Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Dawn of a New Adventure (and a long, long, blog post)

So, if you have landed here…its 99% likely that its due to either a post on one of my social channels, or directly from an email I sent. Which means there is a good chance you are a friend, colleague, acquaintance or family member and I somehow managed to entice you into finding out what my grand new adventure is. Well, here’s the payoff—starting tomorrow (Monday, Jan. 13), I will become the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Dixie Elixirs.

Your next question might be—what is an elixir? Or for that matter, why should I care? Well, Dixie is the future of cannabis, and we make cannabis infused edible products. Because guess what? Its legal in Colorado, will soon be recreationally available in Washington, and is medically legal in about 19 other states.
A blog post may seem a little self important, but, there was so much I wanted to share about this new direction I am taking, and so much that went into the decision making process, that I felt it was ok to indulge myself a little. I couldn't fit it all into 140 characters. If you don't want to read it all, please feel free to jump to the end and post a comment because I would love to hear what you think.
This was not a decision I entered into on a whim. I have known the folks at Dixie for almost four years. They came to my former agency, Vladimir Jones, because they were looking for both research on the medical marijuana space (who is the customer, what motivates them, etc.) as well as some new branding…which became the iconic Dixie logo below..

That initial introduction to the Company shoved this newly forming industry to the forefront of my consciousness. Don’t get me wrong—marijuana had always been there—whether through my own personal experiences, or friends, or my fondness for stoner flicks (and yes, it still feels a little odd to admit, on a blog post, that I have indulged). But I began to see how exciting it can/would be, as a marketer, to be involved in developing a brand for a market that didn't really exist five years ago (at least above ground), and that is now being touted in terms of multi-billions of dollars.
As I kept in touch with the charismatic CEO of the Company, Tripp Keber and got to know his incredibly smart business partner Chuck Smith (it's never too early to kiss ass, right?), it became clear that this wasn't just a novel product they were producing for short term gains. They were smart businessmen and they had a vision for where Dixie and the industry could go.
Fast forward a few years and adult use legalization was passed with Amendment 64 here in Colorado; a gallup poll showed that 58% (that's a majority for those of use who aren't strong in math) of Americans favor legalization;  and among many other developments far too numerous to mention….the future of cannabis was becoming a reality. 
But there was so much to consider. How do you measure a risk/reward scenario when the product is still federally illegal? What about my family (I plan to write a later blog post on my kids’ reaction)? How do I feel about it ethically? What about the stigma (which is rapidly fading here in CO)? What do i answer at a cocktail party when Dr. Goldenbergerstein says to me “So Joe…what do you do?” How do i market a product that has incredibly unfair, yet very real restrictions on how, when, where and to whom you can market the product?

All of these questions, and many more, rolled through my mind non-stop as I also weighed all the good stuff. The opportunity to actually create a market that doesn’t exist. The number of “firsts” that can be accomplished. The challenge of building a national brand. The fact that there are a bunch of 21 year olds around the world, right now, thinking that a job marketing weed would be the coolest job ever. Going to work for a company with a strong vision and partnering with guys who are smart enough to create what could become the first nationally recognized cannabis brand.  Just to name a few.
And so, here I am, on the precipice of what will undoubtedly be the wildest ride of my career. I plan to document everything that takes place via this blog on going, so check back here if you want to see the latest and greatest on the development of marketing on the “other” green side. But in the meantime, I ask two final things of you (if you have made it this far along and are actually still reading). 1) Share with me your comments/thoughts on this move, on Dixie, on the industry. I would love to hear what you think. 2) If you are one of a number of very special people who helped me in this process, please know how much I appreciate all the calls, discussions, hand-wringing etc. that it took to get me here. I got tired of hearing myself talk about it, and Im sure you did too! Hopefully, I've already thanked you. But if not:
Thanks for reading my post. Again—would love to hear your thoughts. I look forward to some lively dialogue. Never would have seen this one coming….

27 comments:

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  2. Congratulations on your new role. All the best.

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  3. Congratulations Joe. The most successful people I know are the ones willing to take risks. Dixie and the industry in general is luck to have someone as savvy and professional as yourself helping to promote and provide new context on this burgeoning industry.

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    1. Thats very kind of you Andrew. Really appreciate all the support you have provided in this process. You are, of course, one of those that I mentioned in the blog who were invaluable in this decision making process.

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  4. The day is finally here!! Risk often propels us to places we never knew we could reach. We wish all the best in this new role and thanks for challenging all of us to push our own comfort levels and really evaluate our reactions to your move. We wish for you nothing but success and a long a prosperous future with Dixie.

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    1. Thanks Alicia. What a nice note. You (and all of the wellington clan) are true friends, and we greatly appreciate your support.

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  5. You are at the forefront of an industry at a very interesting time. Congrats on this next career chapter.

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    1. Thank you. Interesting times indeed. All of which was confirmed for me on day one today.

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  6. Congrats. I admire your embracing of a new day and am anxious to follow your adventures.

