Cannabis Brand Partnerships, Why Budtenders Are Important & Return of Summer Events

February 25, 2021

Ganja & Grigio is a weekly series brought to you and hosted by bu'kei agency. It's a show where a multicultural team of talented women with various skillsets & backgrounds discussing all things cannabis - branding, innovation, go-to market strategies, budtender training and so much more.

This week the ladies discuss:

- Lionsgate Cannabis Brand Partnership - "Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar" (1:00)

- Why Budtenders Are Important (9:38)

- Possible Return of Summer Events (22:29)

Taira  0:00  

Well, I want to get us started right on time today. And welcome the room to Ganja and Grigio by Bukei Agency. For those of us joining us for the first time, we are a 360 degree marketing and sales agency curated for the cannabis lifestyle space. And welcome to our clubhouse chat. 

Before we get started, Betty, I just want to say you're in our thoughts and our prayers being that you are Austin, Texas, you're dealing with some treacherous conditions. We just wanted to start off with sending you some love today.

Betty  0:41  

Thank you. My house will be fixed today. And I can be back tomorrow morning. Hi, Julia. Hi, Patrick. By the way, Julia that she works with me at fevo today's her birthday.

Taira  0:51  

Yes, happy birthday, Julie

Jaime  0:53  

birthday, Julia.

Betty  0:57  

Hi, Patrick. Hi, George. 

Taira  1:00  

Um, um, we're gonna hop right into it. So I want to talk to you guys about a dope cannabis partnership that I saw on Ad Week this week. Lionsgate studio partnered with premier cannabis retailer sweet flower for a movie themed a goodie bag for the movie Barb & Star go of Vista Del Mar. The  merchandise included a bite size Italian lemon dessert, THC infused drink, flower, Rolling Papers and a lighter. Each curated kit sold in an unbranded tote for $75 and included a link to watch the film and was sold at the dispensaries in here in LA at four different locations. This is not the first first cannabis movie type partnership that we've seen that you know, recently. But what I want to talk about is how can brands and dispensaries seek authentic partnerships opportunities. Betty, Jamie

Jaime  2:06  

Yeah, I think I think it has to come from both sides. So I think sweet flower like really understands their brand and their consumer. And so and I know from you know how this partnership was executed, they have ties to Hollywood, you know, like quite literally, and in in Alliance Atlantis or Lionsgate rather. And you know it the way this partnership was formed, it was like sought out because they both know the brands. So sweet flower knows who they are and what the opportunity is there. And it was like a perfect, it was a perfect storm with Kristen wigs film because it just works, you know it like integrates. But it all comes down to knowing your audience. That's how you do it. Everybody thinks like, Oh, I want to target weed smokers are, but it's a consumer packaged good. You got to know your audience, right.

Betty  3:09  

And you have to be authentic to your audience. So if you're marketing towards a new audience, or you know, you're launching a brand or anything like that, the people you go out to the people you market with, you have to let them be authentic to their audience, you know, I've worked with Jaime, you can talk to this one as being on the publisher side, when you're working with, with clients, sometimes they want to dictate the entire messaging, they want all of their messaging in there, they want to write the captions, and that will cannibalize that will hurt your marketing campaign in the long run. So you want to wherever you're approaching or you're talking to you, whether it's a publication an influencer, whoever it is, you need to let them be authentic and work with them. And you'll still get your message across. I think that's super important.

Jaime  3:55  

Yeah, but it's about knowing your brand's identity, right? And also knowing who your consumer is. So you know, like you were saying, like, I've been on the other side of like, having to tell a brand like, no, we're not doing a completely sponsored post like no, this cannot be 100% branded. And I know that you paid for it. And I know that's what you want, but our consumers are going to hate that. But the cannabis brands also have to know who their consumers are. And a lot of them don't. And that's the problem but that's why this works so well because you know, clearly sweet flower knows who their customers are. And it was a perfect marriage.

Taira  4:37  

How do you guys overcome that hurdle? I know you met you guys both mentioned it at having to speak with a brand and sound like you No, no, no, no, that's not it. How do you you know? How do you really you know, communicate that with a brand. Sometimes brands think that they know their message. What ways on what steps do you walk through with a brand and saying like, Hey, this is what we believe your target audiences is. This is what we believe your messaging should be centered around.

