If you want to use digital marketing to grow your business, there’s a pretty good chance your plan involves buying ads on Google and Facebook. But what happens when not just those platforms, but almost every major advertising platform, won’t take your money?
Sam Hollander is determined to solve this issue. He’s the Chief Data Officer, Head of Ad Sales at Enlighten–the largest cannabis retail and marketing platform. Enlighten connects brands with cannabis and CBD consumers, and Sam brings over 12 years of experience in strategy, content development, and ad tech to his role.
In today’s conversation, we talk to Sam about his unique journey into the cannabis industry, how he helps brands and retailers reach their ideal customer, and how he expects to see cannabis marketing change in the years to come.
- How Enlighten grew from a digital signage and kiosk business into a powerful advertising platform.
- Why cannabis advertising is still largely prohibited in the world of streaming media.
- The tools cannabis brands can use to target and acquire customers–and how this is changing in the wake of Apple’s push for privacy.
- How cannabis marketing works on the medical side.
- How brands can showcase products and even occasionally sell them at conventions, music festivals, and other events.
- Why Sam doesn’t expect to see federal legalization this year–but does expect to see cannabis companies finally get the ability to work with big banks and major marketers soon.
“The Safe Banking Act in itself is going to drastically change this landscape. Companies will finally be able to operate using credit cards and they’ll be able to work with the big banks, et cetera, and I think that that is going to make the industry much safer.” – Sam Hollander
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Rick Kiley: Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of The Green Repeal. I am one of your co-hosts, Rick Kiley. I am next to what has emerged as a huge construction site. So, if you hear the lovely sound of backhoes, that’s people ripping up the pavement behind my building. I am, of course, here with Jeffrey Boedges, my co-host. Hello.
Jeffrey Boedges: Buenos días, mi amigos.
Rick Kiley: Wow.
Jeffrey Boedges: Spanish word. Good. Press the SAP button.
Rick Kiley: Dual language. We’re trying to expand our footprint.
Jeffrey Boedges: Exactly.
Rick Kiley: All right. So, we are joined today by Sam Hollander. So, anyone who’s the data nerd or data scientist, you guys are going to enjoy today’s interview. Sam is the Chief Digital Officer, Head of Ad Sales at Enlighten, which is the largest cannabis retail and marketing technology platform that connects brands with cannabis and CBD consumers. What does that mean? We don’t know. We’re going to find out and rest assured, you’ll hear some great terms like driving foot traffic and increasing basket sizes. That’s not a weaving joke. So, that’s a real thing. Sam is an accomplished sales and business development executive, brings over 12 years of forward-thinking experience in marketing strategy, content development, ad tech, and more. And since every meeting we’re in these days seems to involve the words data and technology, we’re glad to have him here to talk about getting smarter in the cannabis business.
Rick Kiley: Sam, welcome to The Green Repeal.
Sam Hollander: Thanks for having me, gentlemen. I appreciate it and I’m happy to be here.
Jeffrey Boedges: Awesome.
Rick Kiley: We’re glad to have you here, too. I think we didn’t go into too much detail there. I’m wondering if you might enlighten our listeners into telling us how you first became involved in the cannabis industry. These are the jokes, folks.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. We’re getting out of the gate early today.
Sam Hollander: Zingers, huh?
Rick Kiley: Yeah, man.
Jeffrey Boedges: That’s what makes it so great is the zingers.
Sam Hollander: I would be delighted to tell you how I got here. I actually have a little bit of a unique path to the cannabis industry. I’ve been a consumer for quite some time but never really naturally saw myself in this industry and a few years back, kind of two different events took place, one before the other. The first was my father-in-law, unfortunately, got diagnosed with a brain tumor. And through various different research that my wife did, she came up with some help with a solution called Rick Simpson oil that actually prolonged his life by about four years and he was able to see us get married. He was able to see my sister-in-law get married as well as do some other great things before he ended up sadly passing away actually two years ago yesterday. Kind of shortly after that or not, after that, been in that span of time, my wife’s family launched one of what is now the largest privately-held cannabis companies in the country. And when they were opening a retail store in Massachusetts, my wife approached me and started asking me about digital advertising. At that time, I knew the obvious, that you really couldn’t advertise on Facebook and Google but given my experience in the ad tech space, I went to some of the obvious locations or I should say obvious for ad tech nerds meaning the Trade Desk and other locations. And what I found is a lot of those platforms wouldn’t take cannabis dollars either.
So, I sat down and started to put together a business plan to solve for that issue in the cannabis space. And what I mean by solving for that issue is allowing cannabis advertisers, meaning brands and retailers as well as ancillary brands to compliantly access digital unsold inventory from across the Web in premium publishing atmosphere. So, places like Condé Nast and BuzzFeed and Barstool Sports, et cetera. Over the course of putting together that business plan and talking to publishers directly as well as doing other research, I was introduced to Colby McKenzie and Jeremy Jacobs, who are the two founders of Enlighten and through a number of lengthy conversations and what felt like a three or four-month process, although it might have been shorter than that, we decided to work together to bring my idea to life and to complement what Enlighten was already doing, which was a retail science company in the dispensary.
Rick Kiley: Got it. Okay. Cool. My condolences, of course, also first.
Sam Hollander: Thank you.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. Father’s Day coming up. Enjoy the moment.
Rick Kiley: It’s so interesting. It seems like everyone involved in this industry right now has like a very personal story that got them there. It’s not just like, “Hey, I woke up one day. I was like I’m going to do this.” There’s a personal connection. So, thank you for sharing that.
Jeffrey Boedges: We haven’t even really heard dollars and cents as being an inspiration. I mean, a lot of people would say, “I want to get in because that’s where there’s money.” People like the small stuff.
Sam Hollander: It’s changing. We’ll see.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. But you’re right. It is changing.
Rick Kiley: So, talk to us a little bit about Enlighten then. So, you’ve met these two gentlemen in Enlighten. When was it founded?
