When Matt Janz accepted a job as marketing director for The+Source, a vertically integrated cannabis company with retail locations in Las Vegas and Henderson, Nev., he could not have been happier. “It sounds cheesy, but they were always my dream dispensary,” he tells Cannabis Dispensary. “They always had very consistent branding, they had strong messaging, very consistent voice and tone as well. Definitely a brand I wanted to be associated with, from a marketing perspective.”
Prior to working with The+Source, Janz was VP of marketing and operations for Oasis, another Las Vegas retailer, where he increased sales by 180%, margins by 20%, and in-store traffic by 150%, he says. Prior to that, he worked with the Apothecarium and for an entertainment marketing agency that worked with several entites on the Las Vegas Strip.
After Green Growth Brands acquired The+Source in 2019, Janz saw his role expand to director of THC marketing, where he now leverages his experience in Nevada’s cannabis marketplace to develop strategies to bring a new suite of products to market. In this 10 Questions interview, he shares details on his role, tips on how to market new products, and advises cannabis companies how best to navigate the global COVID-19 pandemic.
[Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length, style and clarity.]
Brian MacIver: You’re the director of THC Marketing for The+Source. What exactly does that job entail?
Matt Janz: As the director of THC Marketing, I’m responsible for leading and executing across all markets for The+Source, as well as our vertically integrated brand, 8Fold. 8Fold is actually The+Source’s legacy brand. They are a cannabis line truly focused on quality cannabis at a friendly price point.
[I also manage] CAMP [an extracts and edibles line], developed with our partners at Green Growth Brands. They are an award-winning brand focused on connecting with nature, others and yourself.
In conjunction with all that, I also lead and develop all our communication and marketing strategies and am responsible for the brand’s articulation at retail across the region.
Ultimately, I do act as our team’s in-house cannabis expert.
BM: The+Source was recently acquired by Green Growth Brands, which added different brands and products to your offerings. What’s your approach to developing marketing strategies for new products?
MJ: Developing brands and new products is a team effort. It really does take a village to overcome the challenges that we face in our industry.
When we start the process of strategy development, we start with the “who” and the “why.” The marketing strategy should meet a unique consumer need. You should be communicating your product’s reason to be and provide consumer-centric messaging that is both connective and authentic.
To develop an effective marketing strategy for new products, you need to take a deep dive into those niche consumer needs, refine your core audience and understand their psychographics and understand what matters most to them. From there, you should take a 30,000-foot view on your omni-channel mix and create the most cost-effective penetration strategy across those channels while deploying that connective and engaging messaging.
From my perspective, marketers should also understand how to best leverage and utilize their earned and paid media. Because our industry has its challenges when it comes to traditional marketing strategies, it becomes even more pertinent to be innovative in how to communicate, what internal and external resources you leverage, and how you invest to develop mutually beneficial partnerships.
BM: The+Source is very community oriented. What has been your favorite community program that you launched?
MJ: One of my favorite programs that we started in the medical-only market is the Higher Education series. Higher Education is a completely free series of cannabis educational seminars that is led by our head of education Tony Robertson. Basically, every month we provide one free class that is open to the public in both Las Vegas and Henderson.
For us, no matter what the circumstance is, we’re always going to prioritize our community and our education. We think by providing education we’re supporting the community, because the better educated our community is on the positive benefits cannabis provides, the easier they can get the most out of the products they use for relief. We believe that wellness lives on a spectrum, and that spectrum ranges from the after-work winddown to a consumer looking to alleviate some serious conditions or ailment that they are facing.
"We felt that because cannabis is an essential medicine to patients, we had to minimize that risk of exposure and focus on serving their needs."
- Matt Janz, Director of THC Marketing, The+Source
BM: What are some tips you have for companies looking to start community programs?
MJ: One thing that I want to impart is that every last bit helps. Every movement starts somewhere, so don’t worry about launching the biggest community program you can. Start somewhere feasible and where the largest impact can take place. While a national charitable organization does provide tremendous support, you’ll likely make a more immediate impact by working with a hyper-local organization.
One example is we had worked with a local, veteran-owned charity called Forgotten Not Gone. They basically set up recumbent bike missions where they are uniting veterans to get out of the house to try to prevent suicide. We put together a fundraiser one day where we matched every transaction with $2 in donations, and we were able to raise $4,000. That $4,000 may not have had as much of an impact at a national organization. The donation we made to Forgotten Not Gone made a tremendous impact on our local veteran community and provided them with the funding necessary to repair some of the recumbent bikes they use.
Seek out specific groups in your community that might need assistance and try to find a way to work with vendor resources to benefit them, from fundraising to hosting support groups and providing free educational classes. There’s really a way for every cannabis organization to get involved and make a difference.
BM: From your position as a marketer, what is the biggest misconception people have about cannabis, and how do you go about changing that?
