A Rebrandingcannabis.com Exclusive: Discussing the future of cannabis marketing, with Leafly Co-Founder Cy Scott
November 12, 2014 | By Claire Kaufmann | Rebrandingcannabis.com
Cy Scott is a Co-Founder of Leafly.com
As someone really interested in the future of cannabis marketing, it doesn’t get better than talking to Cy Scott, Co-Founder of Leafly. Leafly.com (currently owned by Privateer Holdings) is an industry-leading online application that helps consumers navigate the seemingly baffling number of cannabis products and strains available at dispensaries. What makes Leafly such a big deal is not just their incredible market influence (i.e. Leafly currently has over 2.3 million visitors a month,) but that they are cannabis marketing pioneers.
Leafly was the first major company to not use the leaf in its logo and one of the first companies to start to talk about cannabis in a more modern way. Cy and I spoke about Leafly’s marketing strategy, larger industry trends, and outlined a few best practices for those just getting into the market. This interview, which is full of good bits of wisdom and insight, has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: Who are Leafly’s brand inspirations?
A: We look to the past for inspiration. Cannabis is still taboo in a lot of places and we are trying change the way people think about it and talk about it. In the tech world, there are the obvious ones like Apple. How they took an MP3 player that was rough around the edges and really changed the way people think about MP3s. Another inspiration is Starbucks. They really changed the way people thought about coffee. Before Starbucks, coffee was just coffee. They helped the consumer understand different kinds of roasts. They helped to package the concept of coffee to the end consumer.
Q: What adjectives would you use when describing Leafly as a brand?
A: Helpful, informative, efficient, useful. Modern and clean.
Q: Your company was one of the first to abandon the leaf in your logo (despite your name, obviously.) I imagine that was a very deliberate decision. Can you tell me the story of how your logo and name came to be?
A: The logo was done by Brian, the third co-founder. We didn’t want to use the leaf, because it seemed so obvious. By not doing it, it really helped us stand out. With the omission of the leaf, we freed ourselves a lot. We also integrated the three tiles, representative of the three different categories of strains we track: sativa, indica and hybrid. The periodic table of elements concept helped us to visualize the different kinds of strains in the market. Also, we wanted to create a site that people could search at the office or on their phone, something that offered discretion.
Q: Can you let us in on any of your current marketing innovations?
We actually just hit a milestone at Leafly; we now have over 1,000 strains in the database. We are also adding flowering times, grow conditions and testing data.
We partnered with Steep Hill Labs as our exclusive testing lab for our strain testing. We are really excited. That has been a missing piece of the puzzle for us. We have a lot of subjective feedback on different strains, but now you can tie that back to objective data and the strain’s fingerprint. Now we have THC, CBD, CBG, cannabinoid profiles, as well as terpene profiles. That is a big addition for us also.
Q: I see a big shift to the idea of cannabis producers as brands. Can I search by producer? For example, let’s say I wanted to sort by all products in the Seattle area produced by Solstice Grown.
We are building out the grower side of the business. Leafly now is still based back where the industry was a while ago. For a long time we didn’t know who was growing what in the market. Now in Washington we have producer/processors that are becoming brands in and of themselves.
And, yes, Solstice is a great example. Solstice is a brand unto itself. It’s not just Blue Dream anymore, it’s Solstice Blue Dream. That is something that we are hyper-aware of and is something we are integrating, we should have something early next year to show everybody.
The industry is evolving. For a long time, up until now, the dispensaries were the brands…now the producers are becoming brands. The best types of reviews for us in the future will be reviews that we can tie back to the grower. We want to support the future of the industry and where it is headed.
Q: As a leader in the field, does Leafly feel a sense of responsibility in terms of precedent setting?
Definitely. We want to encourage that. I don’t know if you saw our New York Times ad. We wanted to do that for the industry as well, to put it a different face on it and present it in a new light. We feel a big sense of responsibility. We want to welcome everyone. We sponsor Hempfest and the symphony at Red Rocks in Colorado
Q: Who else out there in the cannabis industry is “doing it right?”
I think in infused products and edibles we see a lot of branding leadership from Dixie. There are some great apps coming out. Apps that mirror Uber. One called Canary and another called Meadow that are really well designed. I think they really push the industry. And they are based in the Bay Area and that is good for the industry, too. The bay area has a lot of venture capital and quality apps will help to bring in more money that will help develop more brands.
Q: What are the top marketing challenges do you think the industry needs to tackle overall?
The biggest marketing challenge we have is our advertising outlets. We are pretty limited in how we can advertise. We can’t use Facebook or Twitter to promote our content. Public perception is less and less of an issue than it used to be.
Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest untapped marketing opportunity you see today in the marijuana industry?
I think there is a lot of room for packaging, labeling and consistency. We are starting to see that. You mentioned Solstice, Bhang, or Dixie, but they are still limited in terms of distribution. The idea of “chains,” and locations. Design plays a huge component. It can be a huge differentiator. Harborside is a leader in terms of interior design.
Q: Along those lines, if you were going to give three pieces of marketing and or design wisdom to smaller and/or start-up companies what would they be and why?
- 1. Use good design as a differentiator. We have the advantage of being part of a lot of “firsts.” Think about branding and design. They have a huge impact.
- 2. Be consistent. Keep a high standard for your products.
- 3. Stay on top of trends. We have to be very aware of what is happening in the industry. Be hyper-aware of that and create a process to stay on top of that. Getting in front of trends is a key way to be successful.