Sam Hollander: Enlighten was founded approximately four years ago, give or take a little bit more. The company really started, as I mentioned earlier, a digital signage company, and what that means is they went around to some of the first dispensaries in the country, Colorado, California, Washington State, et cetera, and they essentially took their traditional ecosystems and help digitize them by way of digital menus, interactive kiosks, content management platform that was really meant to educate consumers in the dispensary so on and so forth. That educational platform ultimately ended up evolving into an advertising platform in the dispensary because, of course, you need to be able to monetize everything that you’re doing and that’s really how the company started and grew. And small tidbit, we actually started to power the first dispensary in the country in Colorado with digital signage.
Jeffrey Boedges: The first rec dispensary or the first med? No, it couldn’t be the first meds. Yeah.
Sam Hollander: It was first rec.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. Got it.
Rick Kiley: I believe the preferred term these days is adult use. So, am I wrong? Am I right?
Sam Hollander: That is correct.
Rick Kiley: Because it’s not just for fun, it’s for adults.
Jeffrey Boedges: I try to say something stupid at least one time an episode. So, that was my time.
Rick Kiley: It’s not. I think the industry needs to have the nomenclature down, right? We got to be on the same thing.
Sam Hollander: And we won’t hold it against you.
Jeffrey Boedges: No, no, you can. It’s all good.
Rick Kiley: Of course. So, the primary offering then of Enlighten is this digital signage piece. Is that correct?
Sam Hollander: We actually have two different businesses. One is the digital signage business. That is 100% correct. And then I mentioned the advertising platform inside of the dispensary. But really over the last 16 months or so, a little bit less than that, we’ve really taken that entire in-dispensary ecosystem and extended it beyond the four walls of the dispensary to allow brands and retailers to activate multi-channel advertising campaigns targeting verified cannabis consumers, as well as kind of curious consumers and CBD consumers, of course, on mobile, desktop, connected TV, and audio streaming.
Rick Kiley: I wish I knew exactly what all that meant but that sounds complicated and impressive.
Jeffrey Boedges: Well, we had a little bit of early meetings, Sam and I, and think I have a pretty, well, I think I understand what they do. I have no idea how the hell they do it but, yeah, I mean, I think the thing that you really solve was where you started this conversation, which was the ability to compliantly target mainstream, well, compliantly target canna people with mainstream media. And I think that’s fairly new territory. So, yeah, can you start to give us a layman’s sort of explanation of how that works?
Sam Hollander: Yeah. And you basically summed it up nicely, Jeff. You know, it’s tapping into all of these premium different platforms really on our premium publications, I should say, really on the consumer platform of choice. So, that could be a mobile device, desktop computer, while somebody is browsing the Internet and hopefully, their boss isn’t looking over their shoulder or whatever they’re connected to.
Jeffrey Boedges: We wouldn’t care.
Rick Kiley: We’re all at home now.
Sam Hollander: Exactly. It’s true. Although, people are going back to the office. My wife actually went into the office for the first time today. So, audio streaming platforms, I will caveat that with that there are still a number of platforms that prohibit cannabis advertising. So, within the audio streaming space specifically, as well as the connected TV space specifically, I don’t want people to think Spotify or Pandora. Those are not platforms that are accepting cannabis at this time so it’s on other platforms that are really aggregating various inventory platforms like creating digital slacker radio, et cetera. And then within the connected TV space, it really depends. But it’s platforms like Pluto TV and things of that nature. Hulu is not one of the platforms that will accept cannabis dollars. They are obviously offered by Disney. Disney, given their affiliation with children’s content, I don’t know that they’re going to necessarily organically move in that direction any time soon.
Rick Kiley: Right. Yeah.
Jeffrey Boedges: Have you ever seen some of those early 60s Disney movies, though? Somebody there was smoking. I’m just saying. It’s a little bit hypocritical.
Sam Hollander: Yeah. There’s a lot of hidden messages there. That’s for sure.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. I mean, come on. Teacups dancing around.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. But they also have some properties that might be skewed a little older and I would think that any property eventually we get to point to any anybody to accept alcohol beverage advertising should accept cannabis but maybe we’re just not there yet.
Sam Hollander: I agree with you. I mean, Marvel is one of them, right?
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Marvel, I mean, but I think ESPN, like all the sports, there’s a lot of stuff that caters to adults and accepts alcohol beverage advertising already. So, can we just do a for instance here. So, let’s say I’m a cannabis brand and I’m talking to you about how you can help me reach my consumers.
Jeffrey Boedges: And I want to be in Architectural Digest.
Rick Kiley: Such an 80s magazine, right? I don’t know. Is it still popular?
Jeffrey Boedges: I love Arch.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. He loves it. All right. Cool. So, can you walk us through like how you would help Rick and Jeff’s brand reach consumers?
Sam Hollander: Yeah. So, brands and retailers really come to us for a myriad of reasons. On the retail side, they’re really looking for a partner to help them streamline their digital signage. So, what does that mean? Well, we have a tech stack called SMARTHUB that’s integrated with most major point-of-sale companies and other solutions like e-commerce delivery listing and marketing services. This allows the retailer to streamline their inventory, update promotions, and manage their content with one click of a button. And on the consumer-facing side, it creates continuity across all platforms. So, essentially what I mean by that is if consumers in California opens up the Weedmaps app and is looking for a specific product, they see that that product is available in Jeff’s dispensary down the street and they walk into Jeff’s dispensary down the street. They should be able to see that same naming convention on that digital menu. So, we help solve for that issue. There was a lot of fragmentation in the ecosystem, specifically when it came to digital signage and creating that continuity prior to us creating this solution. So, that’s really how we would help on that side of the business. And then on the marketing side of the business, there’s really a lot of misconception stemming from the common belief among cannabis marketers that because you can’t advertise on Facebook and Google, you can’t advertise anywhere.
