Isaiah Dawid of Clout King on Authenticity and Consumer Perception in Cannabis

Plus, satire and humor as a branding tool

Isaiah Dawid, president of Clout King, is one of the most renowned characters in cannabis. His iconic meme page cleverly demonstrates his insider knowledge of the industry with a satirical twist. 

Clout King has developed a large audience in the cannabis community and became a major influencer on social platforms from which the brand originated.

Isaiah has been cultivating exclusive genetics since 2005 with complex terps, high potency and exceptional visual appeal. He is successfully expanding Clout King across the country, meeting new friends and having a great time.

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

Isaiah, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now. 

I was born and raised in Santa Cruz, California. My family and I moved to Michigan in 2021 for a little over a year to expand Clout King. We recently made our way to Portland, Oregon, which is an easy commute to facilities in Washington that I am often working in.

Your current role in the cannabis industry.

Clout King's role is to speak the truths of the cannabis industry through humor, irony and satire. My experience in the traditional market led me to bring the most sought-after genetics to the legal markets while maintaining the highest cultivation, cure and packaging quality control standards. The experience at every touchpoint is more crucial than ever. If a consumer purchases a top-shelf product and you deliver top-shelf, you have that customer forever. If a consumer purchases a top-shelf product and receives anything other than top-shelf, you've lost that customer forever. If the core of the brand is not on a solid foundation, there is no hope for a quality product to translate onto the market with any type of longevity. My role is really about ensuring market growth, genetic exclusivity and quality control by structuring our deals to be a success for all parties involved. 

I've been spending most of my time operating and expanding Clout King into California, Michigan, Arizona, Washington, Oklahoma, Nevada and Oregon. 

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

I suffered from anxiety, which evolved into insomnia after getting raided for cultivating cannabis in California. I was taking medication for insomnia that made me feel sick and disoriented the next day. After about six months of struggling to get off of medication in my early 20s, I used cannabis multiple times in the evening and was able to wean myself off. Now I couple my cannabis flower use with CBD oil every night and I no longer suffer from insomnia.

A favorite flower, edible, product or brand.

Clout King PB Cup and Terdz are my favorites. Second favorite is Terpenstein sauce carts.

The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today.

Authenticity is rare whether it be genetics, your story, or how you are presented to the market in general. Customers want products from legacy operators who have a refined palate to curate their menu. There's a lot of flashy packaging with celebrity endorsements out there that are filled with subpar products. With so many similar brands coming into the market at the same time, how does one differentiate themselves? The only way, in my opinion, is to offer your customer base authenticity and quality.

Another major challenge for marketers is consumer perceptions. Right now, most consumer purchasing decisions are made based on potency. Clout King will always be a potency-forward brand, but I see the value in molecular diversity coming to light for consumers in the next few years. Developing these profiles rich in terpenes and flavonoids is equally important as potency in our program. We're fortunate enough to have a team that's equal parts cultivation and creative energy. Our program constantly gives us the opportunity to create new branding and challenge ourselves to market in a different way. Our unique and playful identity is what draws the consumer to the bag, but it's what's in the bag that ultimately earns the top shelf.

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

What excites me right now that ties directly into branding are all the new genetics trends hitting the market. Now that runtz and runtz crosses are fading out of style and lemon cherry and z terps have taken the spotlight, we've added quite a few new staples to our 2022 genetics catalogue. 

Zkittlez crosses have made a huge comeback and there are some very interesting terpene profiles as a result. I just selected a pheno of Lemon Cherry Gelato X Zkittlez and the terps are like nothing I have experienced. This shows an overall maturation of the market indicating that consumers are refining their palates and becoming more terpene driven. Zkittlez, for example, had the most desirable terps way before potency was on anyone's radar.

Expanding our portfolio gives Clout King the opportunity to not only select fire but to christen new cuts [e.g., Zaddy (Zkittles x GDP)]. Naming cuts and creating bag art is the cherry on top. Consumers are saving mylar bags similar to collectable trading cards. I predict a lot more engagement between consumers and cannabis brands due to social media and regulatory restrictions. 

A cannabis trade/social justice organization that you support.

I have been a member of the NCIA for quite some time and I appreciate their role in helping to professionalize the cannabis industry and work diligently on federal cannabis policy reform.

A project you worked on recently that you're proud of.

My main focus right now is taking Clout King into six states but I am particularly excited about launching in Arizona. Arizona is ripe for a high-end brand to start making an impression there. Alien Labs and Connected have done a great job bringing their brands to Arizona, but from what I have gathered, there is a lot more room for exotics.

Someone else's project you admired recently.

The technology side of the industry has always fascinated me as it has evolved. Adaptiiv Grow Technologies has come out with a liquid cooled LED that is integrated to a purpose-built chilled water fan coil that uses the waste heat energy for reheat. This light has full spectrum tuning capabilities, which gives the opportunity to throttle up and down the white, blue and red spectrum. This innovation gives growers full control to steer their crop exactly how they want while conserving energy.

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

I admire an attorney I have worked with from time to time by the name of Henry Wykowski. Henry is the general counsel for the NCIA and he got a lot of recognition defending Harborside against their IRS audit a few years back. I have heard him speak at a few events in the past and I appreciate his intelligence and conviction to defend the rights of cannabis operators who are ultimately doing the right thing.

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

I'd either be a comedian or a holistic doctor. I have a degree in biochemistry and got all my pre-med done anticipating becoming an osteopathic doctor. I also enjoy humor and I like to call out hypocritical behavior in a satirical way—as I've done with my Clout King meme page.

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.

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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