Brands Entrepreneurship Apr 08, 2016

The Art of Licensing: Mary’s Medicinals’ Plan to Become National Brand

For most entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry, Mary’s Medicinals is a brand to be envied: not only is it beloved by customers in its home state of Colorado, but its strong licensing strategy has made it successful in Washington, California, Oregon, and Arizona as well.  As of Monday, Mary’s Medicinals became available in Vermont, and it will soon offer products in Maine, New Hampshire, and Maryland, becoming one of the few marijuana brands so far to seek national recognition in the United States.

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Graham Sorkin, Director of Business Development for Mary’s Medicinals

Graham Sorkin, the Director of Business Development for Mary’s Medicinals, explained, “I think a lot of the bigger cannabis companies see the potential and want to grow their borders beyond just one state.  I think we’re going to see a lot more of it.  A lot of the brands I’ve talked to are very interested in finding ways to replicate the model or create a model to really become national companies.”

Sorkin explained that the model Mary’s Medicinals uses begins with finding a licensee in the state they want to sell their products.  Sorkin said that finding a grow to partner with is typically the most difficult part of the licensing process.  “So far we’ve been really fortunate to find teams that are great to work with in each state – but I’d say that so far that’s been the biggest challenge: finding the people to work with where we really have the right fit.”

Once the grow is signed on, Mary’s provides them the equipment and non-cannabis raw materials they need to manufacture their line of products, as well as training from their chief scientist on how to make all of the products to Mary’s’ Medicinals’ standards.  The licensee provides locally sourced cannabis, as it cannot cross state lines.

CBD Capsules openOnce Mary’s Medicinals onboards and trains a licensee, their marketing strategy is two-fold: first, they focus on enlisting dispensaries to sell the product.  Then, they move on to acquiring local consumers.  To attract budtenders, they use a mix of advertisements in print magazines and at local events.  Once they’ve purchased the brand’s line for their stores, the marketing team for Mary’s uses traditional strategies to raise brand awareness among potential customers.  They drum up excitement for their products through social media, print and online advertising, search engine optimization, and a variety of other methods.  One of their favorite strategies is hosting dispensary events where they will send representatives to give samples or demonstrations of their products to store visitors.

The marijuana industry is known for its penchant for local and sustainably sourced products, but Sorkin said that their customers in other states are not opposed to purchasing from a company with origins in Colorado.  In fact, it’s the opposite: the dispensary workers and licensees themselves are often excited that they can bring in different options developed with new technologies for their customers.  Plus, the licensees that Mary’s Medicinals selects typically have a following in that state, such as Oregon’s Oregrown, so customers are more likely to try a new product line from a brand they know and enjoy.

display.jpgWhat makes Mary’s successful from state-to-state, though, is not just their licensing and expansion strategy, but their brand.  Though their product lines are available for both medical and recreational use in states where it’s legal, their focus is on natural remedies for pain and diseases, which inherently makes them more professional and trustworthy than those geared toward “getting high”.  Their fonts and aesthetic are reminiscent of a modern apothecary.  The company’s slogan, “For us, it’s simply black and white”, matches their color scheme, which is unique in an industry full of bright colors or soothing earth tones.

Overall, the company’s internal culture – which is known to be nurturing and caring – radiates outward, creating a warm, comforting feeling for the customer, who can believe that the products they are buying were truly designed to make them feel better.  “I couldn’t have even imagine a job this cool existed,” Sorkin told me.  “Part of it’s the company culture, the founders are fantastic people, it’s excellent to get to work with them every day.  I think the other part is just getting to be a part of such a rapidly changing industry.  Frankly, we’re making history every day just by doing what we’re doing.”