And that’s not really accurate, as we know. So, platforms like Enlighten have been built to allow retailers and brands a platform to reach their target audience with efficiency, and cannabis regulations are really at the foundation of that, right? So, now there is a platform that exists where we can help brands and retailers leverage data. That’s our data that we have unique access to, to identify cannabis consumers. We can also take in first-party data from the cannabis brand or retailer. And then leveraging that, we identify audiences, help with brand building, drive retail foot traffic, as well as do a myriad of other things to help brands drive a return on investment.
Rick Kiley: Got it. I think I got it, at least that last part. Sounds awesome.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. Let’s keep going with a specific example here if we can, or brand, Jeff’s Weed. And I’ve got three different SKUs and I got small, medium, and large. And now you mentioned Weedmaps and things like that and then when I go into a certain dispensary, you’ll see the Jeff’s small, medium, and large, and that’ll all be reticent. Sorry. That will all be consistent. So, that I get but like how does the other piece work? How are we going to use the consumer data to target these folks? Where are these ads going to be? How do you get the ads on mainstream media?
Sam Hollander: Yeah. That’s another great question. So, let’s unpack that a little bit. There’s kind of two questions really at the crux of what you’re asking, right? One is where is that data coming from? And then two is how are we actually using that data and activating it on these various different platforms that I’ve referenced or publishers that I’ve referenced throughout the conversation. So, piece number one is the data. The data is coming from a variety of different sources. We have integrations because of our SMARTHUB technology on the retail side that allows us access to point-of-sale data. So, that’s actual cannabis consumption data that we can then use for targeting and then modeling out to target lookalike.
Rick Kiley: Right. But that’s metadata, not personal data, right? So, it’s like a person who looks like this bought these things. Am I right?
Sam Hollander: Correct. It is all anonymized. Nothing is invasive and we’re making sure that everything is above the board and compliant. We do that through working with partners like a LiveRamp or a Kochava. Those are companies that have been around for a long time that have really been built to help anonymize various different data sources to make brands compliant and to make consumers feel comfortable being targeted. And that’s how they get things for free. So, that’s kind of how that works on that side. And then on the other side, in terms of activating campaigns, we do what’s called programmatic advertising. Programmatic advertising is the idea of automating the digital buying experience. So, what does that mean, taking that one step further? Essentially, it is a platform that allows a buyer to log in and compliantly, at least compliantly in the cannabis space, activate media across the ecosystem by accessing digital inventory, digital unsold advertising inventory from across the ecosystem.
Jeffrey Boedges: It’s like a clearinghouse almost.
Sam Hollander: Yes. It’s almost the exact same concept of a clearinghouse or an auction house. You go and you’re literally auctioning, you’re bidding on this various different inventory and the highest price point wins. And then based on that price point, your ad gets placed within that ecosystem. There’s a few different methods to doing that. One is basically just placing the bid, leveraging the various different audience segments that you have to make sure that you are targeting that audience. So, it’s more about making sure you’re hitting that audience versus the actual platform that you’re in. So, it’s just where that audience is and based on where that audience is, that highest bidder is just going to place you in a random publisher where that consumer is reading that content. There’s another form of buying that’s more of a premium buying marketplace where you buy premium inventory from a Rolling Stone or BuzzFeed or a Barstool Sports upfront and then by buying that upfront, you’re essentially guaranteeing your buyer a certain amount of impressions and they’re going to buy that inventory in those specific locations.
Rick Kiley: And are you buying that inventory occasionally for like more of a direct marketing model? Like, does a publisher like Rolling Stone, like you mentioned, would you say I want to send to 10,000 of consumers in this zip code that meet this criteria? And will they help facilitate that or…
Jeffrey Boedges: Or is it done automatically?
Sam Hollander: In a sense, it’s done automatically. There’s various different tools within the buying platform that you log into that allow you to have access to a demographic targeting, geolocation targeting, contextual targeting, contextual meeting, and different types of content that consumers are reading, as well as a myriad of other potential targeting mechanisms. You can even get down to the different types of devices that people have
Rick Kiley: Sure.
Sam Hollander: We’ve really been doing that. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that, given that there’s a lot of changes happening specifically around Apple and the IDFA going away. That’s the unique identifier that Apple had within Apple devices that allows you to advertise in that ecosystem and with their new iOS update, they got rid of that. So, there’s now new methods that need to be taken into account when you’re targeting consumers.
Jeffrey Boedges: We have to come back to that because I got to figure out what the motivation was there but we’ll table it for now.
Rick Kiley: Well, their advertising campaign is all about privacy right now.
Sam Hollander: Exactly.
Rick Kiley: Well, it has to start there.
Jeffrey Boedges: Well, let’s peel the apple a little bit on that, though, because I think there’s money behind it so forgive my pun. All right. Cool. So, once I bought this thing, in the old days, it was GRPs. What do they do now? Is it consumers’ reach because it’s all digital? You can just track at the snap of a finger and you know exactly how many people have seen your ad?
Sam Hollander: It’s typically priced on a CPM, which is a cost per impression.
Jeffrey Boedges: Okay.
Sam Hollander: Yeah. So, it’s cost per a thousand views, basically. And so, for every impression that’s sold, you’re reaching 1,000 people.
Rick Kiley: Got it. All right. And what’s that going for these days?
Jeffrey Boedges: And what’s the price?
Rick Kiley: How much for just one rip?
Jeffrey Boedges: How much would it cost us to really get out and promote Green Repeal?
Sam Hollander: It really depends on the different types of targeting that you’re using, the types of publishers that you want to access to. You know, if you don’t want the real-time bidding example that I gave before, which is more of that auction-based environment, you want more of that premium environment, you want to buy that upfront, it’s more expensive. A CPM, at least for a standard display, meaning an image that pops up on the screen, no animation, nothing of that sort, can typically run anywhere from $6.50 to $8, $9, and that’s if you’re working through a managed service like Enlighten. There are self-serve platforms out there. We actually have our own self-serve platform that does get the inventory a little bit cheaper, often outside of the cannabis ecosystem. So, if you were to go to a Facebook as an example, buy their inventory or other platforms like Trading Desk, which is a publicly traded company, you’ll see CPMs that are a lot cheaper and more efficient than that. Except for Christmastime or Christmas and the holiday times, the CPMs tend to raise around Q4, at least the end in Q4 because everybody was trying to push their brand out there and make a last-minute push towards the holidays when people were buying presents.
