2 Minutes With ... Lauryn Livengood, Senior Director of Brand Marketing at PAX
Lauryn Livengood is the senior director of brand marketing at PAX, a leading global cannabis brand on a mission to enhance lives through exceptional cannabis experiences. She's spent over a decade establishing and growing the brand into an innovation-driven, obsessively consumer-focused company delivering well-being for millions. She oversees campaigns, strategic artist collaborations and social media content.
Beyond PAX, Lauryn is a fierce champion of women, and received a Clio award for her More Flowerful campaign. She also won a Clio for her work in collaboration with PAX’s social impact team to produce The Human Toll, a documentary series, created with Vanity Fair, about the war on drugs. Outside of work, Lauryn splits her time between the Bay Area and Palm Springs, where she lives with her husband, Ben.
We spent two minutes with Lauryn to learn more about her background, creative inspirations and some recent work she's admired.
Lauryn, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I grew up in the Bay Area, and am now based between my two happy places: the Bay Area and Palm Springs. This is no surprise, as I'm a California girl through and through, but I love both for the different things they provide. I grew up in a tight-knit community in the South Bay, surrounded by diversity, culture, and a unique style and perspective that has meaningfully shaped my worldview. I was surrounded by real people, and a grassroots ethos that impressed upon me at an early age the responsibility I have to my community. But juxtaposed with that, (and all the chaos and stress from the world and working in cannabis) is the serene beauty that is Palm Springs. The energetic flow, the blue skies, the palm trees, cradled by the San Jacinto mountains that feel like they’re literally within arms reach. It's such a special place and it’s how I maintain my balance and well-being.
How you first got interested in cannabis.
I've been in the industry for over a decade and, interestingly, the thing that hooked me was the opportunity to really be at the forefront of shaping consumer habits. I grew up working at a family retail business, got to meet so many different people and see what they were into, what drove their purchasing decisions. Growing up in the Bay Area, cannabis was definitely a part of the culture and life. But it was seeing what was being created out of the Proposition 215 infrastructure—how the plant was such important medicine to so many—and this once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of helping educate people on how and what to consume. Vape as we now know it was brand new, and I had the chance to be at the forefront of helping bring cannabis to people in a way that was more portable, discreet and easy to use—truly a marketer's dream. Looking back, I've always gravitated toward what’s emerging, different, maybe even a little bit counter culture, so it’s no surprise I ended up here. It’s exactly where I’m meant to be.
One of your favorite projects you've ever worked on, and why.
As a marketer, I get the opportunity to lead so many great collaborations that bring the brand to life through like minded partnerships, limited edition products and more. I love finding these synergies and truly believe that they're an essential part of the mix for any brand—borrowing new audiences and doing something interesting that really lands with target right audiences. We've had the chance to give great exposure to artists, creators and so many more and I have a few I'm really excited about in the pipeline. But to pick one, I'd actually have to say bringing our Fuschia PAX 3 to market a few years ago. We were even earlier in our start up journey and there weren’t that many teams and resources available to support it, so I took on roles far outside the scope of being a brand marketer, getting the organizational buy-in to make it, color checking the product, pushing it uphill throughout the entire go to market process. And ultimately, all because I knew from insights how much the consumer wanted it. It was such a success story and I felt really proud of my leadership to really meet a consumer desire.
A recent project you're proud of, and why.
I had a concept for a Women’s History Month campaign that we were able to bring to life—which we just so happened to win a Clio award for—but more importantly accomplished a larger goal: to offer a layer of publicity and support to women in our industry who are doing incredible things and often go unrecognized. The media is dominated by male voices, but women have played a key role in building the cannabis industry since day one. Women have also been leaders in the wellness movement that so many consumers are gravitating to, and I want to uplift the voices of these powerhouses within our community.
The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today, and how to approach it.
One of the biggest challenges is just building a mainstream brand. The cannabis industry is up against a deficit of taboo and misconceptions—decades of propagandist rhetoric and scare tactics that have shaped public perception. So there’s a huge opportunity to move out of the shadows of mainstream brands and destigmatize what we’re here to do—that's one of the reasons I’m so proud of the brand PAX has built over a decade, and also our support of the Cannabis Media Council. Beyond that though, I think it's also important to acknowledge that we can't follow the same formula of a consumer journey that most brands rely on. From lack of data, to regulations, to advertising restrictions, to lack of access to many traditional services, the cannabis industry is giving rise to a special breed of marketers who are uniquely scrappy, creative, nimble and cleverly figuring out ways to navigate these unique challenges. The good news? It's working, and support for cannabis is at an all time high.
One thing about how the cannabis industry is evolving that you're excited about.
