The TRICHOMES Hash it Out podcast features conversations about trending cannabis topics. We also bring in Industry insiders and influencers to discuss their point of view
RJ Balde talked to Jennifer Wetzel about how cannabis branding has changed during the coronavirus pandemic, and how crucial it is to understand the consumer. They also discuss consumer archetypes, gender equity in the cannabis workplace and much more.
RJ: Coming to you from a virtual Senate hearing, I'm RJ Balde, and this is the TRICHOMES Hash it Out Podcast. On this show, we feature conversations about trending cannabis topics, we also bring in industry insiders and influencers to discuss their point of view. Today, as a part of the special TRICHOMES series CONVO- 19, I'll be talking to Jennifer Wetzel about how cannabis branding has changed during the coronavirus pandemic, and how crucial it is to understand the consumer. We will also talk about consumer archetypes, gender equity in the cannabis workplace and much more. Without further ado, let's hash it out. Today, I am joined by Jennifer Wetzel, founder of Ladyjane Branding and the Women in Cannabis Study. For over 25 years, Jennifer has worked in advertising and marketing for both Fortune 500 companies and small businesses through data-driven research, Jennifer has also worked to understand how women are faring in the cannabis industry and whether enough is being done to support women. Jennifer, welcome to the show!
Jennifer: Thanks so much and thanks for having me.
RJ: No problem, so are you joining us from your little quarantine bunker today?
Jennifer: I am, I'm safely in my apartment in Portland, Maine. Haven't been out in, I stopped counting but it's over, it's almost 60 days I think.
RJ: Yeah, yeah! We're almost at the halfway point to another quarantine because like a traditional quarantine is 40 days and we passed that mark a while ago. How has your quarantine been? How have you been doing during this craziness?
Jennifer: You know, it was rough for me at the beginning. I have suffered with PTSD in the past and when you're recovering from PTSD and you're telling your brain that everything's okay that helps but when everything's not okay, and you're in the middle of an active trauma, it's difficult. So I had to reach in and find my coping skills that I've learned and I put them to work and they help and so now I'm doing okay, back to work and I've stopped cleaning out closets. I think I’m doing okay.
RJ: Okay, good good. We've moved on from the closet. That's good. But I mean on the bright side you got the closets clean. You may, you know, that's I guess a bright side. We're all being a little productive at least at home. I've done the dishes more often than I've ever thought I ever would.
Jennifer: Good! Yeah, that's something that has to happen everyday so.
RJ: Yeah. All right. I know it's crazy how much they pile up when you are only eating from home. Like I haven't really eaten out very often since the quarantine so, but I'm glad to hear that you're faring well and you're doing well. It's definitely a day-by-day basis. So yeah, I understand that Ladyjane Branding was formed partially as a result from your personal experience as a medical cannabis patient. So, can you share more about how your experience helped start Ladyjane and what the company does?
Jennifer: Sure can. In 2017, I moved to Maine for a new job and I got my medical card the day that I arrived. I was dealing with symptoms from an autoimmune disorder and an immune disorder and then I lost my job in 2018. And then I also had a series of traumas, I had to move my mom to town and care for her, she wasn't well. I got divorced, I got into a car accident and there was the PTSD and while I was trying to recover from that I was using a lot of cannabis spending a lot of time at my caregivers house learning about it meeting people, meeting entrepreneurs and that's when I realized that my branding skills that I've learned over my career would come in handy to help the entrepreneurs in this market in Maine. You know, raise the level of branding for their products at the time. Everything was just in mylar bags with Sharpie on it. There were no brands. And you know what I was able to do and build in building Ladyjane branding was to be able to use my creativity as a coping mechanism. So building the business and developing the archetypes that I use for branding was one way for me to lift myself up out of that despair. It gave me something to do and so Ladyjane branding was born to both give back to the entrepreneurs who were helping me heal, but also to use my skills that I've learned elsewhere to, you know, help the industry. So there’s Ladyjane Branding.
RJ: I love that. That's such a very inspirational story. I had a guest on the show recently who is a cannabis centered nurse. She specializes in cannabis medicine and she was speaking to me about post-traumatic growth and how some people can take their PTSD and sort of morph it into something positive and sort of grow something from that place of darkness. And so that's very inspiring that it helped you launch this professional career. And so what services specifically does Ladyjane offer.