Betty  5:04  

I mean, I've been lucky to work with clients as my career has progressed, I think part of it is reputation, right? For me, Jaime, you can talk to this a little too is, as I progressed, in my career, I think there's reputation, right. And so people believe what I'm saying, and like I have their best interests at heart, if you don't win, we don't win, right? And so I'm not pushing back, because I want to push back, I'm pushing back, because it's better for everyone. And at the end of the day, we serve as the client, right, when you're dealing with like a media publication, I'm talking about being on the client side, you know, our job is to make sure our clients message gets through, and sometimes the quote and quote sponsored type of marketing, I just know over the years doesn't work, because I know being on the publisher side, and Julia, who's who I can't hear, I know, she'll laugh on this. You know, when you're doing a sponsored like editorial, or even like sponsored videos, and the clients just completely dictating without editorial input. Those never succeed, they never succeed. I've never seen them succeed, because you're taking the voice out of the quote and quote publication or influence or whoever that you're part you're partnering with. The whole reason why you came to them was for them, to talk to their audience about your brand. And Jamie, I thought, Oh, sorry, Bruce Wayne, just call Taira, I had to just like deny him very quickly.

Taira  6:45  

Jamie, being that you're in the Canada market? How are the brand partnership opportunities pitch process a little different?

Jaime  6:53  

Yeah, I mean, in cannabis here, the regulations are so crazy. So the regulations dictate a lot of what the partnerships can do, and how, like how they can be executed on. And, and a lot of, I think only now brands are starting to, like have a rude awakening that they have to understand their target and their audience. Like, I've seen many, many brands who have come to me, and they have no idea who they're speaking to, they don't know what their key messaging is. And they don't really know who their customer is. And, you know, I think the good brands and the brands that are succeeding, are starting to think outside the box of like, you know, how do we how do we develop our tribe? How do we develop our, you know, the people who really fuck with us for and whatever the reason might be, you know, and, and those are the brands that are doing interesting things. So, like, on the high buds club front, like we see, you know, we're working with a couple interesting brands right now, and and when other brands see what they're doing, that's when they want to do it. So it's it's, it's, nobody's willing here to take a risk until somebody else does. And then people start to be interested in it. That's what I'm noticing.

Taira  8:29  

Thanks, Jaime. Betty, any last thoughts on on brand partnerships and cannabis brands? 

Betty  8:36  

No, I think Jamie covered it. I mean, look like I think marketing in general, even if it's cannabis or not cannabis, you gotta, you gotta really hone in on the audio and hone it. Well, there's an echo. Okay, there's not an echo. Okay. Yeah, you just got to really hone in on the audience and get that messaging, right. And each audience you target might have a slightly different message, right? So you'd have to be flexible in that sense.

Jaime  9:03  

But also on our side, like you, you also have to like you also can't be afraid as a creator, or anybody in partnerships to say no to brands, right. Like that's super important to actually telling them like, no, we're not going to do that. Like, I know you're paying for this, but here's why. And sometimes they fight you and then you give usually what I have found happens is you give them something that's slightly too branded, and it fails and it fails every time. Like Betty said,

every time

every time. 

Taira  9:38  

I'm glad that you brought up your club behind bud tenders because we're going to transition into talking about why bud tenders are important. According to BDS analytics, consumers are strongly influenced by familiarity and recommendations. 60% of purchasers look for recommendations from someone they trust with an estimated 50% of consumers looking to family friends for recommendations. And 41% asking budtender for their recommendations. Jaime, could you give some listeners some insights to high buds club? Why and  how you came up with the idea. And you know what you what you do with these great, great people great community in Canada?

Jaime  10:21  

Yeah, so Canada is the first federally legal cannabis market in the world. And it's not the largest, I think the largest legal cannabis market is California. And but, you know, when when cannabis became legal here, what I saw immediately was that the bud tender was everything. So you go back to like, legacy market days or days when you had a dealer and what happened? You call your dealer, and it's like, What's good? What do you have, that's good. And you know, they give you your three options, you pick one, and that you call it a day. And in a market where nobody knows anything, you know, consumers are not speaking in like full sentences, they're just learning the ABCs of cannabis, whatever the bud tender says goes. And so I saw that really early on, and, you know, really, very early on, and I knew that the bud tender was going to be everything, for brands and to market to brands. And so I created a community for them. And so we have a, we're across Canada, you know, over 1000 members at this point. And, and we have created a community for bud tenders, to come and to learn and to talk to each other, and communicate with one another and talk about what's good, what's not good. And, and try some products. That's essentially what high buds club is. And it's really cool, because the bud tender, like they are the true cannaseurs, they are so interested in the most minute details of the plant and are really obsessed with it in a way that I've never seen before. So the community that we've created is really cool, because it's authentic, and it's you know, I really know what the best products on the market always are because they're trying them. So yeah, 

