Green Thumb's Jennifer Dooley on Innovation in Cannabis and the LPP Collab 'Waiting to Breathe'

A CPG marketer's bold new frontier

Jennifer Dooley is chief strategy officer at cannabis CPG company Green Thumb Industries, bringing a decade of experience building consumer brands, driven by a creative and analytical approach to identifying and capitalizing on market opportunities.

Prior to joining Green Thumb, Jennifer led strategic brand development and innovation at Storck USA, a top 10 global confectioner, known for brands Werther's Original, Toffifay, Mamba, merci and RIESEN. 

In 2019, Jennifer was named to Marijuana Venture's "40 Under 40" list and High Times "Female 50." She earned her MBA from Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management with a focus on Marketing, Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Jennifer is also a volunteer for Working in The Schools (WITS), the Chicago Public School's largest literary organization. She is also instrumental in forming Green Thumbs' philanthropic endeavors, including the cannabis brands that she created with a charity component.

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

Jennifer, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I was born and raised in a suburb north of Cincinnati, home of Skyline chili and the King's Island amusement park. In middle school I took a trip to Chicago with my family to sit in the bleachers at Wrigley Field. The energy of the city was unlike anything I had felt before, and I thought, "I'm going to live here someday." After graduating college from one of the most beautiful places in the U.S., the College of Charleston in South Carolina on a cross country and track and field scholarship, I began my career in Chicago as a marketing associate at Storck USA, a privately held, family-owned entrepreneurial candy manufacturer. Now, longer than I ever expected, I am still in Chicago!

Your current role in the cannabis industry, and where you're based.

Since joining the Green Thumb team in 2016, my role has evolved with the needs of our team and business. However, the common thread throughout has been guiding the strategic direction of our business and how it shows up across our organization, teams and partners. As the chief strategy officer, I primarily support our communications, marketing and insights teams.

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

Growing up, I was someone who wanted to take every class in school—I love learning. Beyond the positive societal shifts in promoting well-being with cannabis, for me, this has been the learning lesson of a lifetime. It is markets being created, consumer behavior shifting, organizational change and development—all happening in real time. And ultimately, the lessons in trust, communication, perspective and humility extend well beyond the business of cannabis.

A favorite flower, edible, product or brand.

Hands down, our Dogwalkers are my go-to. Bonus points if it is Lavender Jones. Our incredibles Strahhhberry gummies are a close second.

The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today.

Peeling back the marketing levers to understand what really matters today. The answers might be very different when thinking about those same levers in the context of an established consumer products industry.

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

What's not to love?! There is innovation all around us as the market rapidly evolves to meet consumer needs. I am particularly excited about our latest launch of the incredibles Snoozzzeberry gummy. The team not only went from insight to market quickly, but importantly, the sleepy time experience is rooted in the formulation, not just a label—that's why incredibles is The Credible Edible. 

A cannabis trade/social justice organization that you support.

We have loved working with Last Prisoner Project. At the beginning of the year, the team wanted to reimagine how we celebrate the 4/20 holiday, which led us to LPP and a partnership to help raise awareness of the social injustices of our legal system, and the advocates who have fought for change. In addition to the national campaign, the capstone of the partnership is a beautifully compelling short documentary produced by our team, called "Waiting to Breathe."

A recent project you're proud of.

I am really proud of the team and our LPP x Green Thumb project, mentioned above. It was a partnership through and through and truly in service of our mission to promote well-being through cannabis. It starts with awareness, dialogue and compassion, and our team has it in spades.

Someone else's project you admired recently.

My experiences in cannabis have given me a front seat view of the gender gap in the financial community—who has the money, and who decides where it goes. Our decisions are informed by our perspective, so if capital decisions are largely made from one perspective, think about how much untapped opportunity is out there. To that end, I'm a huge fan of Ellevest, co-founded by former Bank of America executive Sallie Krawcheck. The financial firm seeks to elevate the female perspective in investment decisions, and in doing so, close the financial acumen gap and empower opportunity for all.

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

At Green Thumb we are promoting well-being by distributing cannabis brands at scale. Berner, Tory and the Cookies team are taking the country by storm by authentically connecting with their consumers—in an asset-light manner—now that is compelling brand-building. We're excited to partner with them in Nevada with the 2021 opening of Las Vegas flagship Cookies store, right on the Strip.

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

I love white-space thinking—connecting dots across economic themes, shifts in consumer behavior and technology, and reframing problems from a different perspective. If there can be a silver lining from this global pandemic, it is that we have never been more poised to reimagine how we live, learn and relate. What could that mean for our learning environments? As a lover of learning and innovation, you'd find me in the education space.

Higher Calling is a weekly Muse series 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.

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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