to sell which when you distill it down is what’s your why you know good ol Simon Sinek and what’s your why start with why so

Matthew Herrold  19:51
I do agree. I think understanding your WHY IS is a gift on to yourself, and it becomes your fuel you touched on some really good points. I think marketing can seem a bit one dimensional. Sometimes people think it’s manipulative too. And I think, I think sometimes there’s a confusion. So marketing is this big idea, right? Like a chief marketing officer kind of oversees a lot of different stuff. And when we talk about marketing, I like to think of marketing sort of like as my separation of thinking, I take brand, which is always included marketing, but I really take it outside of what I’m talking about when I say, Okay, how are we going to market this? That’s not necessarily about the brand marketing to me, how are we going to market this are sort of what are the channels? We’re the tools that are we going to use? And how are we going to measure those tools? You mentioned, data driven, marketers versus people are more in the visual sense. And it does need to be a mix. I think it’s it’s challenging with data driven marketing, because for one reason, yes, there are some things that work, we kind of know they’re working, but we can’t necessarily, it’s really, really hard to measure. And measurement has come a long way with marketing, especially digital, yet, there’s sometimes opportunities missed, because if we’re so hung up on data, we’re missing the point. And I would reference someone that, you know, I recently had the chance to work with perfect blends for few months. And also very closely with Michael Backus, who wrote cannabis pharmacy, he is one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking with. And he brought up Sander greenlands, who is one of the people who brought out the exact statistical methods that we use to quantify proof. And he also wrote an essay that before COVID, was the most referenced paper on the internet. And it was his paper talking about, essentially, a lack of evidence does not mean a lack of effect. And this is the person that created the tools and the methods that we use to quantify proof in medicine is he’s like a statistician, he’s an epidemiologist. And we become so data obsessed that sometimes we start to rule out our own instincts. And we have to be careful sometimes our instincts I, I like my instincts, I’ll say sometimes when we’re not thinking, clearly our emotions can skew what we’re really seeing, we have to be mindful of that data can be super powerful. Data is also, I think, really powerful with the combination of human intuition, intuition can tell you where to look. And intuition can also teach you how to read data. Right? Once we see the data, not everybody looks at data and pulls out the same ideas. And when it comes to connecting visual to data, and all of this, I think it’s this stuff can kind of start to look like science, but we never want to lose the emotion or the art that comes behind it. We want to take an idea that we think is exciting. And then we want to test it. When it comes to building a brand. You have to go back to understanding through a human lens, what you’re trying to do. So who are you actually trying to connect with? Is it yourself. If you’re starting a company to market to yourself? Well, you’re going to need some data to know that there’s enough of quote unquote, use out there to support a business and the investment of time, energy, money, resources, whatever it is, we can’t build a business if there’s no market there. That being said, don’t be afraid to learn the techniques that if you know your ideas, good and you’ve had enough conversations that resonates. I made the mistake early on of not digging into those those branding techniques and thinking I could figure everything out for myself that was in my wellness career. I learned those lessons. And we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. The other thing is, if we do want to be authentic, these are the things that can make it so that our authentic self can be bigger than what we thought it could be. These tools of marketing, once we’ve refined what we are and why we’re doing it. The tools of marketing are super powerful, whether it’s creative tools, or getting the message out there. Right. There are increasingly complex ways to spread our message. And that’s it. Not a bad thing. It doesn’t need to be one dimensional. I think the farther we go, the brands that will succeed, ultimately are the ones that feel human. That’s what people want. We just came out of a pandemic, we’re coming out of a pandemic, there’s still a lot of work to do to come out of that. I think when it’s safe, we’re gonna see a few things happen, which is one sort of this resurgence of events, and conventions and festivals and concerts getting together and public public displays performances, I cannot imagine that like street performers are, I would think that’s going to go up, people are probably going to linger out in public a little bit longer. These are my instincts telling me this. Do I have data on that? No, not yet. But that’s what I’ll be looking for. And that’s what I’m, I mean, when we have instincts, we need to go test those instincts.