The cannabis industry is a great place to be if you’re a marketer and advocate at the same time, since it's being built from the ground up and there’s so much ability to shape what the future looks like. I care deeply about women’s issues in general, and I'm so excited for the opportunity for equity. The number of women, especially women leaders and executives, in cannabis isn’t where we want it to be. But those who are here are incredible and I'm so excited to see them continue to own their space. I'm watching the expanding modalities of cannabis consumption, especially by women-owned companies, that meet the needs of real women—making it make sense for us. I've been loving Kush Queen bath bombs, Green Bee Botanicals’ facial serums, Garden Society Rosettes, Angel Therapy flower. I recently got married, and we were able to curate cannabis gift bags with some of my favorite brands (including PAX, of course) for all of our friends and family to experience for themselves.
Someone else's work, in cannabis or beyond, that you admired lately.
I'm continuously inspired by the inimitable Lulu Tsui, co-founder of On the Revel, among many other things. They are doing incredible work to help stabilize the transition on the east coast from a legacy market to a regulated market, convening a powerful community and offering tremendous education and resources for those getting into the industry. It’s the first time we’ve seen champions of the old school players really take the reins on what legalization looks like for consumers in their region and I think we’re all really excited to see what that market looks like once it matures a bit.
A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.
Entertainment can inspire for lots of reasons—for me, I'm constantly seeking out personal growth. I recently read White Feminism by Koa Beck. It fundamentally altered some previous perspectives of mine, challenging deeply rooted ideas about the feminist movement, who it included and who it’s left behind, and what the path forward needs to look like. It truly changed my brain and how I engage with the world around me ... I highly recommend to anyone open to a perspective shift.
A visual artist or band/musician you admire.
Your favorite fictional character.
Ummm … Woody from Toy Story? I love those movies. There are so many sweet moments about the world, including friendship, loyalty, even finding the uplifting sentiment and optimism in the harder moments. I laugh, I cry, he's just such a feel-good character. Highly recommend rewatching it if you haven’t seen it since childhood.
Someone worth following in social media.
Your main strength as a marketer/creative.
I think I have a fearlessness that’s essential to being a marketer. I'm happy to stand up and lead, to really move a process forward and work to rally people around the concept or the goal. I keep close tabs on consumer trends, culture trends, what’s new, etc. and am very inspired by how to take that magic and make it accessible. So I’m often the one taking risks, advocating for crazy ideas, or just being bold in moments where there could be a "safer play." I want to move the needle, I want my brand to stand out, and I'm willing to do what it takes to make that happen.
Your biggest weakness.
This feels like one of those trick interview questions where you’re supposed to spin a weakness into a strength! I guess I'd say I have a bit of a stubborn streak. Don't get me wrong, it certainly allows me to be bullish in chasing my dreams and going to the mat for the things I believe in, personally and professionally. But I guess the flipside of that is that it takes me a little longer to get to compromise.
Something people would find surprising about you.
I'm obsessed with crossword puzzles … I do multiple puzzles every day, buy subscription packs, time myself … it’s pure obsession. :)
One thing that always makes you happy.
If there’s one thing that’s been made clear in recent years, whether from Harvard’s happiness research or the learnings of a global pandemic, it’s that connection and friendship is so essential. I feel this on such a deep level—my friends, especially my lifelong friends, fill my soul. There's nothing like being surrounded by people who just get you. Who cheer you on, who know you from all your chapters, and who also tell you the truth. I’m so grateful for my friendships—they've carried me through so many times, both good and bad.
One thing that always makes you sad.
As a women's advocate at heart, I know progress is hard fought and won over many moments, many years and many efforts that propel us forward. But it can certainly be overwhelming to look ahead and see how far we still have to go in spite of it. To realize how many systems and infrastructures—in 2023, no less!—are still not equitable or holding women back. And we're just starting to scratch the surface and unpacking some of that as a culture. I truly believe we all want equality in concept, I just think there’s so much implicit bias and deeply rooted systemic norms that prevent us from really making the changes we need to. I try to always call it out when I see it, advocate for others when they’re not in the room, and raise solutions to help address, but it’s a long game and sometimes just feels like one step forward, two steps back. I appreciate my role at PAX, as a marketer, a leader, and the treasurer of our Women’s ERG, which gives me more platforms to impact this conversation.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the cannabis industry.
I'd definitely be an entrepreneur. I'd probably have a consumer products company or a house of brands, delivering meaningful products and services that make people's lives better. My friends constantly tease me for all the ideas I have for products I want to make—not surprisingly, often for women and often meeting a real need. I love being in the cannabis industry, but check back. It'll happen at some point. There are just too many things in my head I wanna do.
2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.