Angela Pih cites herself as a "data-led marketer." With decades of experience in the cannabis, retail and consumer packaged goods space, Pih has helped accelerate brands to the next level.
Pih previously served as the chief marketing officer for California-based cannabis companies Papa & Barkley and CannaCraft. Most recently, she was named the vice president of marketing for Harborside, a California-based vertically integrated cannabis company with 16 retail locations and eight brands.
In this Q&A, Pih provides her top insights into how businesses can implement marketing trends and use them to boost their bottom line.
Editor's note: Angela Pih will speak at Cannabis Conference from 1:30 p.m. to 2:20 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 24 on the "How to Use Today's Marketing Trends To Boost Your Bottom Line" session alongside LOWD Founder Jesce Horton. In this session, experts will provide their top lessons learned, share regulatory considerations and explain how to evaluate the success of any marketing campaign. Visit www.CannabisConference.com for more information and to register.
Andriana Ruscitto: What are some of the best strategies businesses can implement to stay on top of marketing trends?
Angela Pih: Embrace data and technology to develop your strategies. I'm a data-led marketer so, whether it's Headset, BDSA or Pistil, look for trends and insight in your numbers. And then second to that, being a technology-first type of marketer. Technology is available within our industry, but not often are all of those types of technologies and data insights brought together as you're looking at proper channel marketing. I think many brands either don't have the marketing resources or the financial resources to be able to bring all of those tools together. Marketing, as everybody knows, is not just beautiful packaging. I think sometimes it gets relegated to beautiful packaging and maybe a great event here and there. Lean hard into budtender education and define a tiered retail strategy to optimize your marketing spend.
AR: You mention 'technology first' type of marketing; can you explain that a little more?
AP: [It can be] simple foundational tools, like having a proper CRM [customer relationship management] system. Bringing in HubSpot for CRM, so to speak, [is] an example. … Also using programmatic, Google AdWords or Google keywords, Google tags. Those are all lead gen tools. Also, working through your customer segment funnels, so all this technology exists.
AR: What should business owners consider when deciding whether or not to jump on a marketing trend?
AP: Well, I always start with the customer. Look at who's buying what, how often and where the opportunities are. Are you a category leader looking to expand your total addressable market? Or are you a top five [company] that's looking into moving up the ranks by developing more loyal relationships with your existing consumers? So, it really goes back to understanding who your customers are. What are their needs? What are their unmet needs? And how can you deepen those relationships so that they continue to grow with you?
AR: What are some tips for business owners to successfully incorporate a marketing trend?
AP: Let's look at the segment of infused beverages within cannabis. So, a little over a year and a half ago, we were really noticing that women [were] driving the sales of beverages across every demographic. Regardless of age group, women were outpacing men with infused beverages. While I was at CannaCraft, we actually created a brand called Gem + Jane that specifically targeted women and was formulated to satisfy a female palate. We also built an all-women team for that initiative. So, [it was about] seeing the market opportunity based on data and then going into product innovation and product development for a brand and line of products that met her needs.
Then, when you look at the tactics, you think, 'OK, I know who I'm speaking to. I know that we need to activate key trends with tastemaker retailers. What do I have within our arsenal to make this a successful launch?' So, the marketing tactics with that surrounded selecting tastemaker dispensaries as our launch dispensaries and creating content that felt very much in line with consumer behavior, like cocktail recipes for drinking Gem + Jane, occasions for drinking Gem + Jane, [and] having certain events that introduced Gem + Jane to that audience. Also, [we made] sure [our] social strategy and content strategy lined up to be able to target and meet her needs.
AR: What legal aspects should marketers consider while working on a campaign?
AP: Making claims. There are huge restrictions around making claims and efficacy. So, if you're looking at a wellness product and a wellness brand, you can't say a lot of things. [For example,] you can't say it eliminates pain, or it cures anything. So, anything that's a hard claim, is a no-no.
Second is it's such a highly regulated market. ... Regulation-wise, [it’s] just the importance of being compliant and transparent. So, if you're speaking to your COAs [certificates of analysis], the origin, how clean your product is, and providing that level of transparency from seed to shelf are important points. When you're building credibility for such a nascent industry, you want to be as transparent as possible because you are building trust. [Consumers] want to know that when they go back to your dispensary and pick up [their] second or third box of x, y, z, it's going be consistent and give them the same effect as they had the first time. ... That's what is going to build that level of consumer confidence.
AR: What are your top tips for evaluating the success of a marketing campaign?
AP: From a brand side, you need to hit on a number of goals. Are you building your relationship with your dispensary? Are you of value to the dispensary who's going to be stocking your products and your brands? Are you educating their budtenders who influence the purchase? Are you creating loyalty for your end consumer? Whether it's with a flower, pre-roll, vape or wellness product, does the consumer feel that they are getting something out of that purchase? Do they feel an affinity for your brand so that there's a preference for it? If you're doing a programmatic type of buy, have you driven traffic to that store? Are you moving cases? This is a basic level of marketing activity that supports sales and brand building.
AR: What is pivoting? When should businesses pivot, and how can they pivot effectively?
AP: That's a huge question because there are so many reasons to pivot. Are you pivoting because the market has changed? Are you pivoting because regulation has changed? Are you pivoting because you have different resource constraints? So, it's really hard to answer when your business should pivot. I would say look at the reasons that impact the question of, 'Should we be pivoting?' There's a constant need to adjust in this industry because cannabis moves quickly. So, that level of flexibility and being agile is so important for all of us. … The ability to adjust along the way [is important], but if you continue to constantly pivot, that's not going to help you in the long run either. I think balancing that agility with your eye on your end goal.
AR: What do you hope attendees will bring back to their businesses from your session at Cannabis Conference?
AP: Something that sparks ideas [or sparks] an ideation process that they can bring back to their teams. We as marketers, I would say, are instigators of ideas and of new concepts. … If the session sparks some ideation within their organization across their teams so that they develop, or create something, or do something different, I think it would be really successful.
AR: Is there anything I missed that you think would be beneficial to add?
AP: Yeah. Bring lots of questions to the panel. I think it's great when we're addressing questions on the floor, during the session, and it's not just us speaking and presenting. I would love to see people come to the session with live questions.
Editor's Note: This interview has been lightly edited for style, length and clarity.