As Wana Brands experiences unprecedented growth and celebrates its 10th anniversary, America’s leading edibles producer has tapped seasoned cannabis marketing pro Joe Hodas to join the Wana C-Suite as chief marketing officer.
In this newly created position, Hodas is responsible for overseeing the planning, development and execution of the organization’s marketing and advertising initiatives. He is based in Wana’s Boulder headquarters and reports to CEO Nancy Whiteman.
I chatted with Hodas about his new role, how he met Whiteman and whether the 2020 pandemic will tweek his approach to cannabis marketing.
How did your relationship with Wana begin? How did it evolve to this latest role?
I’ve known Wana as a brand since my very early days in the cannabis space, when I began as CMO of a competitor brand about a week after adult use legalization.
She likely won’t recall it, but my very first memory of meeting Nancy was at an early industry group meeting of edibles companies that took place at a fast casual restaurant in the Capitol Hill area of Denver. And I remember thinking, ‘Who is this person? She sounds pretty smart, but definitely not like the other people I have met in the industry.’ From that point forward I started keeping my eye on Wana. As the industry began to develop, and my head was down and focused on my company, Wana managed to solidify a leadership role that became the bar for the rest of us.
Nancy and I continued to keep in touch, as colleagues, until I made a move outside the edibles space a few years ago. We were then able to chat more freely and would meet for lunch on occasion to discuss the industry and often my latest endeavor. Wana became a key partner for my last company, Gofire, which meant even more regular contact with the team at Wana.
Then, finally, the timing just worked out as I was looking to move on to a new adventure and Nancy was looking to further bolster her leadership team. It felt a bit like coming home though, in that I had known and admired them for so long, but there was never the right time, until now. Like you said, cannabis is such a nascent industry.
How will it evolve in 2020 considering current circumstances like social distancing and quarantines? Does that force companies like Wana to tweak their approach?
Great question. And the honest answer is: I have no idea! But, if pushed to pontificate, I would say that it will mean a few things, most of which are on the business and finance side of the industry.
I see it as follows. The social nature of cannabis — passing of joints, vapes, etc. — will be changed irrevocably, but much of the innovation moving forward will look to address those changes. Changes across the social elements of flower also means that edibles will likely continue to grow as they are shareable and more hygienic. This will also force innovation within edibles to address market segments who prefer smoking.
For example, our new Wana Quick Fast-Acting Gummies, which are designed to provide a novel edible experience, with an onset of 5-15 mins and Delta-9-THC effects similar to an inhalation effect rather than an edible effect and lasting up to three hours.
There will be consolidation and likely overall shrinking of the market in terms of the number of companies. This is simply a matter of economics. The current market, even before coronavirus’ impact, was struggling under its own weight, with too many companies based on too many inflated expectations and too highly leveraged.
With the addition of this newest challenge, it will hasten the demise of the weaker companies and only the strong will survive. We will likely lose some great brands, companies and products along the way. However, some form of cleansing — though preferably not driven by a pandemic — was necessary. And the good news is that the consumer will still have plenty of choice when all is said and done.
True innovation backed by science and tech, not personal whims or conjecture, will drive the next wave of cannabis success and valuations.
This last one is my hope: that as we, nationally, pull ourselves out of this crisis, we might see some movement along federal lines — or at the state level — to help cannabis business recover as well. That could mean banking or tax relief, but something hopefully gives.
Cannabis and cannabinoid medicine, as a form of stress and anxiety relief, finally gets its critical, mass market acceptance.
Will U.S. advertising and marketing change or shift considering state-by-state rules are so different? Why or why not?
I don’t think that happens in the year, for the year, in a standardized way. I think that state-by-state rules will continue to evolve; see Colorado allowing out-of-home advertising. But, with all that national platforms like Google and Facebook have on their plates, along with their long-standing fight against cannabis, I don’t think it will change.
For 2020, I continue to believe it will be critical mass at state level AND a strong PR approach that will win the day on a national level. Now, 2021 might be a different story.
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