Rick Kiley: Right. Okay. Cool. One thing I wanted to ask because just I want to come back with you mentioned an integration with the point-of-sale companies, which seems to be very key to understanding the consumers and to sort of making those groups that you’re going to try to target. How did that happen? What’s the relationship with the point-of-sale companies? Do you pay a licensing fee to get the information from them? Is there a little bit of give and take? How does that arrangement work?
Sam Hollander: Yes. So, we do have integrations with most major point-of-sale companies in cannabis, and that kind of happened organically over time through various different relationships that we had. They have different levels of what’s called an API. An API is essentially a piece of digital code that allows us to plug into their ecosystem and access basically everything that they’re doing. Within those different levels, it gives you different access to different data sets. For the enhanced API data sets, there is a payment methodology there to access that SKU-level data. Of course, it’s very important first-party data that the POS company actually doesn’t even own. The retailer owns it. So, there does have to be some form of negotiation there so that the retailer makes out specifically if you’re accessing that in a retail level. You know, there are standard API integrations as long as there’s a use case for it. They tend to be pretty flexible in allowing you access to it but everything’s a negotiation and everything is a partnership and it’s got to be mutually beneficial for both parties.
Rick Kiley: Right. So, those negotiations happen both at the point-of-sale system level and then also at the retail level, or is it just like one point of contact?
Sam Hollander: So, it’s one point of contact with the point-of-sale company. On the retail front, that’s a little bit different. I don’t work in the retail environment, so I’m trying not to be able to talk about this too in-depth. But at a very high level in the cannabis space, every single retailer has to be integrated with a point-of-sale to track everything from. The second seed is planted in the ground to the second it sold to the consumer. That’s the point and the point-of-sale so that they can track that and then the local municipalities and the state governments can see what’s going on.
Jeffrey Boedges: Get their money. Yeah.
Rick Kiley: Okay. Cool. So, I think one question we just had is, and if you don’t have one that’s fine, but can you give an example of a campaign or brand that’s run something with your organization that you thought was either impactful or effective?
Jeffrey Boedges: Just who loves you? Who loves and why?
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Who if we called up said, “These guys have really helped me grow my business.”?
Sam Hollander: I mean, guys, everybody loves us.
Rick Kiley: Right. Yeah. Well, we’re in the business of love. I get it. Yeah.
Sam Hollander: As long as you get the Enlighten experience, people are coming back for more. But no, in all seriousness, brands that understand the nature of programmatic and understand the marketing funnel and typically the most successful brands, programmatic advertising is often bucketed into this lower funnel category because of the nature of the technology. It allows you to track tangible outcomes, retail, foot traffic, online sales, et cetera. However, marketing and brand building is an everyday job, especially in the cannabis space where stigma still exists and marketers have to juggle educating consumers on various aspects of cannabis, like strains, terpene, et cetera. Brands really need to, as a result of that, have a full-funnel omnichannel approach to marketing. So, what does that mean? That means that brands that do this, e.g., also activate experiential brand awareness campaigns, high impact media, connected TV, etcetera, and then support those efforts with an always-on programmatic campaign as the baseline to that, those are the brands that are going to be the most successful and see the best results. Talking about our platform specifically, we’ve seen some impeccable numbers with both CBD and cannabis companies. We actually just finished a campaign for a CBD company called Bluebird Botanicals that saw an 874% return on ad spend. So, it’s pretty impeccable.
Rick Kiley: That sounds good.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah.
Sam Hollander: Yeah. Very, very good. So, we were really excited about that. And then from a cannabis perspective, we’ve seen varying success across the board. We had a vertically integrated operator in Massachusetts that saw 23.6% lift in foot traffic to four locations that were helping them out with. And then we’re also working right now with a major multi-state operator or one of the largest multi-state operators in the country and their state saw 38% return on ad spend in the first 30 days of working with us. So, pretty powerful. And then the in-dispensary ecosystem, we’re just now getting to a point with the point-of-sale companies where we’re starting to create an attribution model, where we can actually report on a lift in sales as a result of advertisers advertising on those screens. And the first beta test that we did with a company in Colorado around Valentine’s Day, they did run for the whole month of February with the heavy up around Valentine’s Day for a chocolate brand. They saw a 61% increase in sales across five locations in Colorado. So, pretty, pretty powerful stuff in terms of what we’re doing.
Rick Kiley: Cool, man.
Jeffrey Boedges: That’s cool. Yeah. So, can you tell me a little bit about what types of customers you guys are seeing these days? I mean, is it all MSOs or do you get a mix of the mom and pop and then the major players as well?
Sam Hollander: It’s a combination of both. We are the first company or I shouldn’t say the first company. It’s really the second company to develop a self-service platform that really caters to small business owners, very much the model of Facebook, obviously nowhere near close to the scale of Facebook. But it’s meant to be a very simplistic tool that allows those smaller mom and pops to log into the interface, answer a series of really simple questions, and then the campaign gets activated for them. That target is probably advertisers that are spending anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000 or less. We help them from that perspective and then we’re working with a few of the multistate operators, vertically integrated guys, and mid-sized brands as well, doing a lot of different campaigns. We just finished up a select campaign for Curaleaf. We’re working with holistic industries across all of their various different brands, including their Jerry Garcia’s hand-picked, which I was really excited about because I’m a little bit of a Deadhead and a Phish fan so that was exciting for me.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. One of each on this call. I’ll let you figure out which is which.