Shayda Torabi  26:00
I kind of like where you’re highlighting, you know, the, like, can we actually track it? Maybe not. But that’s okay. If you instinctively believe and know that it can be rewarding for you. And I think that I have enough of that, that I’ve used to guide me forward. Like, again, maybe for people who don’t realize this, I public speak a lot. I don’t get paid to public speak yet. I’ve made the investment to fly myself to Chicago to go speak at a conference that gives me a platform to be a voice in cannabis. It’s given me a platform to speak about cannabis and marketing. But that is an expensive investment that most people might observe in psycho. How is she going and doing that? It’s like, well, I’m choosing to make that investment. I can’t necessarily attribute me speaking at this conference in Chicago as direct dollars in my bank account, but it’s building for me my personal brand, it’s helping establish me as a thought leader, it’s helping Connect me I’m a networker. I mean, you highlighted in person events, I’m very grateful for all that’s being done for us to evolve through this you know, COVID situation and being able to get back to in person because I miss it. I’m a people person, as a marketer, I thrive from my network. And again, it’s kind of like leaning on what your strengths are. But for me, my strengths happened to be branding, so I kind of want to spin it and turn it to you to enquire what is branding kind of 101 for you, there’s obviously personal branding, there’s building a business as a brand I appreciated that you separated branding from marketing because I do agree there’s the brand and it’s like what do you do for the brand versus how are you going to market but I’m curious to get your thoughts on branding because I say the word a lot and I’m sure the listeners love shows talks about branding, but from you know one brand marketer to another brand marketer What is it to you

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 calm. 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.

Matthew Herrold  28:34
I like the thoughts. I have a mentor who’s taught me so much about this over the past three years. And I think of the brand is is ultimately the brand is an asset you need to think of it as this tangible thing as intangible as it can be as broken down into different areas in which you earn equity. And that includes things like recall versus recognition. So the difference of recall and recognition. If you recognize something you see it Oh, yeah, I’ve seen that. Oh, I’ve heard of good feels before. Yeah, I’ve heard of it. recalls when I say sparkling cannabis beverage fast acting the best and someone goes, Oh, you strike good feels. That’s recall that means being first to mind when something else is named. Right. And that’s just one one of the areas that you can earn equity and right it’s brand awareness. You look at brand loyalty. You look at perceived value, and perceived quality which are huge. When you start to piece all of these things together with your proprietary technology. If you have it. You start to see the brand and then That’s just sort of how we can start to measure it. But what is a brand to like a human being? Well, it starts with that Why? And that we talk about, why are we doing this? And what’s the essence of a brand? I think sometimes that gets missed. Right? What’s the essence we think of apple? Well, Apple was think different. Coca Cola is share happiness. BMW is driving pleasure, which I love, because double entendre right, is the pleasure of driving but also driving pleasure forward. These are two words, in each of those instances, it can be longer,

