Running a digital marketing campaign is complex enough. What if you added a constantly shifting, multi-tiered regulatory environment?
Welcome to marketing a cannabis brand, where success depends on hard work, good counsel and clever use of technology.
Jeremy Agers, director of demand generation at MyRemede, is making it work. His startup CBD brand partnered with ad-tech firm Centro to grow its presence. Tyler Kelly, president of Centro, spoke alongside Agers at Adweek’s Elevate: Cannabis and CBD event Wednesday. (You can watch their discussion in the video below.)
The partnership with Centro stemmed from MyRemede’s needs as a fledgling company. “Centro was a solution out of the box. … I said, ‘Hey, I’d hitch our brand to that wagon, and let them pull us into this soft launch posture,’” Agers said.
Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill—which removed less-potent cannabis derivatives from the federal definition of marijuana—CBD has enjoyed far gentler regulatory treatment than traditional THC-heavy cannabis products. But a “Wild West” compliance environment remains one of MyRemede’s main challenges. “Legal counsel is your friend,” Agers said. “As a brand marketer, you want to push, push, push. But it was a blessing to have legal counsel to direct you.
“The worst thing for you [would be] to get smacked with some kind of fine or cease-and-desist for any of your marketing platforms,” he added.
To ensure compliance, Centro’s Kelly pointed to partnerships as one potential loose end: “Make sure that you vet your partners, make sure they have counsel, make sure they are looking at this on a daily, weekly basis. They need to have the resources to handle this.”
For Agers, the biggest advantage of a digital-first marketing approach is its flexibility—a crucial asset in responding to the changing whims of legislation.
That, however, proved far from straightforward. In lieu of a standardized set of benchmarks, MyRemede had to develop new measurement tools.
The team initially decided to focus on sales, which came as counterintuitive for Agers. “As a brand marketer, you talk about brand equity and investing in a brand that is aspirational, that people have an affinity for.” But Agers knew leadership wanted to see some upfront returns on investment. The balance of those two considerations—brand equity and quick returns—led his team to try sales as a performance metric.
Centro suggested other metrics, ones oriented toward brand-building like clickthrough rates and impressions, might be more useful. Sales were important, but this was still about establishing a brand. So right in the middle of their ad campaign, MyRemede pivoted.
Such agility has allowed MyRemede to stay resilient as it waits through pandemic-driven headwinds, eyeing a hard launch sometime in the future. When the time comes, Agers hopes the firm’s “seed to sale” (i.e. vertically integrated) supply chain will help differentiate its product in terms of both quality and price. Time will tell whether Agers is right—or just blowing smoke.