Jennifer: We offer brand identity services. So I help companies build a brand identity and a brand strategy and then I coach them to help make sure that they stay consistent with that brand strategy over time because that's how you develop an emotional connection with consumers. So I focus on the upfront process, the very first thing that you should do even when you're starting a business and that is to define your brand, who is the brand, the emotional all elements of your brand, the philosophical elements of your brand, the visual design elements and I helped, I have developed a platform that is multiple choice to help brands do it quickly and easily and at a low cost and then what we do is we write a creative brief and then they can take that creative brief to any design professional or I can put them in touch with one and then they can get work that matches their expectation because they know what to ask for. All of it is in writing and so it gives them, it gives a designer a much better chance of getting the design right. So that's one of the main services that I offer, that brand strategy coaching. I also work with brands on compliant messaging. So I have a background in animal health and interestingly enough, the rules are the same, that you need to follow for messaging to avoid getting in trouble with the FDA. So I can coach brands on how to make claims that make an emotional connection rather than making health claims that will get them in trouble.
RJ: Interesting. Yeah, I was reading an interview that you did, I don't know if it was just a few months ago or something like that, where you were talking about your experience in the animal products industry and in the similarities that you saw with the Cannabis industry. Do I have this correct that you kind of described when you entered the Animal product space that it was like the branding was just a complete mess.
Jennifer: I was working in the performance horse supplement market and which is just a random tiny little market but very specific.
RJ: Sure, very specific.
Jennifer: Yeah, very specific but it is very fragmented. There are a lot of brands out there and there are, it's the wild west. A little bit like CBD right now. I mean, there are people out there who make supplements at home and then put them in a bucket and sell them to people who have horses and some of those products are not tested, they're not safe necessarily. They're just thrown out there on the market and those companies may say things like, you know, here cure your horse's cancer, just like CBD and that's not the way we should be doing it. So yeah. It was a crazy market.
RJ: Gotcha now, can you tell me more about the archetypal segmentation model?
Jennifer: Yes I can. So one of the shortcuts that I use in branding is based on the concept of archetypes and archetypes are universal characters that reside in our collective unconscious. As an example, you might recognize a hero, or an outlaw or a lover, if you see a movie or read a book. You can pick out those characters and you can understand what their motivations are, what their values are and what their personality might be. And so what I did was I developed 16 archetypes specifically for the Cannabis industry and they would include an activist, a stoner, a healer, a rock star and a farmer and I made this into a multiple choice quiz for brands. So they take this quiz and they find out which of these 16 archetypes their brand is closest to and once you know your archetype, then you can build your brand identity around it. Your personality, the tone of voice, your visual identity and then once you have that on paper it helps you stay consistent with your branding. And so that archetype is just the beginning of your brand story. It's personifying the main character of your brand story and the segmentation model that I came up with is a way to help you use that archetype to help develop the rest of your brand story. So there are eight motivational themes that I developed that go along with those archetypes and they would include action, introspection, guidance, experience, enjoyment, for example, and so the multiple choice part, when you're building your brand is that I've segmented all of the personality words, the tone of voice words ,the action words, the values, the emotional words into those motivational themes so that when you're building your brand identity, you don't have to just come up with it on your own. It's your guide, it's a guided discussion. And then I've done the same thing for visual design. So I came up with four visual design categories like rough and earthy or colorful and simple and I show clients color palettes and fonts and examples of ads and products and packaging so that they can see the cohesive picture of what a brand might look like if they build a solid brand identity using this model.
RJ: Hmm, now I took that archetype quiz and I got artists as my archetype and it said...
Jennifer: Excellent, what did you think?
RJ: Well I like the description, the description said quote “you value sustainability, supporting artisans and craftsmanship and are attracted to anything that has been carefully curated by like-minded folks'' and I thought that was very accurate to me. And how important is the collection of data in terms of narrowing down all of these archetypes? And how did you identify the 16 specific ones that you have in the quiz?