Sam Hollander: Probably figured that out pretty easily. My guess is Jeff you’re the Deadhead and Rick you’re the Phish fan.
Jeffrey Boedges: That is spot on, man. Get this guy a prize. Yeah. You get a free Green Repeal t-shirt. We’ll send that to you.
Sam Hollander: Sounds good. And, Rick, we’re going to have to connect after this and discuss what shows we’re going on tour for.
Rick Kiley: I just hope there is a tour. That’s it. I’ll go to any of them.
Sam Hollander: It’s happening.
Jeffrey Boedges: I’ll take anything.
Rick Kiley: I’ll go to somebody I don’t know’s basement
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. Like that’s a stretch. Yeah.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. It’s okay. Are you working in both the medical use space and the adult-use space? Is it equal, both, one more than the other?
Sam Hollander: Yeah. I would say we’re primarily working in the rec space but we have done some campaigns in the medicinal space. Medicinal is naturally a little bit more difficult, that it’s really specific to market. As an example, we are looking at a campaign right now with a company that operates in Connecticut but it’s a little bit unique because in Connecticut, not only do you have to have a medicinal card, you have to register with the state, what location you’re going to. So, a lot of that information is already in that system so that specific client is really looking to understand competitive shoppers and how they can convert those competitive shoppers. But that’s a very high barrier to entry given the nature of asking a consumer to not only go to another location but to actually go into the state platform and switch the location that they’re shopping at. So, that’s naturally difficult. It doesn’t mean that we can’t do medicinal. We do have access to various different health care data segments. So, we can definitely target patients that are suffering from anxiety or cancer or sleep deprivation, be of those various different audience segments to help from a medicinal perspective. I think that the medicinal market just happens to be a little bit more difficult. There is more barrier to entry.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. There’s a lot more vertical integration, too. So, I imagine, especially when you get to the dispensary level, the company is only selling their own products in most cases. That varies, I think, but there’s probably less of a need to try to reach somebody also in the dispensary when they walk into.
Sam Hollander: Yeah. That’s accurate. There are brands that are wholesaling in medical markets, specifically a lot of the MSOs but actually the other things that in specific medical markets is that brands are retailers that aren’t these really large retail and brands, the ones that have a hefty budget to spend on marketing. They’re afraid to allocate those dollars in medical markets because they’re most likely not going to see as high as a return on them, as high for their return on investment. So, I think there’s just a natural I don’t want to say that I’d be scared but I just think it’s a natural kind of hesitation, if you will, to spend dollars in those markets, given those barriers to entry.
Rick Kiley: Got it.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. But do you feel like, I mean, I got a theory with your guys’ strategy is at least in states where adult use is not yet legal but where medical is that medical is you want to establish those beachheads early.
Sam Hollander: Absolutely. New York obviously just came online. I think New York is going to have a major, major, major impact on the outlook of this industry as a whole.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah, on the national conversation, for sure.
Sam Hollander: National conversation, the fact that it is the branding and marketing and advertising capital of the world that’s going to just open the floodgates and push the already happening consolidation forward and brand building forward, and it’s just going to happen even quicker. So, I do agree that in the emerging markets that there needs to be attention that is paid to those markets.
Jeffrey Boedges: And when do you guys get to go live? Let’s say it’s New York, right? So, I mean, I would think the aggressive new player in New York would be like, “Okay. When do we start advertising? When do we start going out?” Because, I mean, if you wait until the dispensaries are all open, the race is kind of on the way. You know, did you kind of missed the starting gun? So, would you guys push to try and get some of these places and these operators up in advertising prior to launch? “Hey, coming in March, XYZ Dispensary. Coming in April, this brand.” Are you guys doing that type of pre-coming online completely targeting and advertising?
Sam Hollander: We are not doing that in New York yet. We are doing that in some other states with locations that are coming on. The simple reason behind that not happening in New York yet is it’s going to be a minimum 12-month process to get up and online for a lot of these brands and retailers. I personally think that it’s going to actually take longer than 12 months. That’s just kind of the average that it takes with new emerging markets. But given some things that are happening in the political landscape in New York, I just anticipate that it’s going to take a little bit longer. So, what we would most likely look to start doing that, partnering on the retail side, and then activating ad campaigns would probably be after the initial round of licenses are granted to various different partners and then obviously giving them a little bit of time to make sure that their retail locations are secure, that their plants are in the ground, that they’re going to open on time. And that’s kind of when they can plan accordingly and lay out their roadmap and when we can help work with that. One of the unique things in the cannabis industry, especially with new locations opening, is you’re very reliant on a plant. So, there’s a lot of things that can go wrong with that. So, as a result, there tends to sometimes be delays with new stores opening.
Jeffrey Boedges: Are you guys doing the creative that’s going out as well? Are you guys consulting on what the pieces are that people are seeing? Or are they bringing that to you or do you have partners? How do you guys go about developing what the actual end user is going to experience?
Sam Hollander: Yeah. It’s a combination of all three. So, within the out-of-home in-dispensary ecosystem we do work with various different partners to create different ads for them, video ads, static, creative, etcetera. We can also do that on the digital front, meaning mobile platform, desktop platform, connected TV, etcetera. We also have received creative from those brands. So, if they want to send us something, we can definitely take that in and we will absolutely provide recommendations on what we’ve seen work in the past from different calls to action and messaging, et cetera. And now a larger scale and I’m sure we’ll get into this because I know Rick was really excited about it, we actually have an experiential arm and as part of that experiential arm, we can bring in a production crew that we can outsource and cut everything down on video that brands can then distribute on social and across our various different platforms as well.
Rick Kiley: I mean, excited. I’m not sure. I was curious if we were going to end up being competitors. So, I didn’t know if we were going to go and compete for world domination of this experiential space in cannabis or if we were going to figure out a way to work together. We probably should start with the olive branch that we’ll be allies but, yeah, let’s talk about it. You’ve developed this mobile dispensary. It sounds very cool and I think something that when we talk to brands might be of use in future activations. Tell us about it. Tell us how you decided to make it or come up with it and the reasoning behind that and how it’s been deployed so far.