but just two words that are worth billions of dollars. And that’s 101, you have to come down to defining your brand down to like four words or less. And you need to know who it’s for deeply. That’s not an age bracket. It’s not a gender, it can be those things, but it’s this understanding about behaviors and attitudes, like what does that person do when they first wake up? Right, because there are people like, say, CrossFit, we know what they do, they likely go to CrossFit, or they fix themselves some sort of paleo shake. And they’re also typically they’re looking for community that has a competitive edge. They also are, they’re looking for that motivation to be overachievers, they want to push boundaries, they want to set new personal records for themselves. And it’s not just in the gym. It’s an attitude and community that supports you to achieve those things outside of there. So there’s an example of a brand that really figured out what people were looking for, it wasn’t about the exercise routines, people get injured, people go back with their post shoulder surgery, and they’ll sit on the bench just to be in the room. Because the brand is not the workout, it’s actually not the product, it’s the entire experience. Or I could say that the product is not the workout, the product is that there happens to be some structure around exercise. And with it, you become part of a community that’s going to support you in your life. And exercise is just the medium that we’re going to do it through, it’s going to include food, it’s going to include inspiration. And so that would be one example of when we think of like who goes to CrossFit, for the most part, you get an image in your head, you can probably think of some people you know, and you you start to, maybe you can define it, maybe you can’t, but you definitely have an idea of a type of person that’s going to be going there and what they’re looking for. Well, great branding does that at the beginning before a great brand with it has the resources has the expertise launches, they’ve done their homework ahead of time they’ve gone out into the world, and whether or not they’ve met you, they’ve they’ve met you in one way or another and they’ve taken the time and invested resources to understand you. And then gone the next step, which is before they ever touch base with you. They understand you they’ve gotten to know you and now we’re going to build something for you. Because we want to provide something special for you, that’s going to grab your attention, that’s going to engage you and make it so you you want to look and lean in, and then it’s going to delight you and you’re going to want it again and guess what we’re going to work our asses off to give it to you again, we’re going to provide that for you. We’re going to do it consistently. And that’s where marketing starts to come in. That’s where marketing all the documentation, all of the organization, you know, project management, identifying your channels, measuring channels, data reports, what’s working, what isn’t? are we serving people? How are we doing that? Does the survey itself provide a nice experience? Are we asking people what they think? Are we touching base are we providing real world opportunity, especially as we start to figure our way through this pandemic to a post pandemic world? And we all know that from beforehand. So we have to look at a holistic experience and that’s going to be digital. It’s going to include looking at someone not through a screen. It’s going to be them seeing, say a billboard or just seeing your product in a dispensary. It will be online for sure it will be in blogs. It’ll be in press releases, it’s everywhere. And we have to keep track of that in from a marketing standpoint, so that we can also build the health of our brand. Then there’s the more important piece, which is, the way you do that is by staying in touch with your people that you wanted to provide for in the first place. You know, we talked about authenticity. And I’ll tell you something personal that what I’m working on right now, so that I can continue in my own work of being authentic is a very simple message, which is I love and accept myself. And I bring that up. Because whether or not you’re a person or a company, you have to learn to love and accept yourself if you want to truly be great. Even the brands that say I don’t agree with and I might think that the companies and people running them are a bit I could say sinister, I think most of us have companies that we think like, I don’t know if that’s a great company, but they’re hugely successful. Well, if you look at them, the people presenting the brand outward, the people at the top, they love and accept themselves, whether or not we love and accept them, they do. And I think when we look at cannabis, we have a lot of empaths we have a lot of people who are fighters, who some have had great lives up to this point others had have have had really challenging lives. I think that simple message of love and accept yourself, whether it’s as a professional and an individual, or as a company, that is you know, you have something special, and you want to be big. Start by doing that homework, love and accept yourself. And also go learn about the people that you want to serve, learn them deeply, and then start or go find an expert to help you understand how to apply that to your brand in a systematic way. Because systems are how humans have created the most wondrous parts of our world, whether it’s literary devices and poetry, to art, digital computers, engineering, to the medicines, recreating cannabis, they came out of systemic, like systematic review, systematic procedures. And so we don’t lose authenticity through system we want to do is just protect it as we apply systems to it,

Shayda Torabi  37:37
it was very well said, I took a lot of takeaways from that statement, there’s a lot of systematic approaches that I think do get lost because people get caught up in the experience of building a brand, the excitement, they want to become a CrossFit or a Tesla or a Starbucks, and you provided a lot of good stopping and checkpoints for people to be considered of as they’re navigating the journey of what it takes to be building a brand. Because I want to believe everybody wants to have a company that is going to be here, I think indefinitely is a strong word. But surely most people are not getting into entrepreneurship or going to work for a company that’s going to be gone tomorrow. The intention is to build something that lasts. And so I think, giving these these thoughts behind what most people just see very, maybe it’s transactionally, maybe it’s just casually, you highlighted some of the ways that people are able to recall or kind of consider a brand. And I thought that was a really good point. Because as a marketer, it’s funny I I’m easily marketed to, you know, it’s like I almost I know all the tricks in the book. And yet I’m still the person who it fascinates me. I’ll be on a site and I’ll be shopping and then you know the retargeting ads come and I know that I could just go directly to the shop, but I might click the ad or you’re in your inbox and you know, you have 1000s and 1000s of emails that come in, but this person had an interesting subject line, let me click it and I start to analyze. Why did I click that? Why did I resonate with that? Or when I’m in conversation, why does that brand or that business come up? And so it is a very fascinating rabbit hole to go in sometimes because I don’t know if there’s always an attribution to it because like you highlighted it’s it’s that it’s kind of like at a human level what is like tugging at you. And so being able to kind of not just build like, okay, I want to be this type of cannabis brand, but really, who is my consumer, who’s my customer going to be and what are the other areas in their life that they’re inspired or motivated by Or triggered by? And how does my brand overlap or empower or question or challenge those other areas and that individuals life to ultimately build brand loyalty because that I think is where brands then can become long term. It’s not just oh, I shopped at this dispensary today, it was convenient, which to me is the funny part. as a marketer with a brick and mortar store, I find so much value in being able to ask customers when they come in, you know, thanks for shopping with us. How did you hear about us and I documented in our POS. And despite all the other marketing efforts I do, most people highlight, I googled you and you were the closest CBD dispensary to me. I as a marketer always loved to follow up and say, Well, how lucky for you that you came to one of the top rated CBD shops in Central Texas where you know, women owns this drone. Maybe you didn’t know this about our brand. But you came here because we maybe had high ratings or Google led you to so you like the way my website looked. But they’re not obviously telling me Hey, actually, it wasn’t just that you were high rated on Google, it’s Oh, I read this review by this customer. And that’s what really persuaded me, or I googled and you were near me, but it’s because I also drive down the road that your dispensary is on and I see your big sign every day, in the back of my mind, I’m able to recall some sort of connection, right? And so I think that for me, as a marketer is the fun and the challenge of it all, because it’s okay, you came to me because of X, Y, or Z, maybe it’s not what I was anticipating you coming to me for. But now how can I go empower you to make sure that you know a little bit more about us, you had a good experience, you enjoy your products, that feedback loop of being able to, you know, keep them entertained, keep them educated, keep them learning, and then kind of playing the game from there. But it is every day, you know, there’s always something new I feel like as marketers we have to be conscious of and paying attention to. And so I just I appreciated the narrative that you highlighted.

