What One Cannabis Brand Learned From Sneaker Culture

Massachusetts-based cannabis flower brand Nature’s Heritage is channeling sneakerhead culture with a marketing initiative designed to build brand loyalty in a crowded and competitive market.

For its “Keep It Fresh” initiative, the brand is offering weekly limited-edition strain drops for sale. through Nov. 17. It’s also encouraging brand loyalty and repeat customers, with a punch card offering a free mystery strain following six purchases.  The brand had previously teamed up with local artist Duncan Hatch to illustrate each strain with trippy graphics (see above) on YouTube, along with its in-store video network and other video outlets.

The timing of “Keep It Fresh” is no accident either, as it’s a lead-in to Green Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, which is something of the industry’s equivalent to Black Friday.

Before jumping to the world of cannabis, Nature’s Heritage Brand Manager Tami Kirlis previously served as head of marketing for York Athletics, and she’s bringing marketing lessons learned from the sneaker industry to her latest gig.

We reached out to Kirlis with questions about the “Keep It Fresh” campaign and how sneaker culture is informing the brand’s marketing strategy.

This interview has been edited slightly for clarity and length.

CPG Insider: What led to this initiative? How does it help Nature's Heritage stand out in the crowded cannabis market?

Tami Kirlis: When I joined Nature’s Heritage, it was immediately apparent to me that what makes this brand special are the strains we cultivate and the care that goes into growing the freshest flower on the market. The “Keep It Fresh” campaign puts our strains front and center, using illustration and animation to share the experience of each strain. We partnered with local artist Duncan Hatch to create strain artwork. Using that artwork to launch strains  really differentiated our brand in a super-fresh way.

How have your experiences in the footwear business influenced your approach to marketing for Nature's Heritage?

I worked in the sneaker industry for 15 years between Puma and startup sneaker brand York Athletics. The way the sneaker industry launches a new sneaker, especially when it’s limited edition, is to create hype around it and speak to its scarcity.

Puma’s Supreme was the best example of the limited-edition hype machine back in the day, when we collaborated with artists, fashion designers, and brands in the pop and street culture realm to drive the hype.

There is definite crossover between sneaker and cannabis culture and consumers -- they’re both fun, people’s identities can be wrapped up in both, and people love to have the thing that no one else has. That includes cannabis strains. It’s about bragging rights.

The largest difference? People have only so much disposable income for kicks. With cannabis, you can buy and try a lot more variety for the price of one pair of Air Jordans.

Were there any regulatory or legal issues to navigate in order to implement this campaign?

There are always regulatory and legal issues to navigate. It’s kind of insane. You can’t show consumption, which makes sense. You can’t market to children, which makes sense. But there are so many things we cannot do that don’t make sense. I’ll give you an example. We have a love/hate relationship with Instagram. We’ve been shadow-banned for six months, and the AI is always pulling down our content. We tried to launch and cross-promote small batch strains and our posts were immediately pulled down -- and we weren’t even showing flower, just packaging.

What has the response been thus far? Might this lead to similar limited-edition releases in the future?

The response has been awesome. Consumers love Duncan's artwork and the feedback has been that it is so on-point with the experience of the strains that he captured.

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