Sam Hollander: Yeah. So, number one, we will definitely work with you. Our goal as a company is to pushing the cannabis industry forward. And pushing the cannabis industry forward, that means working with the best people in their respective fields, and you guys obviously doing great work from experiential components. So, we’d be delighted to work with you moving forward on that. In terms of the actual cannabis bus, our CEO, Jeremy Jacobs, went out a few years ago and purchased a 40-foot motorhome.
Rick Kiley: As one does.
Sam Hollander: Yeah, as one does, exactly. Jeremy is down in Bowling Green, Kentucky. So, I think he was looking and he likes to get his hands on a lot of things so I think he was looking for something fun to do.
Rick Kiley: Which, by the way, right now you can’t get like an RV. You can’t find them. There are people trying to…
Sam Hollander: We beat everybody to the punch.
Rick Kiley: Oh, man, good timing because you could flip that thing for a pretty penny also I’m sure at this point.
Sam Hollander: Or people can just come in sponsor and activate it and have a good time and maybe if they’re lucky, we’ll let them sleep in it.
Rick Kiley: I’m just saying a lot of people are just trying to take the road trip because they can’t travel. That’ll be quite the road trip.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah, exactly. That’s the one to take to a Phish show.
Rick Kiley: Oh yeah.
Sam Hollander: Fans will have a great time in that for sure.
Rick Kiley: Where are they going this summer that might be useful? I don’t think they’re doing a big campout.
Sam Hollander: The Gorge right outside of Seattle.
Rick Kiley: Oh, right. I think we’re going to have to stay a little closer to home for me. Okay. Sorry. We interrupted that flow there. So, we brought the 40-foot bus.
Sam Hollander: 40-foot bus, refurbished it and designed the inside to look and feel like a dispensary.
Rick Kiley: Oh, darn. I thought it was going to like designed to be like shag carpeting on the walls or something like really cool.
Sam Hollander: Not your typical stereotypical dispensary that you’re envisioning in the back of your head where you walk into the back of a nail salon and to your point, there’s drapery on the wall and everything. I’m talking about these new luxurious retail environments that we’re now used to seeing that are popping up everywhere that MedMen and Cresco and Columbia Care and Holistic Industries are putting together.
Rick Kiley: That’s where it’s going, obviously, but I actually did watch a Simpsons episode recently where like Marge end up getting a job at like one of these like hifalutin like MedMen style places and then Homer to help the guys like Otto, the bus driver, just like operated out of the back of Moe’s Tavern and created this really seedy-like, and everyone that came here is like, “These are just stems and seeds, man,” and he’s like, “Yep.” They’re like, “Oh thank you so much.” It’s weird. Anyway, sorry. I digress.
Sam Hollander: It’s all good. I mean inside the bus, partners have access to digital signage and entertainment. There’s a refrigerator for drinks, a retail counter to showcase products, and then we actually have a podcast studio in the back to also create audio content. Well, the bus has actually been taken to major events already, obviously not this past year, given the global pandemic but we’ve been in South by Southwest and been based on music festivals and other major events with brands ranging from Cresco to Vice. When they activate a myriad of activations like pop-up dispensaries, consumption lounges, budtender appreciation, gaming competitions, health and fitness showcases, and more. It’s really exciting stuff.
Rick Kiley: So, in the markets where adult use is legal then if you’re operating inside the confines of a multi-day music festival, you’re allowed to sell on-site? Would someone be allowed to sell or sample or any of those things? I’m going to bring it back to compliance here. So, these are some of the things I think people need to know.
Sam Hollander: So, as of today, there’s only one music festival where you can actually sell on-site. There’s a small little music festival called Grasslands, which is a festival within another festival, a festival that’s inside of this called Outside Lands, which I’m sure you’re familiar.
Jeffrey Boedges: Oh yeah.
Sam Hollander: Outside of Golden Gate Park. And at Grasslands, you can actually sell product so we can bring the bus there and yes, we could sell product. Other locations, we are not necessarily able to sell product. We can showcase product. It can be a consumption lounge. It’s considered private property.
Rick Kiley: Right.
Jeffrey Boedges: So, a few guys would bring in their own product.
Sam Hollander: Exactly. So, as long as we’re abiding by the local guidelines, it’s considered private property, we can pretty much do anything.
Rick Kiley: And if someone had a brand of gummies, they can’t sample the gummies in that environment?
Sam Hollander: Technically, no.
Rick Kiley: Technically. Okay. That’s cool. All right. So, other than within the festivals and I guess, MJBizCon, that’s in Vegas, yeah?
Sam Hollander: MJBiz is in Vegas.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. So, like, if you’re there, you’re parking outside the convention center or hotel that it’s being held at and that’s how people are finding it, how are you involved in that type of trade show experience, I guess?
Sam Hollander: Yeah. So, this year’s going to be a little bit different for us. The conference wanted way too much money for us to be able to drive the bus actually into the Vegas Convention Center where we can house it on the floor. So, what we’re doing this year is we are working with a few different partners that are throwing after-parties, and then we will have the bus at those after-parties so it can act as a consumption lounge unless there’s a brand that comes along and wants to activate and do something specific within MJBizCon.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. That sounds like fun. We should talk to you about the thing we did down in New Orleans, where we parked outside the conference center by just renting five parking spots from the city for $19 each and the conference got really mad at us.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. That’s on our list of things that maybe could have been thought through better.
Rick Kiley: I mean, people enjoyed it. The client was happy.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. The client was happy.
Sam Hollander: That’s the most important thing. People, place, and business.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. That’s really cool. I’m sure we’ll talk about it again. I did not know it had a podcast studio in the back. Now my interest is piqued even further. I think the question is, does it run on regular gas or need something with a little more kick? Are we talking about some plutonium? What’s happening?