Matthew Herrold  42:07
Thank you. Yeah, you touched on something really interesting, which is, as I’ve learned more about mark, marketing, you you hit a phenomena that I have noticed in myself, which is sometimes I don’t even care about the product, per se, or I might not be interested in them, but not be looking at it. But they totally have targeted me and and then they follow me. And I think what’s going on there, at least this is sometimes what happens for me there’s we all want to feel connection, especially right now. And so even just this little dip program that’s kind of following you one place tonight, you’re saying, Hey, I noticed you’re here now and I just want to pop up for you. It’s almost like oh, well, that was nice. And that that’s a that’s a stroke, right. And in, in some vocabularies, we call that a stroke. And we all need our strokes each day, they’re going to be different for each person. And I think when you’re a marketer, you start to appreciate the the science and art of it. And now you’re like, Okay, so this company has their stuff together, they they found me, and now they’re with me. And now I like that it might have nothing to do with a rational decision to buy or purchase or participate in whenever they want me to. It’s just that they stroked me in the right way. We’re now I like them. And that’s that idea of like, it’s not really data that changes people’s minds or behaviors. It’s ultimately emotion, even data. If we are convinced by data, likely we’re like, satisfied, we’re happy because we does learn something and the data looks good, right? So that’s like, we’re quantifying through something that we say it’s good or bad, which is likely also tied to emotion. And so yeah, when we get followed by those ads, as marketers, it’s easy to kind of be like, oh, okay, I like this company. They’ve got their stuff together.

Shayda Torabi  44:06
And that’s why you and I are very clear marketers, because I’ll share that sentiment with some of my non marketer friends. And they’re like, Shayda, that’s creepy. And I’m like, Yeah, but like, you highlight it. I’m like, wow, that brand did a really good job of meeting me at a moment that I didn’t know that I needed to be met. And now I’m intrigued and I’ve totally engaged and now you know, created brand loyalty to certain brands who have had no association to me, but because of Yes, all the data and the systematic points behind it that led them to displaying their ad in front of me it it obviously resonated, and it made me wanting to share it on a podcast now to talk about it. So it’s obviously working. I was gonna say I want to transition a little bit to you’re in Massachusetts, and for the listeners, I’m sure you’re listening from all over, but I’m obviously in Texas and California has a big cannabis market, Colorado. Washington state or again, but Massachusetts is fairly new. I mean, you highlighted things kind of transitioning right, you know, maybe two years ago right before the pandemic as well. And I just like I haven’t been to Massachusetts, I haven’t read a lot about Massachusetts cannabis law. I’m curious if you can give us kind of like a quick pulse on what is cannabis like in Massachusetts? What is it like to get a license? is vertical integration required? You look at California, they’re so saturated. If someone wanted to create a brand in California, it’s possible. It’s not impossible. But obviously, the opportunity, the saturation is much different. With Massachusetts being open. What is it like for people to get in the industry, I look at New York, just legalizing and they have some good stuff in there. Their law. Obviously, when it comes to taking care of some of the criminal justice, you know, resolution, again, to really paint a picture for the listeners, this is something that’s a passion. And a main focus of my initiatives is just helping y’all understand the dynamic of every state operates differently. And I think people come to me a lot and they’re like, Oh, I’m in this state. And I want to start a cannabis brand. I’m like, you need to check your state’s laws, you need to see what your state is operating. Like, before you really get involved to build a brand. And so I just I don’t know anything about Massachusetts. And rather than going and, you know, googling, we got you here. So I’d love to learn from you directly.

