Hit List: Emerging Cannabis Brands Lighting Up Marketing Spend in 2019

Hit List: Emerging Cannabis Brands Lighting Up Marketing Spend in 2019
Updated: May 24th, 2019

Predicted to reach $22 billion by 2020, the cannabis industry is booming with potential media and marketing revenue opportunities.

As the industry grows, so do the opportunities for those who can help the evergrowing number of emerging cannabis brands overcome a number of hurdles, including regulatory ones, and those of perception. And though federal legalization is still far off, now is the time to be creating relationships before the market becomes over saturated. 

Currently, marijuana has been legalized across 32 states. Recreational use is legal in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, Alaska, Michigan, Vermont, Massatusates and Maine. Medical use is legal in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, North Dakoda, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Louisianna, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.

When seeking marketing opportunities with cannabis brands, keep in mind that there are currently four federal bans on cannabis marketing, enshrined in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Your best bet is to consult each state’s regulations and get creative with your pitches!

To help you get a head start, we’ve hand-selected a list of cannabis brands who have are looking to grow their brand marketing in the near future.  

1. Cura

Following CEO shifts, Cura, one of the largest cannabis brands in the world, tapped new CMO Jason White, effective February, to drive awareness for the Select Oil and Select CBD brands.

Cura seeks to become the leading provider of cannabis oil in the legal US and international markets, and since it got started early in 2015, the company has already attracted $125 million in capital. In the past year alone, the company has tripled its revenue and raised $75 million in funding.

With increasing difficulty in national marketing for cannabis products, Cura has not yet established a top spending period but agencies and martechs are encouraged to reach out as soon as possible to secure revenue. The company primarily invests in social media and experiential with target audiences largely consisting of millennials and Gen-X.

Cura currently serves markets in Oregon, Nevada, California, and Arizona so local sellers will have the advantage. However, local sellers in other areas where cannabis is legal should keep an eye out as the brand has plans to expand.

2. Honeydrop Beverages

A cold-pressed raw honey lemonade company, Honeydrop Beverages launched a new line of CBD lemonades in December to capitalize on the growing cannabis industry.

In order to better market the new line, the company has promoted Andrew Lorig to the newly-created CMO position and Mareill Kiernan to SVP of sales & marketing. With these promotions, it is expected that Honeydrop Beverages will be seeking outside agency help to catapult the brand’s growth.

Agency and martech readers with beverage experience are highly encouraged to reach out. We suggest focusing pitches on what differentiates Honeydrop from other ready-to-drink beverages.

Though the brand primarily relies on social media and it is expected to remain at the forefront of the company’s spend, it is also expected that Honeydrop breaks into more traditional digital formats.

3. Hill Street Beverages

Hill Street Beverages specializes in alcohol-free beers and wines and non-alcoholic cannabis-infused drinks. The brand believes in supporting those who want to live healthier lives, suffer from conditions that conflict with alcohol consumption, or simply don’t want to partake in drinking. To pioneer this mission, Hill Street hired its first CMO, David Pullara in April 2018.

Having just completed its first marketing campaign led by Pullar, the brand is truly defining itself as a leader in the growing cannabis space. Pullara explains most brands focus on cannabis’ THC euphoria-including nature, but forget about its medical properties. “Rather than take a pill, because you have chronic headaches, for example, you could potentially enjoy a glass of [alcohol-free and cannabis-infused] wine and achieve the same effect,” he said. Cannabis-infused product launches will also be underway as soon as the government allows.

Hill Street hasn’t allocated any budget towards national TV or digital display, but it’s possible that will change up as Pullara reviews spend. With this brand still emerging, we encourage sellers to keep this brand on their radar for potential future opportunities. 

4. Henry’s Original

LA-based Cannabis farmer Henry’s Original is currently seeking a head of marketing. The new hire will oversee brand marketing activities across social and content, packaging, experiential, PR and dispensary marketing. The company has previously partnered with One Tree Planted.

With products only being available in California, the brand has yet to allocate spend on TV or digital advertising. As marijuana laws continue to pass across the US, there could be more opportunity here down-the-line, but for the time being, we encourage California sellers and agencies to keep this company on your radar.

The new marketing head will likely review budget, relationships and strategy so get your pitches prepared and begin establishing relationships with Henry’s team members to remain top-of-mind should ad revenue become available later this year. It’s expected that those who can provide high ROI across digital and earned efforts will have the advantage.

5. Hound Labs

Oakland, CA-based maker of the first breathalyzer for cannabis, Hound Labs, has named Todd Grantham as its new CMO.

An outside CMO hire is the number one indicator that an agency review is on the horizon so B2B agencies should begin reaching out and preparing their pitches. Additional opportunities are possible after Hound secured $8.1 million in a Series B round last year. That combined with Grantham’s onboarding indicates that the brand is ready to take marketing to the next level.

Sellers should also begin reaching out to secure campaign dollars targeting law enforcement and employers, the two first target audiences for Hound.

6. Cannabis One Holdings

In an attempt to become the “House of Brands” for cannabis, Cannabis One Holdings is on an acquisition spree. It acquired LV 3480 Partners and Agro Finance for $27 million, bought certain assets from Honu Enterprises for $10.3 million, purchased a majority stake in a pot dispensary currently owned by Liht Cannabis Corp for $350,000, and acquired certain assets from Fat Face Farms.  

