Breaking the norm of conventional marketing
Greg Gaston of Vapor Nation is no stranger to breaking the norm of conventional marketing. Earning his bones in the heyday of Redbull’s rise, Greg joined Vapor Nation in 2014 and since has helped solidify Vapor Nation as one of the largest retailers of cannabis vaporizers in the world. We sat down with Greg to ask him about the hardships of navigating the tricky web of marketing in a cannabis prohibited digital realm, and what he sees as the future of the accessories market.
Marijuana Retail Report: Being one of the biggest players in the US Cannabis accessory market is an incredible achievement. How do you manage to keep the brand fresh as the landscape constantly evolves?
Greg Gaston: Well, yeah. That’s tough. That’s something that we’re always changing and evolving as the industry evolves. Certainly, building out and expanding upon our already current marketing and advertising efforts is extremely important. And, really it’s even beyond that. It’s about not getting too comfortable in what we’re doing. Constantly trying to find new and creative ways to market and brand ourselves. Continuing to seek out new opportunities, networking, and continuing to go to new events. That goes both for the retail and the wholesale end. As the landscape changes, the things you did yesterday may not be relevant tomorrow. So, it’s my job as the marketing director to constantly be sure I am aware of what those opportunities.
Marijuana Retail Report: What is the number one thing, in your opinion, that most cannabis brands and retailers overlook when creating their promotion strategies?
Greg Gaston: I’ve come from the brand world, so for me, I think a lot of people overlook the power of brand building. I think that a lot of people focus too heavily on the dollar for dollar aspect and don’t really understand the power of being fixated in someone’s mind, or being a staple to a given audience. Having your brand constantly promoted is critical.
Marijuana Retail Report: In a restricted digital landscape for cannabis products, how does one manage to navigate the iron curtain of Facebook and Google?
Greg Gaston: Well, for Google, SEO is extremely important. If you’re unable to advertise on Google AdWords, making sure that you rank for key search terms is extremely important. As far as social media is concerned, there are ways around having a presence on social media without paid advertising on the platform and the number one thing is forging and building relationships. Not only with media companies, but like-minded people and businesses in the industry by sharing resources and supporting one another. In addition to that, there’s a lot of tastemakers that you can work with and get your brand out there as using popular affiliate networks. There are tons of people in the cannabis industry that have a huge reach. So, if you can leverage a campaign with somebody like that, or a company like that, then you’re putting yourself in a better spot without having to do paid advertising through Facebook or Google itself, or any social media platform for that matter.x
Marijuana Retail Report: How do you see affiliates work with cannabis retailers in the future? Do you see them as being an auxiliary? How would you see that evolution take place from the small-scale to the large-scale?
Greg Gaston: That’s so tough. In my opinion, it really just depends on who that affiliate is. Some people can start strong and fade. Some people, it takes a lot of time for them to build a following and they become a well-oiled machine. I can tell every single affiliate that comes my way the success stories that we’ve had and if they choose to follow that or not is up to them. You constantly have to be evaluating what all of your current marketing efforts are, and really take a good look at the numbers and say, “Is this worth it? Is the dollar I’m putting in going to bring me back a justifiable ROI?”
Marijuana Retail Report: Say someone wanted to join your affiliate program, how would that work?
Greg Gaston: When you join our affiliate program, you will be supplied with a range of banners and textual links that you place within your site. When a user clicks on one of these links or banners, they will be directed to our website and their activity and conversions will be tracked. Once a purchase is completed from the traffic you send us, you earn a commission. It’s easy and helps get new eyes on your product.
Marijuana Retail Report: What is the biggest change you’ve noticed in the past decade with the cannabis retail market?
Greg Gaston: The emergence and the availability of concentrates. Whether it’s wax, or oil. Even maybe two-and-a-half, three years ago, it wasn’t that popular, or it wasn’t that accessible, or people just didn’t know about it. There are tons of room for growth in concentrates. They’re becoming a lot more popular, it’s really where I see the biggest change. People are moving away, drastically, from flower. Which, there’s always gonna be people that are consuming Cannabis in flower form, but I feel that concentrates have just absolutely exploded. So, that to me would be the biggest change that I’ve seen.
Marijuana Retail Report: What do you see as the biggest shift in the quickly growing accessories market in the next ten years?
Greg Gaston: It’s hard to tell honestly. There is always going to be a need for the simple five click vaporizer pen because it’s easy and it fits in your pocket. It all depends on what you want. You have some kid who’s 22 years old, he’s gonna go out and he wants to use a vaporizer when he’s at parties, and he wants to use vaporizer when he’s in public, so he’ll want something that’s discreet but maybe has some advancements. And, then you’ve got somebody, maybe in their 40’s, or 50’s who’s at home. They’re not using cannabis outside. They use flower at home and want something really nice, and that works well for them that isn’t complicated. There’s really a unit for every single type of consumer out there. I think that’s another aspect you’re seeing too is the diversification of products within a particular brand umbrella. You’ll see a brand that has a pen, but also has a portable, that also has a desktop. I do think that it’s shifting a little bit further away from desktop, but there will always be a need for those. You take Volcano, for example, or Storz & Bickel, the makers of Volcano, they’ve got one of the greatest products available. But, at the same time, they recognize the need for the portable audience, the audience that wants a good portable. But, they also wanted to maintain that amazing effectiveness, and that’s why they came out with the Crafty and the Mighty. So, even the companies that you were like, “No way Storz & Bickel would ever make a portable,” they did.
You can check out Vapor Nation by clicking here.