Taira  12:30  

That's super dope, Jaime. So I want to give you a round of applause for that because I can only imagine the trials and tribulations in putting this all together in a new market in a new place. I brought this up because I saw Dunkin Donuts adapted this quote and quote this crew Ambassadors Program where it plays pays employees suppose you know, tick tock posts while on the job. Jaime from your experiences and speaking with bud tenders, how can dispensary upper management support bud tenders in their training in their advancement is sort of in this cannabis industry.

Jaime  13:13  


Betty  13:13  

hello. I was like, Jaime, do you want to take that?

Jaime  13:18  

I don't I don't know. I don't know if my if my connection was good. It just like sort of blanked out there. Um,

Taira. Hello? 

Taira  13:28  


Jaime  13:29  

Okay. Are you okay, great. I didn't know. Um, can you repeat the question? I'm sorry.

Betty  13:34  

I think we were talking about Dunkin Donuts and doughnuts. Yeah, right. Um,

Jaime  13:39  

yeah, it's actually interesting because within cannabis right now in Canada, we're having a huge problem with Instagram, and with Instagram taking down a lot of legal cannabis businesses and accounts. And so dispensary owners are actually encouraging their employees to post on their social channels on behalf of the dispensary's to be able to share content and create content. And and so that's been big in terms of advertising, but I think the original question was around education. And I actually don't believe in bud tender education, which sounds like a very crazy thing to say. And I believe we need to teach bud tenders how to sell and communicate about cannabis products. I don't think we need to educate them on cannabis products. And, and so at, you know, high buds club is definitely working to create programming for them just as a resource. But dispensaries are it's definitely a challenge, figuring out how to sell and communicate about this plant.

Betty  14:49  

Well, you know, it's interesting, you know, Lord Jones, I know for a fact a little bit of their strategy is they look at how Sephora does in store promotions. Right? How the people that work inside Sephora know how to talk about whatever makeup line they're there. You know, whatever section they are in, if I'm in the benefits section, the woman comes up to me and she knows everything about benefit, and she's able to sell me on it. Right? You got it, you got Lord Jones, even they're a CBD like beauty product they had, they just launched happy dance. And they also have cannabis lines in Canada. Their approach, specifically in the U.S. is very much how Sephora takes their internal brand ambassadors and educates the consumers.

Jaime  15:39  

Yeah, it's the same thing, right? Because it's make up, but it's still a consumer packaged good. So like, if you if you understand that, like, you know, the beauty companies need ambassadors in store to sell their product and to communicate the benefits, the specific benefits of that product, and why benefit is better than an Estee Lauder or whoever, you know, whatever the competition is, and, and so it's the same in cannabis. The bud tenders are the beauty advisors,right? It's it's the it's,it's comparable, it's just a different product and a hell of a lot more stigma around it. So 

Betty  16:25  

If they're doing these collaborations like Dunkin Donuts with with whoever, what, the one that stands out in my mind, not cannabis relative. But with Charlie camileo. Right? If you treat those almost like how sneakers, like tree drops, quote, unquote, it's a one off kind of thing, right? Yeah. And you don't necessarily, this is going to get into like nerdy e commerce. So just bear with me Julia's gonna laugh about this, even though I can't hear her. But in the e-commerce world, right, your inventory is all within one platform, the way sneaker drops work, it could be in one inventory, it could be separate, you could use different ecommerce platforms to power your drops, which would mitigate your risk of getting shut down. So if you're gonna do like some sort of collab, cannabis drop, you may not want to tie it into your overall site, you know, on your, in some cases, some people use Magento. And they have a different payment processor and things like that you could do just a separate drop with it, and see how and see how it does without any risk to your overall business.

Jaime  17:33  


Taira  17:34  

Is only advantages of like using micro sites come into play, or

Betty  17:39  

Sometimes, that's why the music business does it. You know, when we would do tours? You know, when we do tours, yeah, that's how we would do it. We do microsites for a tour, Patrick, who's, who's muted to he, and he and I used to work together. So he'll know this, you would build a site for each festival, right? And so in that scenario, wasn't necessarily mitigating risk at that time. But you could send, you know, unique URLs. And what we learned is, even though you had like a brand name festival, like Live Nation as a brand, right, that encompasses 1000s, of promoters, but the individual promoters, well, they have a much easier time to market because they're really targeting their core audience.