The purpose of these acquisitions is to strengthen Cannabis One’s presence in Washington, Nevada, California, and Denver. This wave of acquisitions will most likely be followed by more in Canada and other states where marijuana is legal. The plan for states of expansion throughout 2019 and 2020 can be viewed here.

In order to support this rapid growth, Cannabis One bolstered its leadership team and once the acquisition of Evergreen Organix closes, president Jerry Velarde will become Cannabis One’s new CMO. Jaan Tonisson was also hired as product manager, effective March.

These new hires are likely to review agency relationships within the next 9-12 months. Keep in mind the company works with a data-driven focus, using social media and digital as its biggest channels. Spend is expected to increase with more expansion, and when pitching incorporate ways to stand out from competitors MedMen, Acreage Holdings, and Tilray.

7. Halo Labs

Q1 was a success for cannabis company Halo Labs with a reported 302% revenue increase from $2.2 million to $8.7 million. The company operates in Oregon, Nevada, and California with the majority of its growth stemming from the California market.

On the mission to expand even further, their growth consists of seven goals:

  1. Halo will build a second California location to increase production for the state and to allow direct delivery to dispensaries.
  2. Halo will expand distribution of its Gilt and Hush brands with partners in Central and Northern California. (It used a targeted launch strategy in Southern California with distribution partner C4 Distro.)
  3. Halo will increase Nevada distribution with additional sales force members and facility expansion.
  4. Halo will continue to manufacture and sell high margin products like DabTabs, which launched in January.
  5. Halo will improve its Oregon business with new products, including premium clear concentrates.
  6. Halo will work towards international expansion, notably through its partnership with Lesotho based cannabis company, Bophelo Bioscience and Wellness.
  7. Halo will build a hemp processing facility in Southern Oregon, with production slated to start in Q3.

To support these goals, we will see an increase in spend and sellers are encouraged to reach out for revenue. There is no top spending period since new products are constantly being launched. Pitches should focus on building awareness through earned media and social media channels.

Agency and martech readers with cannabis experience will have an advantage in securing creative, media and digital work. Focus pitches on helping Halo Labs with growth plans and standing out from its extensive number of competitors.

8. MA’s Cannabis Control Commission

The Cannabis Control Commission recently issued an RFP. The agency seeks a vendor under statewide contract PRF60 to conduct an assessment of its ability to provide media training, crisis communications risks, and develop crisis communication planning tools, including action steps and case studies.

The scope of the work will include working in collaboration with the agency’s commissioners, communications staff, and other key staff in order to determine how to improve crisis communications risks. The vendor will also provide suggestions on how to enhance these operations, including the development of a strategic communications plan.

The due date for the RFP is May 27th, and the main contact for the opportunity can be reached at adriana.campos@mass.gov.

9.  Nature’s Medicines 

Non-profit medical marijuana dispensary, Nature’s Medicines, is looking for its first CMO in an effort to expand. The CMO will focus on creating processes for localized retail, inventory, and duplicatable programs.

CMO hires are the number one signal and agency review will occur, so agency and martech readers are encouraged to reach out to current marketing team members in order to remain top-of-mind once someone takes over the position. Focus pitches on helping Nature’s Medicines grow by differentiating it from other competitive cannabis brands.

Sellers are also likely to see increases once a new CMO is hired. Those near its dispensaries locations will have the advantage, but sellers in any state where marijuana is legal can compete.

No top spending period has been established, so we recommend reaching out year-round in order to secure revenue. Nature’s Medicine began running through digital display in June 2018 according to Adbeat, so expect this channel to continue increasing.

10. Charlotte’s Web 

Charlotte’s Web reported on in our recent emerging report, hired Eugenio Mendez as its first chief growth officer, effective January. He brings experience from positions like global marketing VP of water, enhanced water and sports drinks at Coca-Cola.

The company also brought on Stephen Lermer as COO, effective January. The shifts continue as Deanie Elsner was promoted to CEO in May. With all the new personnel, Charlotte’s Web continues its rapid growth and expansion after raising $100 million at the end of August. This funding resulted from an IPO, which was the largest in the hemp industry, and the brand plans to use the money on expansion nationally and internationally along with acquisitions.

While we don’t know for certain which states Charlotte’s Web will expand to, it will most likely target areas of little traction such as North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Main, and Wyoming.

These large growth plans will be supported by heft spend increases. The company’s Q4 earning releases stated that sales and marketing expenses for Q4 2018 increased to $4.4 million from that of $1.7 million in Q4 2017. High spend will continue with new leadership attempting to spread brand awareness.

With so many personnel and strategy shifts, agency changes are likely within the next 6-9 months. Sellers are encouraged to reach out for revenue year-round since no top spending period has been established. Focus pitches on differentiating Charlotte’s Web from competitors by highlighting that its product is completely plant-based, non-GMO, cruelty-free and BPA-free.

 

Winmo’s always been “the plug” for the hottest opportunities and verified decision-maker contact info, but we’re taking it to the next level this year by releasing monthly emerging industry reports. To deliver you with even more potential opportunities with cannabis brands and, of course, kick off this 4/20 right, download your free digital copy of our latest eBook, A Growing Industry: 10 Cannabis, CBD & Hemp Brands You Need To Know About.

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