Jennifer: Well, I'll start with the how did I identify and that was a long process. I had a long list of archetypes, a very long list, there was hundreds and actually I've included a couple hundred in my model. Because the 16 aren't you know, the only ones that you can choose from but I wanted to make sure that I had a good representation of different personalities. So I've done a lot of reading, I've done a lot of therapy and so that helped me understand the different roles of the different archetypes in the story of the industry. You know, so it's important to have a doctor but it's also important to have a stoner, you know, they're very different directions to go. So it was a process of elimination and also a process of organization. So I had to fit them all into those themes, guidance and innovation and experience and enjoyment. So it was almost like a puzzle and then in terms of the data, I've had over 3,000 brands take that quiz and so I can see the distribution of archetypes among the brand's who've taken the quiz and in this country and I can see that there are many more scientists brands, for example, then Rockstar Brands. I've had a number of consumers, over 3,000 consumers, take the quizas well and I've built consumer personas based around those archetypes, and so now I have demographic data about consumers who were interested in cannabis and what personalities they are. So that's going to be really helpful in targeting and finding the customers, to have brands help finding who and how to target their customers.
RJ: Hmm interesting, so because you have this reach with all of these companies and you've had the opportunity to see their different perspectives and the demographics that they're aiming for, shifting that into the conversation about the coronavirus pandemic. I personally have gotten emails from every company I've ever even thought of letting me know that they're thinking about me during this pandemic and these trying times so and like so many ads now on TV and on social media really reflect the times that were in, so in what ways are branding techniques shifting during the coronavirus pandemic?
Jennifer: Well, you know, the one thing that I would say is that for brands that have a really good understanding of what their archetype is and what role they are playing in the story of this market. That is the way to understand the best way to approach your content development right now. So as an example, if you're a stoner brand, you might be out there making light a little bit of what's going on, not in a bad way but bringing light to the situation, you know, getting people to laugh or think about things differently. Whereas a doctor brand might be talking about content that is specific to the coronavirus and how to be safe during this time. A teacher brand might talk about something completely different and an activist brand, you know, might be trying to rally people to sign petitions for different things. So it's a way to understand your role and develop your content. So if you're doing something that does not fit the personality of your brand you're going to confuse people. So to me, you shouldn't be doing anything that is outside of your brand identity right now. You should be sticking to it, even if you are doing something different because of the situation that we're in.
RJ: Gotcha. Now how can branding stay current to the times, stay true to the branding of their company and remain sensitive to the severity of the situation without coming off as opportunist of the moment?
Jennifer: Right, we have to be authentic and you really have to be empathetic right now. And so, you know when brands really lean into their identity and they act in the role they're supposed to be playing and they're authentic about it and they're empathetic about it, then the content is going to land much better, I think with the audiences that are out there and are seeing so much content right now because that's what everybody's doing, sitting home making content.
RJ: Yeah. No doubt. I started a hashtag on my Instagram story. It's #content4quarantine with a four, a number 4 and because it's like what else am I doing? But it's mostly been me like shouting out like things I've been watching, so it's a mostly just like recordings of my TV with like a little recommendation in the tagging them and stuff but yeah, so going back to speaking about the importance of data and understanding data collection, through the data that you've collected with Ladyjane Branding you've been able to conduct research through the women in cannabis study so can you share more about that and what the research has told you this far?
Jennifer: I can, the women in cannabis study was started mid last year and it is an effort to document women's experiences working in the Cannabis industry and I started it for a couple reasons one because I saw a lack of comprehensive and really recent data talking about women in the industry, women working in the industry. I know there's some data out there, but they're just, it wasn't enough. I didn't think, also I saw so many stories and comments and posts on social media that were about bullying and harassment and sexism, that I felt that it was necessary to quantify those experiences so that we could have data instead of anecdotes. And so now I have over 950 responses, in three countries. The U.S., Canada and the UK and what I'm learning is that women have a difficult journey. They are very passionate about the plant, they’re in cannabis to do good. You know, they want to bring awareness to and fix social justice issues, you know, they want to teach others what they've learned about cannabis or about whatever they've learned in their prior careers. There are a lot of barriers and sacrifices that they make. The top barriers that women face are being taken seriously is the number one and obtaining resources and financing is number two and women have the sacrifices the things they give up to work in the industry, whether it's money, time with their family or friends or themselves, their health, whether it's mental health, physical health, the custody of their children or their freedom even. Then women are faced with things like rampant, sexism and bullying from other women and discrimination and sexual harassment. 70% of the women in this study have been sexually harassed at some point in their career. Yet despite all of those issues, eighty-six percent of the women in the study still consider themselves successful and so that tells me that we're resilient and persistent and we're going to keep going but what it also tells me is that you know, when I look at the definitions of success because I asked women, you know, “what is success look like for you?” Those definitions talk about helping others, helping clients and customers. They talk about community and family and friends and personal growth and stability. You know, what they really don't talk about is profitability and shareholder value and when you think about, I'm sure you know that women get less than three percent of capital investment. When you think about what that capital investment comes with though, that comes with expectations of success that don't match what women's success definition is. So with that money comes an expectation for profitability and shareholder value, not you know feeding my family and making sure that everyone around me eats too, which that was my favorite definition of all. So it just seems like, you know, we have a long way to go in this industry for it to be equitable. And that's what the data shows.