Jaime  18:34  

They break up.

Taira  18:35  

No. Before we happen to the next topic, we have we had to stop and acknowledge Mr. Bruce Waynne, because not only he called you interrupt you, he called me also interrupted me. And it's funny that he decided he wanted to hop on clubhouse, Bruce where you at. 

Betty  18:54  

Hi, Bruce.

Bruce  18:58  

I didn't know you guys were going to blow me up. I just wanted to support, that's it. 

I appreciate you guys too. Hey Betty are you okay? I know, Austin.

Betty  19:15  

Yeah. I'm good. I'll be in my house tomorrow. So you know, like, I tell people this and I know it's part of the show, but like, it's, you know, I'm blessed to be able to stay in a hotel, and I'll give a real shout out to Ari Day. He is the CEO of FEVO. And when this all went down, the weather went down. He was the first phone call to me. He was like, get your kids out of your house. I'll pay for the hotel. And it was probably the one of the most generous kindest of things to do you know, because if you're not in the city, you have no idea what's going on. It's your perspective and he he called me and he he was like get your kids out and like being a single parent is hard. You know that as a single parent to you. So getting my kids out rushing to the hotel, having having like the bare necessities just like water and power, it was amazing. And that by him doing that it relieves so much stress, I was able to, like, just keep working. So it was, I feel very lucky and very blessed to be able to, you know, work for a company and like FEVO. Have my own agency like, bu'kei. You know, everyone's able to have a side hustle, like, and just being on this particular platform, it's like, all of you guys, man, I lucked out. So that's all I can say.

Bruce  19:44  

We love you too!

Betty  20:22  

You know, sometimes it's perspective, though, you know, I got a lot of friends with no power, no water, right? And no, like, and everyone's just trying to help each other out here. You're in Austin, right? And so that, you know, there's just so much like negativity in the media and things like that. But, if you see how people are actually bearing down in the city, and like working together, figuring out it's actually really beautiful.

Bruce  21:04  

Yeah, and, you know, that's the power of these platforms, right, where you get to see what's really going on not with the media or, like, you know, the, the major media is putting out there, you know what I mean? So, 

Betty  21:15  


Bruce  21:15  

So, so, like, we're glad you're safe, and I was just hitting, like was just hitting you up, just make sure you was okay. I don't know why I just, you know, Texas being cold is just it just took a long time to register. Oh, shit, I gotta call Betty I'm just checking up on people and stuff like that. And then I've also wanted to check out check out check out this room because you guys are just so knowledgeable and, and you know, I just learned I learned something from you guys all the time. Just in general conversations. I just wanted to get the experience of just being a fly on the wall too you know.

Betty  21:58  

Thank you.

Bruce  21:59  

So you know, but you know, I didn't expect for y'all to shout me out and stuff like that.

Betty  22:05  

I call out Julia and Patrick. I've called them all too. But now apart everyone kind of testing what clubhouse is like, if you're in the audience and we can't hear you we will have to bring you up. So

Bruce  22:16  

okay, cool. Definitely man. Congratulations with everything like yo this is I think this is gonna grow into something big and you know, in any way that I can help us support just let me know guys.

Betty  22:27  

Thank you.

Taira  22:29  

Alright guys, before we round out our last topic today, the return of summer events. Weather and what not is starting to get nice, states like Texas and Florida are open. Atlanta is due to the host the NBA All Star game but the mayor is asking people not to come to the city of the party. Las Vegas is expected to be fully operational starting May 1. Betty, you this is your wheelhouse? How should brands strategize and approach planning in person events in the summer, in the Fall? You let us know. 

Betty  23:03  

Sports is definitely coming back. You know, sports is coming back. MLB is right on schedule. Spring Training is happening. I can tell you probably NBA in the Fall not not so much up front. But like they're also letting fans in. I think tonight 300 people at Madison Square Garden. I know that sounds like such a small number. But it shows that there's progress and movement. NFL to be honest with you, I think we'll be fine. I think sports in general will be fine. It'll tear on capacity. California being the last to come back. But you know, rumor mill in the music world, like your small clubs will kind of slowly come back, Vegas has announced Pool Party dates. You'll see the big one is going to be festivals that that's a tough one. I think everyone knows Coachella is going to cancel. They haven't officially announced it because they have to move talent around. I think late July, August. If the festival pops up, you know, it'll be a good thing on the music side.

