‘A combination of education and building trust’
As a marketer for MillerCoors, Greg Butler became interested in cannabis—whether it would become a competitive threat or be used on different occasions than alcohol. In 2018, Butler joined Minimal, an agency that was handling marketing and design for Cresco Labs, which was just starting as an integrated cannabis supplier. Butler focused on the medicinal market in Illinois and prepared for recreational sales, which became legal this year. The firm serves medicinal or recreational markets in nine states. Butler joined publicly traded Cresco Labs full time this year as chief commercial officer.
CRAIN’S: What moved you to work in the cannabis field?
BUTLER: I was fascinated by how cannabis provided relief to so many different people in different ways and how the stigmas of the past were causing misinformation and distrust. Many associate cannabis with just escapism, which is a part of its use, but there are so many others that rely on it to help live a better life—an alternative to opioids for chronic pain, a more natural aid to sleep or to help deal with anxiety.
Is marketing cannabis a B2B or B2C exercise, or both? How do you reach both types of customers?
Very much both. For consumers, building brands is a combination of education and building trust. However, dispensaries are at the tip of the spear for not only providing access to cannabis, but for influencing how brands are selected by consumers. They provide education on benefits and the forms that their customers are looking for. We must work to earn and build their business through consistent inventory availability and reliable deliveries.
What media/channels are most effective and what type of campaigns?
Whether you are experienced with cannabis, education is the most effective communication. For those who are more familiar with cannabis, we concentrate our education on what makes our brands special and different. Some of our brands focus on the medical-use consumer, like Remedi. We direct our education to how cannabis can be used as an alternative to help with pain and sleep. Older consumers are driving disproportionate growth of the cannabis market and finding a more natural solution for pain and sleep. Wonder Wellness brand will focus on lower-dose, fun-to-use forms that help new and less-frequent consumers enjoy cannabis. The Cresco brand is for the experienced consumer.
Is it more mass, or targeted?
Given the current media restrictions on cannabis, national media buys are not possible. Regional and local buys are available including print, radio, out-of-home, direct mail and local digital media. Social media and support from key influencers throughout our communities present opportunities.
Are the approaches similar to traditional CPG, or more different? How so?
Cannabis can build itself by embracing modern marketing. It is not tethered to metrics and frameworks from the past. At its core, building brands in cannabis requires understanding that the audience for your brand is not by segment, but rather by people who will consume on certain occasions with specific needs. We’re building brands that are distinctive and expressed through experiences. We’re building content around brands that can move hearts and not just minds, that leverages data to ensure there is quality messaging in real time and not just a quantity of messages based on an algorithm.