Q&A: How Cannabis-infused Beverage Brand Cann Uses Sampling Events to Torch Category Stigmas

We often hear about the importance of getting “liquid to lips” in the spirits industry, but for cannabis beverage brands that are consistently fighting an uphill battle against cannabis stigmas, it’s absolutely essential. Just ask California-based Cann, which offers a lineup of THC-infused social tonics that use all natural ingredients to create a refreshing “social buzz.” The brand recently wrapped a major multi-market sampling campaign to show consumers why “tasting is believing” and debunk category myths while boosting sales (Switch, St. Louis, handled).

Each Cann beverage is micro-dosed with a 1:2 ratio of THC and CBD. But with legal red tape to navigate during its 20-week campaign, the brand offered virgin samples of its products at local dispensaries in each market, where consumers could later purchase the real deal on their own.

Of course, activating around a cannabis product comes with unique hurdles, so we asked Cann’s head of events, Sebastian Richard, to share lessons learned from the road.

cannabis_grass-lands_teaserMore Cannabis Strategies:

Event Marketer: What was the chief marketing goal of this campaign?

Sebastian Richard: It’s 100 percent driven at sales. We understand from our consumer feedback insights that for every 12 Canns that make it into the wild, 2.4 further people try them. In a world where cannabis is kept outside of the major advertising channels, this is a strong channel for Cann to invest in. Cann in hands equals success.


EM: Did you have a target demo in mind?

SR: When we first brought Cann to market, the target demo was more psychographic than a traditional demo. We were aiming for the ‘healthy hedonist,’ those who are active across many different realms—social being one—that were finding that the options in their social consumption circles were limited to alcohol, despite that ingredient not being congruent with the rest of their lives. As we delved further into the consumer insights we have been gathering, that understanding has developed and broadened to anyone who is wrestling with their relationship to alcohol.


EM: Talk about the on-site sampling experience.

SR: For the large part, Cann posts up in two predominant environments: first, the retail landscape. Second, in the field. Both follow the same pattern in introducing the consumer or bystander to the idea that they can enjoy the social side of life without sacrificing their time—hangovers, poor sleep, etc. With that relatable point addressed, they were invited to sample all three of our original flavors in one-ounce pours. With our focus on taste and ingredients, these samples are in and of themselves half the ‘sell.’ With liquid on lips, we move through the second set of details that support that first hook of re-addressing your relationship with alcohol—namely ingredients, effect and addressing some social taboos. Folks were then always proposed with an on-site deal that encouraged the sale of two or more six-packs. Remember: for every 12 Canns that get into the wild, 2.4 people try them.


EM: What was the significance of activating at dispensaries?

SR: There are several hurdles to successfully amplifying the Cann brand in dispensaries, and one is that a large portion of people who are moving through their social consumption revolution have yet to find themselves actively entering a dispensary. This whole industry is still so young and shrouded in outdated taboos. We need to educate and pull down the barriers to engagement in this wonderful space in order for our brand to reach those who are looking for it. This is also especially relevant for dispensary owners and operators who are dying for new cannabis consumers to walk through their doors. As a brand, we are uniquely positioned to add weight into widening those channels.


EM: What are some best practices for sampling a cannabis product?

SR: Always respect the partners you work with. Both inside and outside of the industry, there are a lot of nuances that come with the work we do. Respecting those and working with different partners builds stronger alliances that pay dividends in the long run. And tasting is believing. The more the industry develops, the more brands are recognizing that the experience of consumption is becoming a battleground of winning consumers. Above them all, a best practice for sampling a cannabis product is getting the budtenders on-site ahead of any demo. They are the gatekeepers and when they are aligned, the engine runs more cleanly.


EM: What are the challenges of sampling a cannabis product?

SR: Legal jurisdictions change from state to state and even as far down as local counties and cities. Ensuring you are not putting your team in a position where they are accidentally transgressing a regulation is a tough, detail-orientated task that cannot be ignored. Also, uniformity and efficiencies. There are a number of barriers to scaling quickly and equally across all markets.


EM: How will you use this program to inform future events and experiences?

SR: We track every single event we activate through a variety of forms. These data sets are churned through for a number of insights that direct where, when and how we turn up in the ever-changing future landscape that cannabis delivers. We assess conversion rates, cost/sale, sales per hour, along with many others that build a more detailed picture of our environments that will inform our future.

Kait Shea
Posted by Kait Shea

Kait joined EM in 2015 and today enjoys her role as senior editor, digital content. When she’s not in reporter mode, rocking mermaid pants at Comic-Con or running laps at MWC Barcelona, you can find her at home listening to music.
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