Enlighten's Sam Hollander on the Evolution of Cannabis in Digital

Plus, Holistic's Jerry Garcia brand and moving cannabis into the mainstream

Sam Hollander is an accomplished sales, business development and project management executive with expertise in digital marketing and advertising solutions. He has nearly 15 years of progressive experience in roles with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Showtime, PHD Media Group (HBO account), National Geographic and Whistle Sports.

As chief digital officer of Enlighten, Sam works to develop Enlighten's cannabis and CBD programmatic advertising platform. Over the last 18 months, Sam has successfully established Enlighten's advertising suite as one of the leading adtech solutions for cannabis and CBD marketers.

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

Sam, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up in northern New Jersey. I lived in New York City and just moved to Long Island in January.

Your current role in the cannabis industry.

Enlighten is the largest digital retail and digital marketing company in cannabis. Sitting at the intersection of retail and advertising, Enlighten connects brands and retailers by surrounding and influencing the cannabis and cannacurious consumer. We activate campaigns via digital and experiential platforms connecting the digital and physical worlds. As chief digital officer and head of ad sales, I am responsible for building our digital ad products, creating and implementing strategies to go to market, coaching the advertising sales team and surpassing revenue goals.

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

My father-in-law was diagnosed with glioblastoma in 2017. The doctors gave him six months to live. As a cannabis advocate and consumer, he decided to start taking Rick Simpson Oil and ended up living for four years. He was able to see my wife and I get married (in Italy!). Over that course of time, doctors were shocked and constantly asking us what we were doing. We were not comfortable at the time talking about cannabis. Now, I want the world to know what a difference it can make.

A favorite flower, edible, product, or brand.

I am a huge Deadhead so naturally, I love the new Jerry Garcia cannabis brand, Garcia Hand Picked. Holistic Industries did a great job with the packaging and working with the Jerry Garcia estate to bring an authentic brand to market.

I also think they have done an excellent job bringing the brand to life by going on tour with Bertha, their mobile marketing activation. Holistic harnessed everything that Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead were about and brought it to life in such an authentic way. Following around the Dead and Jerry was a way of life. "Bertha" is one of their most popular and well-known songs. While most brands struggle to tap into authenticity, I really think Holistic was able to capture this. Plus, they built an actual wall of sound inside Bertha. How cool is that?!

I am also a fan of any low-dose edible. It's the perfect amount to consume to lower stress levels, help with anxiety and get a great night's sleep.

The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today.

Many cannabis marketers cannot leverage the same tools, platforms, and resources non-cannabis marketers can. That is not to say solutions are not available. Marketers are forced to work within the confines of those limitations. As a result, measuring the impact of marketing efforts is fragmented and cannabis marketers are led to believe specific tools and resources are not available. As an example, many cannabis marketers believe they cannot digitally advertise because Facebook (by proxy Instagram), Twitter, etc., will not allow it. That is actually not true. Marketers can work with partners like Enlighten to access millions of publishers like Rolling Stone, Variety, and more, all with an efficient pricing model and measurement tools to determine the effectiveness of a campaign.  

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

The industry has grown exponentially over the past 24 months. Despite all the terrible things Covid-19 did to our society, it actually fueled the cannabis industry to adapt, evolve and innovate quickly. As a result, we have seen e-commerce, delivery, D2C platforms, payment processing and more really start to take shape. I am excited to see how all these platforms work together in tandem to deliver impactful messaging to consumers and prospects AND how they work together to create a seamless technology stack that provides marketers with true insights into the effectiveness of their marketing efforts.

A cannabis trade/social justice organization that you support.

The Cannabis Marketing Association because Lisa Buffo is doing excellent work to bring marketers and other industry professionals together to educate and bring the industry into the mainstream. All cannabis marketers and brands should be treated the same way all non-endemic marketers and brands are. They should have access to the same tools and resources and be regulated by the same governing bodies.

A recent project you're proud of.

Working with the talented team at Enlighten to rebrand and bring to market an ecosystem that can help brands and retailers connect with cannabis consumers and the cannacurious in new ways previously unavailable to cannabis marketers. As part of that ecosystem, I helped build our AdSuite product, which is one of the first truly self-service ad platforms in the cannabis industry built on transparent measurement, intelligence and more.  

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

It's cliché but I admire every mover and shaker who works daily to move this industry into the mainstream. Everyone who is passionate about cannabis and this industry is worth admiration because we are changing the perceptions of a commodity that I believe can change the world for the better.

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

Discovering emerging, innovative and creative technologies to market to consumers.

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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