RJ: Gotcha and that survey is still alive? Is that correct?
Jennifer: It is, it is still alive. We are underrepresented with young women, women who are entry level. We are underrepresented with women of color still. We have a large population of business owners and c-level executives in this study. I would like for it to be more representative of the industry because if it's not, then I'm not telling the full story. I'm just telling the story of the women who've responded. And at the moment, so the studies been self funded to date and I'm at this point seeking sponsorship help from the community to get the rest of the data fully analyzed so that we can start putting out market research reports. So we're going to be doing a B2B market research report that talks about, shows profiles of business owners. I did a webinar a couple weeks ago that showed profiles of plant touching business owners and ancillary business owners and comparing the two. I'll have data about consumer research in terms of women's cannabis use. Why they use it? The types that they use and how they use it and then I will be putting together a report, a policy and advocacy report about equity. So we're also going to be doing, we have a video series that we put together with Wendy Borman, who's the executive director of Mary Jane's the Women of Weed and in June, I'm going to be starting a live interview series where I bring on women and talk to them about their stories, their journeys. So that's coming in June.
RJ: That's awesome. And now a lot of the work that you do is, seems to be centered around education, getting the data out, helping people understand their demographics, their branding the ways we can help women in the workplace, you know, getting that education that information out there and in an interview you did last November with the Cannabis Industry Journal, you said quote one of the best ways to create a more inclusive. s through education. So in tying the two together, how can branding be used as a tool to help educate?
Jennifer: Well, storytelling is with data, is what we're going to be using for education. So I'm a firm believer in using stories. Stories are really important in branding, telling branding stories. But it's also a way to help others flex their empathy muscles, you know, when you can put yourself, when you can understand someone's situation when you hear their story it helps us understand what their situation might be like and how they go through life. And that is critical in changing things that is critical and having people understand the benefits of a more equitable industry and a more inclusive industry and we're definitely not there.
RJ: We're definitely not there. No, definitely not but through the work that you're doing through this study and through all of this data-driven research, you are helping us get to the point that we need to be at and so thank you very much for the work that you're doing through all of that. Now before we go here, where can our listeners find LadyJane branding, find the Women in Cannabis Study and find the work that you're doing?
Jennifer: Ladyjanebranding.com is where you will find information about the branding stuff that I'm doing as well as the archetype quiz and on Instagram at Ladyjane Branding. Womenincannabis.study is the website for the study. Also WomeninCannabis.study on Instagram.
RJ: Cool and also speaking of that quiz, one more thing, the illustrations of each personality, archetype person, were really nice like whoever did those just shout out to whoever did those illustrations on that.
Jennifer: Thank you. Yeah, thank you. I will let her know. I'll be honest with you, that was a long process trying to figure out. how to visualize and show 16 personalities. And the paper dolls and halloween costumes were the best way to figure it out.
RJ: Awesome. That's awesome. Yeah. I love it. I love the style of it. They're super cool looking so yeah, shout out to the artist.
RJ: Well Jennifer, thank you so much again for joining me today. I really appreciate it and thank you for the work that you're doing.
Jennifer: Thank you and thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. Thanks for being an ally.
RJ: Of course. Be well.
My thanks again to Jennifer Whetzel for joining me. If you are a member of the cannabis community and have a story you want to share with us, we would love to hear from you. You can reach the show at Hash It Out at TRICHOMES.com. You can help others find the show by taking a moment to subscribe to the podcast and write a review. You can also join the discussion with industry insiders and get your voice heard by joining the community at TRICHOMES.com and following us on all social media. Hash it out is produced by David Fortin and presented by TRICHOMES.com. I'm RJ Balde. Thanks for listening.
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