Elizabeth Udell of Cookies Retail on Cannabis in Digital, From Influencers to TikTok

Plus, how California brands are increasingly working together

Elizabeth Udell is a senior digital marketing manager in the cannabis industry, currently working at Cookies Retail. She's worked in California and with MSOs in the medical and adult use industries for six years and has a background in music marketing.

Elizabeth specializes in social media and content, teaching the discipline at San Diego State University at night and on the weekends. In 2019, she and her team at MedMen won two Gold Clios for their short "The New Normal," directed by Spike Jonze.

We spoke with Elizabeth for our Higher Calling series, where we chat with leaders in the cannabis space.

Elizabeth, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I was born and raised for a few years in New York City and then followed the Jewish migration pattern to South Florida—Boca Raton. Keeping with the migration, I've now lived in L.A. for seven years.

Your current role in the cannabis industry.

I'm the senior social media manager at Cookies Retail. It's remote for the most part with traveling to stores for content/social training and new store openings. My team likes to get together when we can and I'll work on days with them at a house or workspace.

A story about the positive impact cannabis has had on your life.

First, healthwise. I have microscopic colitis. During rough times, cannabis helps with the pain and gives me an appetite. Second, by working with different brands and retailers, I have been able to see firsthand the difference I'm making in terms of accessibility, social justice and getting high-quality and safe products to all.

A favorite flower, edible, product or brand.

Flower/joints are my favorite and go-to. I don't experiment with edibles much since consistency is key for me. My sweet spot is 30mg and I'll mix it up with Camino, WYLD, ABX and Heavy Hitters gummies to get that controlled high, every time. I like to dab with my Puffco Pro, too, if I'm feeling it.

The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today.

Well I'm on the digital side so EVERYTHING digital! When I started with MedMen back in March 2018, California just flipped to adult use and I was able to get away with a lot—even Facebook ads for five months. When I got those turned off, I was able to speak with a rep there and really learn some firsthand knowledge on what I was doing that was against their rules and I've always been able to navigate the space since. Knock on wood, but I've never had an Instagram account shut down and that's why my skills are more in demand than before as the country continues to legalize.

One thing you're excited about right now in cannabis branding, partnerships or marketing.

I can say I'm NOT excited with all the photo shoots and assets—it's all the same editorial style and we killed it at MedMen years ago and pioneered the style because we had the funds to do so. But right now I'm excited with video content like Reels and TikTok. TikTok is very difficult to use for cannabis, but I see brands getting creative and I love that. Now more than ever we have to be unique and I'm all for it.

A cannabis trade/social justice organization that you support.

When I was at CannaCraft, one of our brands was Farmer and the Felon and we partnered with the Last Prisoner Project. I support any organization that is doing something to expunge records, get people out of jail, make licenses more available and lower taxes.

A recent project you're proud of.

Seeding is a great PR tool and cannabis brands in California are acting like any other non-cannabis brand—like beauty and fashion—and giving influencers and journalists boxes of product. Whether it's a launch or a monthly roundup, working with MedMen, CannaCraft and Kush Queen to amplify the noise and send products out in beautiful packaging is something that turns heads. I anticipate New York to do the same down the line and treat their brands like other industries.

Someone else's project you admired recently.

I really like the partnerships that California brands are doing with each other. Like Cann and Sundae School—there is so much competition in this state and it's nice to see brands working together. Other than that, there is a new product a week, it seems, so I am always admiring the innovative ways people are getting high with cannabis.

Someone you admire in cannabis who's doing great things.

I've had some incredible bosses, especially female—Roseann Fernandez, Angela Pih and Kristen Nagle, to name a few. Experience in this industry is sought after right now, and with the pandemic, consulting became easier. Once the doors opened and we saw how other states needed guidance, myself and others really jumped on it to help any way we can.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in the cannabis industry.

I come from music and I skipped out on law school but I would have found a way to stay in music/entertainment still.

Higher Calling is a weekly series, publishing on Thursdays, where we chat with folks in the cannabis industry about their personal history and taste in cannabis and the future of cannabis marketing. For more about Higher Calling, and our Clio Cannabis program, please get in touch.

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