Sam Hollander: So, obviously, the bus is this mammoth machine, so it definitely needs a healthy mix of steroids, veggies, and protein to get going. Now, in all seriousness, it runs on gas.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. You know, Willie Nelson I think he has this thing that runs on like corn oil or something.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. Vegetable oil.
Rick Kiley: So, I didn’t know if you guys are playing into something that was maybe like a hemp byproduct and…
Sam Hollander: It really does a lot of crazy things. You know that story that he like smoked on the roof of the White House or something like that?
Rick Kiley: Yeah. But probably with someone who was president at the time. We could take bets on who we think it was.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. That’s tough. I can’t really think of one.
Rick Kiley: There was one in the 90s. I think it’s probably my best guess.
Jeffrey Boedges: He didn’t inhale.
Sam Hollander: I would agree.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. I’m just saying. It’s probably him.
Jeffrey Boedges: You’re talking about the later one?
Rick Kiley: No. I’m talking about…
Jeffrey Boedges: Never mind.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Anyway, he played saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah.
Sam Hollander: Although, it could have been the later one too.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. I think the later one denied it but did it and actually inhaled. I think the one that said that he inhaled just wanted to look cool and never smoked a joint in his life.
Sam Hollander: He does play the saxophone though.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. But that you know, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
Rick Kiley: I mean, but you can go both ways with the saxophone. You could be Clarence Clemons which is cool.
Jeffrey Boedges: Or you could be Kenny G.
Rick Kiley: And you could be Kenny G. which is elevated.
Jeffrey Boedges: I’ll bet Kenny G. I’m just going to go out on a ledge.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Name me a musician that doesn’t or has never, because there are some who have like gone clean like I get it.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. I’ll have to think about that for a minute but I think that’s a later show.
Rick Kiley: Different episode.
Sam Hollander: Yeah. I have to think about that too.
Rick Kiley: All right. Cool. And my next question you actually already answered earlier and I think the question we have any time we talk to someone about data, when I start to listen to what people can do with data now, it kind of freaks me out. Like we get to this point is where I feel like I’m in the movie Minority Report and I’m going to walk into a store and said, “Hello, Rick Kiley. You should be getting this. Do you want some more of these today?” And so, I’m just curious as to like how big brothery are we getting here already? Like, how much are you able to know about somebody at this point and drive them into action through one of these brands?
Sam Hollander: Sure. So, everything as we’ve talked about before is compliant. It’s something called PII. So, privacy – I’m forgetting what that two terms stand for. Now, I apologize and it’ll come back to me. Personally Identifiable Information. See, I told you it’ll come back to me. So, everything that we do, we’re making sure it did not obtain any of that. Personally identifiable information is essentially an email address, phone number, etcetera. So, as a result of us not being able to collect any of that, essentially what happens is when we match that unique user to a device, it basically is put into a cohort of individuals. That cohort may be expressing certain interest in certain things like cannabis consumption. Maybe they’re sports fans, maybe they’re into certain types of music, et cetera. As a result of that, we package that together and we target that segment for that group.
Rick Kiley: So, let me understand this. Hold on just a second. So, when I get like a text message to my mobile device, that’s really an ad or more often than not, like fundraising for a political candidate or something like that, someone doesn’t have my actual phone number connected to my name. They basically have a thousand phone numbers that all meet a certain criteria and so it’s a phone number but it’s anonymous as to whose it is.
Jeffrey Boedges: There are pop-ups too that are happening on Webs.
Rick Kiley: I’m just curious if like because when I’m getting these text messages and I’m showing up on somebody’s like call sheet for something, do they not know it’s me?
Sam Hollander: Text messaging is a little bit different because typically that means you’ve opted into a loyalty program.
Jeffrey Boedges: Of something.
Sam Hollander: Yes. And if you opted into that, there’s typically some legal language that you sign that says that they’re allowed to use that phone number for marketing purposes. So, as a result of that, that’s where you might get that text message from a company like springbig that’s powering most of the loyalty in text messaging in the cannabis industry that says, “Come by Jeff’s edibles brand and get 50% off,” something of that nature.
Jeffrey Boedges: I would never, ever do 50% off, just for the record.
Sam Hollander: Well, we got to make money. You’ve got to make money, right?
Jeffrey Boedges: That’s it. I got to make money. I don’t want to cheapen my brand for God’s sakes.
Rick Kiley: It’s Jeff’s brand.
Jeffrey Boedges: It’s not Doug’s. It’s Jeff.
Sam Hollander: Got to have value.
Rick Kiley: Nagging on Doug. Poor guy.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. Poor, Doug. Good thing I don’t know any Dougs.
Sam Hollander: So, when it comes to the digital landscape, that’s a little bit different because you’re essentially passively acquiring that data. The consumer does opt-in in some way, shape, or form. So, when you’re browsing the web, it’s cookie tracking, which is going to be changing at some point in the very near future beginning in this year. If you’re on a mobile device and you log in to the ESPN app, there’s typically a notification that pops up the first time that you log in to that app that says, “Can we track your location?” as well as some other language that you typically opt into and that allows the advertiser to track you.
Rick Kiley: But there’s something screwy going on. And I guess there’s always been spam and stuff but my kids they just got mobile phones for their birthday and they’re twins and within a week, they were getting spam text messages for things. And I was just like, how did the number end up on a list? I don’t know. I’m sure we could talk about this all day but we are coming towards the end of our time. So, I want to just cover off on a couple of things real quickly. I think the biggest question I’m curious about is where you guys are going next. Like, you’ve obviously built this ecosystem, you’ve built these platforms, and you’re positioning yourself very neatly and squarely to help all these brands. What, I guess, is the next cool thing on your roadmap?