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  7. Congrats, Joe! Dixie is lucky to have you! Right now, everyone is focused on people getting high, but I'm much more interested to see what comes out of this industry in terms of textiles, energy, medical purposes, etc. This will be a fascinating journey for you. Good luck!

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    1. Agree on all those fronts Marie. I think one of the most compelling opportunities for me as a marketer is to both define the market AND to change existing perceptions/issues. I think we have only scratched the surface of what this plant has to offer and to your point, i think there will be many many more by products than simply THC. Thanks so much for your note.

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  8. This is excellent Joe!

    Hey, I've been a fan of the Dixie products. Oh, did I just say that? Well there it is.

    From a marketing perspective, I think Dixie is in a position larger than the company itself, it is a steward in the industry. All eyes are on the companies in a leadership position to see how they choose to market its products. The biggest being a parallel with alcohol -- are they marketing to youth? I'm thinking this will be a hyper-sensitive area. So what Dixie does, how it markets, how it participates on the conversation has a larger impact on the industry, the laws, etc.

    The other challenge/advantage I see is the pace by which this conversation will open up to provide insights into the consumer. Much of which general news discussions will be about the roll out, the celebration, the hurdles and any mistakes will be highlighted and shared. As the CMO you will want ways to drive deeper engagement and understanding of your users. I don't see many people being willing to step out and say they are consumers, but those who do will more than likely to take time out of their own day to participate and provide feedback.

    Good luck with this Joe.

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    1. All great points James. And exactly what I would expect to hear from you...engagement, engagement and listening :). As for the marketing stuff--our position is "the future of cannabis" and it is a distinctly adult look/feel/position. We are very cognizant of the scrutiny, but not only that... we are 100% committed to the fact that this is an adult product and not to be marketed to, or used by, anyone under 21. Will kids find product? Sure. They always have. But if history is any indicator, we think legalization will ultimately have a more positive impact through both opening up the discussion and providing more education about what is not meant for under 21.
      Thanks for the note James. Im sure we will be talking in the future.

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  9. Joe, I love the move! It's beyond fun imagining a handful of Colorado companies figuring out how to make legal cannabis a rewarding and lasting business. Can't wait to hear more about how the business really works and how it works for you. Keep writing, keep being honest. -Dave

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    1. Thanks Pinkert. I figured you, of many people, would have the right perspective on this. Should be a fascinating journey, and I really do hope to document it..honestly.

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  10. Hey Joe! Congrats to you and Dixie. I've known you to be a leader and risk-taker since the day I first met you, years ago. You've always managed successful results and I have absolutely no doubt you'll do the same with this new venture . Go for it!

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  11. Joe, I wish you the best in this new venture. I can't say I'm with the majority on this issue, at least when it comes to normalizing a product that still poses risks to children. I think the prohibitions on hemp use silly, but you won't see me lining up with the masses to buy infused products. The alcohol, tobacco and cannabis industries are all legit businesses, but none have a place in my personal life. As an educator, I worry greatly about how marijuana legalization impacts my message to children about staying away from drugs. Nevertheless, I don't begrudge you your success in what I imagine will be a profitable business because of your leadership and advocacy.

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  12. Thank you so much for the thoughtful and important response Mr. Hernandez. And please know that I fully understand and respect your position on this issue. In fact, it was my hope that this new position, and my subsequent blog post, would spur exactly this type of dialogue. Its critically important. It is also my expectation that one of the consequences of legalization will be that it creates more open and direct dialogue with our kids and families. I fully agree that this is NOT meant for ANYONE under the age of 21. Further, both my company and I are dedicated to supporting that position through our messages and action. I believe that legalization efforts will help us (as a country) fund new and ground breaking research that can be universally accepted (rather than perceived as tainted by one side or another) which will help us understand all the great benefits this plant can offer, as well as its potential dangers for kids.
    Thank you for the support, despite your personal feelings on the matter. I greatly appreciate all you do for the children whom you support, as well as my children directly. We each have our role, and I know that we are all better off for having you in yours.

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  13. Congrats, Joe, on your remarkable transition from where I remember you at Frontier to this new venture of yours with an incredibly new market . . . you have a great attitude of allowing the new "product" lead the way for your marketing.

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  14. Hi Joe,
    You were right, Uncle Murray thought this was wonderful. And of course, your cousin Joe said "great" So we all wish you the very best in this new career move.
    Love, Aunt Ellen & Uncle Murray

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  15. Thanks Joe for the valuable insight to the growing industry. I would like would like to speak with you about new ideas.

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    1. Thanks Bill. Appreciate that. My email address is jhodas@dixieelixirs.com

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  16. I'm late to the comments but I wanted to congratulate you on what must have been a difficult decision due to the stigma still attached to the industry despite its fast-growing public approval. You are one of the few professionals I know who can instantly lend credibility to an industry whose time is long overdue. Congrats again on the bold move, Joe!

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    1. What a nice thing to say Michael. Really appreciate it.

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