Matthew Herrold  46:29
Sure. Yeah, it’s, it’s still fairly new, you raise a really good point, which is that people get really excited. And they don’t realize that the application process, the licensing process can take years, their thought is, I’m gonna be open in six months, it’s gonna be so much fun. I’m going to be running full speed the whole time, I’m going to be wheeling and dealing, I’m going to be meeting people, and people are going to be excited for me, I’m going to have all this wind. And then really what happens is six months later, they’re like, they show up for their first meeting, maybe with the here’s the cannabis Control Commission. So the CCC, that’s our acronym. And maybe there’s just one little piece out of order. So yeah, well, we’ll try and get you on the docket for next month, and you need to fix this or work with us in the background. Before we we give you that next step. Right. So there’s, there’s multiple steps as well. When I say two years, it is taken some companies more than that. It is taken them redoing their applications. It’s hard to say whether or not that’s completely, always on the CCC, I would say it’s not. I think sometimes people get that feedback, because they didn’t quite do things the way they needed to. And then they take a month to respond. So working with Jason, we had a conversation about that. And he he was really focused on any time they brought something to his attention. 24 hours or less, he was back to them. He also benefit that we are a we just got our certification recently, but we’re always applying as a minority business enterprise. So it’s official, which is great. We’re really excited about that. And also holds us to certain standards that then fits you know, where I want to come from, what I want to look back on at the end of my life. And he was really successful at going through quickly. So I think you know, the advice there is be responsive. Recognize that the CCC is not serving you. It’s a bunch of people were certainly in the beginning, they were really understaffed. And that was the bottleneck. But they’ve grown tremendously here in Massachusetts, they do have the staff. And I think it’s important to not view them as like, oh, their job is to serve me. Well. Yeah, philosophically. But these are also human beings. And they’re taking on something that nobody’s done before. And before everybody wants to complain about the the regulation agencies, it’s like the playbook of like the unfair play is often that a well funded enterprise sends in a lobbyist from an MSO. And they get their first and these people are looking at this like nightmare of a task. I don’t know that much about cannabis. And I have to write regulations on it. Oh, God. And there’s like only 10 of us in here in the beginning. And there’s already like 250 businesses that are like, yo, what’s going on? When can we get started? that’s a that’s a scary place to be. I don’t imagine those people sleep very much. And that’s not going to help the work get done. So a lobbyist shows up and they say, look, this is what you want to do. We have a playbook. We’ve done this in four states. It’s no problem. Just do it our way. Write the regulations this way. resume, like we haven’t we have a history, we have credibility. Look, here’s all our press releases, so you know who we are. And when you’re inundated with this, it’s like these scandals that we hear don’t rise to the surface of somebody who’s working some jobs that may or may not be well paid enough for the work, they’re working 5060 plus hours a week, they still hopefully have a life. And it’s like the greatest challenge they’ve ever taken on. So someone shows up with an olive branch, and kind of like a gift with a bow on it, they’re going to take it. And that’s how we ended up seeing things like forced vertical integration, which ends up being a nightmare. It blocks out anybody that doesn’t have like $15 million cash to dump into getting off the ground. And that’s like bare minimum. Like, I think each dispensary I heard an estimate here messages, you need like 3 million, essentially, roughly, to open a dispensary because you need, you know, payroll, you need inventory, you may need to build a building, you need property or lease at the very least. And if you’re paying a lease for two years, it’s a lot of money gone. And you also have to get all of your employees background checks, you know, at least a month in advance. But you’re going to need to do that for several dozen people. So you need to get people approved by the CCC to work in your company. And sometimes it requires you to also start paying people before you even know whether or not or when you’re going to open. We started with vertical integration and medical and I think it was likely the gentle sort of the the the white glove service that helped make that happen. It was the simplest for the regulating body, the CCC to do. And we did not wait long to legalize adult consumption retail. And so that actually came. Gosh, I don’t know the exact dates for anybody who’s fact checking, but I think it was, you know, it wasn’t much more than a year or even less than a year apart. That’s really different from from other places. And so we saw that happen. There was a huge bottleneck of applications. So again, not having enough people to go through them. And what’s nice is first vertical integration did not make its way into adult consumption. We do have home grow here, Massachusetts, which is really nice. One thing that is not allowed on the adult consumption side are discounts which was really different changing my mindset when I worked