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Educating Investors, Consumers Alike: NorCal's CMO Talks Cannabis Marketing

Natan Ponieman

NorCal, a vertically integrated cannabis company focused on the California market, announced the release of a new corporate brand campaign Oct.16 that spans print, digital and outdoor media.

The campaign has  multiple angles, jumping from educational content to hard branding, and aims to position NorCal as a leader in the California market to both consumers and potential investors.

Benzinga joined in conversation with Joel Lunenfeld, who joined the company as chief marketing officer in Feburary after a long run as global brand strategy vice president at Twitter Inc (NYSE: TWTR). 

The brand campaign was motivated by a recent waves of doubt and disappointment from investors who are not seeing cannabis companies perform as they expected when the “Green Rush” began, the CMO told Benzinga. 

What Should Cannabis Marketing Look Like Today?

Marketing is about educating consumers about the benefits of cannabis as much as it is about educating investors and partners about the market, Lunenfeld said. 

Considering the limitations cannabis companies face today when trying to reach mainstream audiences, we asked the CMO what objectives a brand should aspire to when developing a marketing campaign. 

On one hand, NorCal's new campaign is a B2B effort that targets capital markets, partners and new investors, he said. 

“It’s a message around NorCal’s B2B presence. That’s why the call to action is to download our white paper, learn more about the consumer and more about our company.”

In a recent report, “Five Myths of Today’s California Cannabis Consumer,” NorCal shares the company's insights on the cannabis consumer market in the Golden State.

The company has been able to reach media outlets in the cannabis space as well as broader publications like The New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle, he said. 

“On the B2C side I think the value of advertising is very different,” Lunenfeld said.

“B2C is more about building community and building awareness of the brand through adjacent categories like music and skateboarding. It’s more about getting into the cultural conversation and of course educating consumers, mainly at point of sale.”

Photo courtesy of NorCal Cannabis.

Measuring ROI 

On the B2B side, NorCal is expecting a clear measurement of their return of investment though traffic to their site, downloads of their white paper and the arrival of new partners and M&A opportunities, Lunenfeld said. 

On the B2C side, measurement is harder, since the digital outlets that often provide analytics, such as social media platforms, aren't an option for cannabis companies. 

To overcome these difficulties, NorCal had to get creative and find alternative ways to reach mainstream audiences such as working with artists, musicians and influencers, the CMO said.

This makes the consumer ROI harder to measure at the point of sale, he said. 

No Cannabis Advertising On Social Just Yet

Lunenfeld comes from the world of social media — and he doesn't expect the big tech giants to allow paid cannabis advertising until the substance is federally legal. 

"Ironically, they have [ad] targeting available in paid format, to allow to target by age and by location, which is what cannabis advertisers need," he said. 

Screenshot courtesy of NorCal.

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