Large scale festivals. That's going to be tough, you know, maybe Lollapalooza comes back I'd like it'll look different, different capacity. It'll look different, but I think things will start to come back sports is definitely the first wave to come back. You know, if people know who my friends who know me very well, like I am. I wouldn't say I'm not a pessimist but I'm kind of in the middle of optimism and pessimism. But you can see the movement in sports moving forward even if it sounds really small. You kind of see it. But those in California, California is going to come back last. Sorry, Taira. 

Taira  24:51  

I mean, listen, you know what I prefer to be. But can we can we plan?  Can can brands Start thinking about smaller, intimate events. Maybe, you know, before we were talking about doing larger venues and things of this sort, but maybe you're doing private garden things, things that are maybe 10 to 15 people 12 or even where you're, you're breaking it down where your capacity is for a party or things of that sort. How can brands kind of navigate moving forward for the rest of the year? 

Betty  25:24  

Like, I think so. I mean, Jaime, you've been talking to this, but I think so in the summer, especially the summer, right? I think so. 

Jaime  25:33  

People are itching out to get into their out of their homes. And I think as long as brands are, like responsible, and really like, take proper measures, like people will show up and they should be activating like, people want like to go back to normal. Yeah, period. 

Betty  25:50  

That's the key, though. If you're a brand, and you're gonna do an event, you're planning for late summer, you're planning for summer late, like summer, then you need to be responsible and follow all the rules, people will look for that.

Jaime  26:02  

Yes, yes, you need to be responsible. You need to follow the rules, you need to do all of that stuff. You need to be cognizant that there's still a pandemic going on. But I mean, lots of people will be vaccinated by then, you know, like,

things are gonna change. And I, I just like, I don't know, I'm so locked down. I've been locked down for a year. So what do I know? I know nothing. Now.

Betty  26:26  

You're in Canada. But yeah, Ithink like, if you're if you're a betting person, like look, sports is a great bet. Yeah,

Jaime  26:34  

it's opening.

Betty  26:35  

Yeah, sports is a great bet. I would say that for sure. Followed by small scale music. And then you know, like, like, there's with risk. There could be reward too. So if your look like no one's gonna tell you publicly which ones are actually going to be a go. I, myself am betting on Lollapalooza. Right. Like you have a great team at C3 , you have great bookers over there, because you have an overall great team who's very health conscious their. Their health and safety team is amazing. So yeah, if I'm a betting person I'm definitely doing I'm betting on Lala coming back. You know, it's a 50/50 chance, though.

Taira  27:26  

You just mentioned health and safety, Betty. That is, I think, something new for cannabis brands to think of outside of their facilities outside of, you know, manufacturing and things of that, how do people go about looking for those types of resources, and bringing those types of teams on board?

Betty  27:45  

I mean, look, if you have like us, I'm not saying this isn't a plug for us. But like when you work and Patrick knows this one is when you work with large scale shows, they have an in house, health and safety team. There's a couple there's quite a bit of companies too out there that specialize and health and safety for your events. So you definitely if you have the means you bring on a team like that, who are experts in that right? And they'll make sure they're there's there's a couple there's a few good people out there that heavily specialized in this field.

Taira  28:23  

So research, research and research. And of course the ladies, the ladies era bu'kei Agency are your resource and your research team. And finally, those agencies and we can help you with that. Ladies, thank you for another great episode of Ganja and Grigio. I had no ganja or grigio this week. I mean tonight. I think trying to trek through all these other projects and be ready for our next meeting tonight. I want to open up the forum, just real quick for any questions anyone may may have on any of the topics that we discuss tonight. If you want to raise your hand. No takers, no takers. This episode we recorded you can follow us on our social media, bu'kei as bu-KEI Agency on all social media platforms. And we'll be back next week at the same time next month is women's month we're gonna be talking all kinds of content with women, marketing to women, engaging with women on your content and social media platforms. I know women in cannabis is a hot demographic. So I look forward to talking with all you lovely ladies again on that.

Jaime  29:39  

Thank you, Taira.

Taira  29:40  

Alright everyone, have a good night.

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