Sam Hollander: Yeah. There’s a number of different things that we’re working on. One, we understand that the need for reporting and more intelligence that can be leveraged for making smarter decisions is imperative for success. So, as a result of that, we’re building out a reporting dashboard that we’re going to be bringing to market at some point towards the end of this quarter, beginning of next quarter, which we’re really excited about. That’ll include a variety of different intelligence and reporting, including your standard media metrics that you can get from a digital campaign as well as some other foot traffic intelligence, things like how often consumers are going to a specific retailer, unique visitation, as well as where consumers are coming from, things of that nature. Number two is COVID is finally coming to an end. I want to say it’s coming to an end but people are getting vaccinated and are more comfortable going out and the world is opening back up. So, we’re very excited to get the canna-bus back on the road as we talk about a little bit earlier. So, that’s definitely on the roadmap. And then additionally, we’re in the process of negotiating several strategic partnerships that will better enhance our platform. One of those partners we already have an existing relationship with is springbig. I spoke about them a little bit earlier on what they do.
They are currently integrated into our kiosks when you walk into a dispensary so a consumer can click a little springbig button on any of those kiosks and see their loyalty points, etcetera. But we’re actually going to now also integrate them into our brand’s platform. And as part of that integration, it will allow anybody or any brand, I should say, that wants to do a sponsored text message to actually extend that beyond the text messaging portion of their campaign right there in the dispensary to really get home that message of whatever that promotional offer is. And then obviously also targeting those consumers to drive consistency with that brand message on mobile and desktop outside of the dispensary. So, we’re excited about that.
Rick Kiley: All right, man. That’s a lot of stuff.
Jeffrey Boedges: Good stuff.
Rick Kiley: Good, good stuff. All right. Well, listen, I think we’re going to have to bring it to a close here. We get to the part where we’re asking you to pull out your crystal ball and say, when do you think that cannabis will be federally legal? And we’d love to get your experience because I’m sure it’s based on some spectacular data.
Jeffrey Boedges: Well, that and I think you kind of nailed it earlier with the New York conversation.
Sam Hollander: So, it’s funny, I was actually in Washington, D.C. last weekend. My mother-in-law…
Jeffrey Boedges: See, this is how you do the right research to have a good answer for The Green Repeal. You invest the time, invest the money.
Rick Kiley: All other guests and future guests who listen, get to D.C., have an interview with somebody.
Jeffrey Boedges: Don’t rely on second-hand stuff you can read online. You got to go get it from the source.
Rick Kiley: Don’t let people interrupt you either. That’s ridiculous.
Sam Hollander: It’s okay. I’ll let you guys crack jokes. It’s all good. That’s what engages your audience, right? Keeps them listening for more.
Rick Kiley: I hope so.
Jeffrey Boedges: That and the free giveaways.
Sam Hollander: But anyway, I was hoping my mother-in-law move like the good son-in-law that I am and we went on a walk one afternoon and ran into a family friend who happens to be a lobbyist on Capitol Hill. So, I can confidently say that federal will probably not happen this year. Schumer’s bill is apparently extremely aggressive. I know that most of us haven’t seen it yet and it most likely will not get the full support of the Republicans. However, what will be interesting to see is when he went in, if he is reelected because I believe his term is up in January, that if he can create something that’s a little bit more bipartisan, that will get the Republicans on board. With that said, I do think that the Safe Banking Act will pass this year and that could potentially lead to some form of decriminalization. However, the Safe Banking Act in itself is going to drastically change this landscape. Companies will finally be able to operate using credit cards and they’ll be able to work with the big banks, et cetera, and I think that that is going to make the industry much safer and it’s going to also give comfort to a lot of larger organizations that may be thinking about getting involved but have been hesitant. When I say that, I’m thinking about large brands like the major broadcast companies, Google, Facebook, etcetera, the major sports leagues.
I do think as long as that bill passes and the federal government, which it sounds like they’ve been pretty much on board with this says that they will kind of leave it up to the states, I think that that will kind of be the natural progression of things that will happen. And then to what we were talking about earlier, I am still very confident that the New York landscape is going to also drastically change this industry. So, those two things kind of colliding together, three things colliding together, we’re going to see a lot of changes happening in the next 12 to 24 months.
Rick Kiley: Okay. So, you answered by not answering, so I get it. That’s totally cool.
Jeffrey Boedges: We need your final answer.
Rick Kiley: Yeah, I mean, if you told us it’s not going to happen, I get it. So, 2023?
Sam Hollander: I’m going to say somewhere between 2023 and 2024.
Rick Kiley: Man, such a marketer, giving ranges. I love it. Cool, man. It’s been really great speaking to you today. If anyone wants to learn more about Enlighten and how you could help their brand or help their retail business, where should they go?
Rick Kiley: Okay. And it’s GetEnlighten without the E-D or with the E-D?
Sam Hollander: With the E-D.
Rick Kiley: Oh, GetEnlightened. Got it. Cool. Sam, it has been great having you on The Green Repeal today. I hope we have a chance to talk again. Maybe do a podcast out of the back of your bus. That sounds cool. I want to do that.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. At a Phish show.
Sam Hollander: I didn’t get the last thing you said. I apologize.
Rick Kiley: Oh, we just said that we hope the next time we meet we can record…
Jeffrey Boedges: We could do a podcast in your canna-bus. Yeah.
Sam Hollander: Absolutely. We would love to have you in the back of the canna-bus to figure out some kind of activation, and get it done.
Rick Kiley: Alright, man.
Jeffrey Boedges: At a Phish show, evidently.
Rick Kiley: Or not. It’s fine. Vegas sounds fun.
Sam Hollander: Yeah.
Jeffrey Boedges: Who knows?
Sam Hollander: Vegas Phish show, I mean, Dead and Company are going back on tour. We could do it at a Dead Show. That might make Jeff a little bit happier.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. We could throw it out there. Yeah, especially if we can get maybe Phil Lesh in for the podcast.
Sam Hollander: Why not?
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. Exactly.
Rick Kiley: All right, Sam. Thank you so much for joining us today. Cheers.
Sam Hollander: Cheers. Thanks so much, guys.