with perfect blends in California. I was like, okay, so we can do discounts because that makes this whole job a lot easier. When you can discount things just to get them in the door if your products really good, right? That can be really helpful. Packaging here, there was a recent law change every piece of packaging needs to be childproof. It’s not one layer of childproof. So for instance, if you’re doing something that has multiple layers, you’re going to need to make sure that each layer of the packaging potentially is childproof, which if you start thinking about boxes, and and stuff like that, if you have say like a container, and then a box and and we need all of these pieces to be childproof, it starts to change from a marketing branding standpoint, because we’re often you know, I work closely with operations, that we are figuring this out for good feels right now. And it changes what I can do. Because for me, we go back to that visual side that you talked about in the beginning. I want to look pretty, I want someone to look at that thing and be like, Wow, that looks great. I want to try that. And I just want to look at it, I want to do both. If I can do that for somebody, buy one, if they want to hold it, look at it, try it. That’s what I want to do. However, we’re also really limited because there aren’t a lot of packaging options that are childproof, that aren’t cost prohibitive, right, it doesn’t work if someone feels all those things and they pick it up and they go Yeah, that’s gonna be X number of dollars and they drop it like oh my god, get that out of my hands. So playing that balance that you know, we need, we need to solve these challenges and regulations can make that really hard. Right? We aren’t, we aren’t requiring the same things on alcohol. Alcohol seems to be tremendously more harmful. Yet we have a much higher restriction. That’s partially because people want to save their own butts, it’s political points, there’s a lot of stigma we’re still going through. The fear is real, whether or not the fear is warranted when we take a more objective stance and understand that, that’s another conversation. But the point is not to invalidate someone’s fear, we just have a long way to go. And right now, some of these regulations are what’s giving us access at all. It’s a compromise, we’re going to keep moving that forward. The other thing is, we’re suffering some of the same problems with regulations. So we have initiatives to help with social equity. And painfully, it’s one of these things where it looks good as a checkmark box, but functionally, it’s it hasn’t been doing great work. We’ve also seen some interesting pushback for some of the bigger companies in Massachusetts, we had one company that when Cambridge, the City of Cambridge, decided to give them a three social equity applicants a three year headstart they sued. That was fun. It goes against actually making progress to heal our communities that were unfairly targeted from the war on drugs. It does not help entrepreneurs from economically impacted areas to strive for a dream. And then you look at things like force vertical integration or not. capital is a problem having enough money to start the business. So when we don’t have enough money, as well as like, how do you actually run the business? That’s a real problem. And I don’t think there’s enough collaboration or resources available. However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel, which is our new mayor is the first female and black Mayor ever in Boston. And I think she just dedicated a a allowance, some program that they’re going to launch. I think it’s like $675,000, in the next few years, to actually, I think, provide some sort of like guidance and coaching to that. So despite all the challenges that I just talked about, I think there are also a lot of signs of hope. There’s a lot of light going around. We just need to focus on that and make sure that that gets its due attention. And I think all of us that pay the most attention to the industry can do each other a favor by making sure we keep the conversation alive of what doesn’t smell right and pointing people in the right direction to support the businesses that are truly doing something special.

Shayda Torabi  57:48
Well, I feel like I learned a lot about cannabis in Massachusetts, on top of getting a good pulse from Matthew on how he views branding, especially as a brand marketer myself, I’m always trying to learn from others, especially as we evolve our understanding of not only marketing, but of how do you market cannabis. And I think getting a good understanding of what your local operational law is, is really key because it’s obviously something that you’re going to have to work against as you brand and market your business. And so, again, thank you, Matthew, for just sharing your knowledge and your time with us. It was good to learn from you and just to resonate with someone who has a very similar passion and background and approach to marketing as I do. So thank you for tuning in to another episode y’all. I appreciate all the listens all the likes, all the subscribes all the love all the share, and we’ll continue to put this podcast together. You can catch us every Monday with a new episode. So until then, I am signing off and I will see you guys later. Bye y’all. Love this

Announcer  58:59
episode of To be blunt. Be sure to visit the Shayda slash to be blind for more ways to connect new episodes come out on Mondays. And for more behind the scenes follow along on Instagram at the Shayda Torabi

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