MJ: While I would like to think we’re reaching a new point of progress and the stigmas are slowly fading as we move forward, one misconception that I think still exists is that cannabis is a one-dimensional product that is just used to get stoned.
From my perspective as a marketer, we can beat that stigma through education, through empowerment and through showcasing cannabis integrating into every lifestyle. Our industry has an obligation to operate professionally and with integrity, impart education on everyone we serve and empower leaders to activate change.
BM: What are some marketing “don’ts” during this global COVID-19 pandemic?
MJ: Don’t avoid the hard conversations in communications. We’re all facing very uncertain times, and we need to provide continuous communication with our customers to alleviate the anxieties that they are facing.
The+Source had made the very hard decision to move to medical-only temporarily right before our governor had an emergency declaration. For us, this was important because one of our core values is being wellness minded. We felt that because cannabis is an essential medicine to patients, we had to minimize that risk of exposure and focus on serving their needs. It’s not that we completely shunned retail customers—we did provide them with delivery opportunities—but we made the decision to prioritize our medical patients’ health, and we ripped that Band-Aid off with a full-on communications campaign that touched every single channel that we have. We also deployed PR. We really went to the fullest extent to communicate.
It was a hard message, and it was not well received, but the reality is you can’t avoid hard conversations. You need to rip off the Band-Aid because your consumers are uncertain, and what you need to do is reduce that uncertainty. During this pandemic, we’re all going to have to make sacrifices with the intention of protecting our community and, as a result, ultimately the world’s health and safety. So, don’t be fearful how a difficult message will be received.
Most important, don’t make light of the situation. Now is not the time to be overly playful. Now is the time to take a more reverent tone and take your customers’ health seriously. With over 1 million worldwide and over 11,000 deaths in the USA alone, the situation is extremely serious, and our industry needs to project seriousness and empathy.
BM: What are some marketing “dos” during this global COVID-19 pandemic?
MJ: The three that I want people to take away are, one, do be empathetic; two, do communicate as often as possible; and three, do provide helpful resources to your community.
As marketers, we often focus on maintaining our brand’s voice and tone, but during this pandemic you need to break that mold and be human, first and foremost. Now is the time to connect with every customer you have in the most authentic ways possible, be empathetic to their problems and challenges and utilize your channels to relieve as much of the difficulty as possible.
We need to communicate frequently. Every single day brings new developments to the pandemic and how we’re operating, and the challenges humans across the world are facing. During a crisis, providing enough information to our customers is paramount: It’s going to reduce uncertainty and, as a result, reduce some of that anxiety that they are facing.
From my perspective, this is our time to leverage our channels to communicate those available resources to our community and provide pathways to them. Outside of direct resources, I urge marketers to get creative. What are some activities that your customers can do at home to stay active? What are some ways that customers can stay social while remaining at home? You should be developing strategies that bring the biggest benefits to your customers and lend a helping hand in every way that you can.
BM: What are some things that cannabis companies should be mindful of in how they communicate with their consumer base or patient base after this pandemic is over?
MJ: I think that, as a world, we’re realizing the importance of being ultra-hygienic. It’s going to be relevant to continue to have these elevated hygienic practices and to communicate what you’re doing to protect your consumers’ safety. You have to make sure that they feel comfortable knowing that just because this pandemic is over, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to go back to how things were because things are never going to be the same. In fact, now we have to be even more cautious so that we can provide that comfort.
BM: What has been your biggest lesson learned during your time in the cannabis industry?
MJ: The biggest lesson that I’ve learned personally during my time in the cannabis industry is the power of community. Across all the organizations that I’ve been blessed to work with, the Apothecarium, Oasis and The+Source, cannabis has helped my community in so many diverse ways. For example, with my teams, I’ve worked with organizations like Opportunity Village, which provides help to mentally and physically disabled members of our community through vocational training, treatment and art services. I’ve worked with Three Square, which is Nevada’s largest food bank. The+Source donated over 150,000 cans during one massive food drive. We’ve worked with organizations like the Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation, which helps underprivileged children who are blind or have visual impairments.
Those three examples are a very short list of a very long one that touches so many aspects of our community’s needs. From my perspective, there’s no limit to the power of the cannabis community when we harness our strength for the better good of our community. This is one way that we continue to fight the stigma: by showing our communities that there are numerous benefits from wellness to economic and through community impact.
BM: What’s next for The+Source?
MJ: Fortunately, with Green Growth Brands, we’re looking to expand The+Source to new regions and provide that same level of community support that we have here in Nevada to as many communities as possible. We stand for access, decriminalization and destigmatization. With the backing of hundreds of years of combined retail experience in [consumer packaged goods], our production and cultivation team continuing to be on the cutting edge, and our The+Source team bringing years of passionate and trusted experience, we’re extremely excited to continue our mission in bigger and better ways while we serve more communities across the country.
We believe that cannabis and life are better together, and the future of The+Source will be an evolution to humanize cannabis from relevance to its integration into every lifestyle and support the wellness of our communities.