Klaus' John Mamus on Being a Multifaceted Creative and the Rise of OOH Cannabis Ads

Plus his work for House of Saka and Atmosphere Brewery

John Mamus is a creative director, designer and architectural designer based in Tampa, Florida. He is chief creative officer and co-founder of Klaus and MAMUS Creative.

He began MAMUS creative with Masako DiDio as a virtual agency in 2007. MAMUS has worked with clients like ICON 4X4, Whole Foods Market, John Mackey, Tufenkian, House of Athlete, ROAM Maui, TSO Sonoma, House of Saka and others in the the luxury, deep technology and lifestyle space.

John co-founded the cannabis beverage brand Klaus in 2021 and won three Clio cannabis awards in 2022. 

He's launching the DIMA design bureau in 2023/24 with DiDio, which will focus on design and building beautiful and attainable modern homes in the city of Tampa. 

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

John, tell us... 

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up on Long Island. I spent my formative years as a creative at the big New York City advertising agencies—Young & Rubicam, Ogilvy, Deutsch, Merkley + Partners. I have lived in downtown Tampa since 2015. I love it here as it has some amazing new architecture (Water Street Tampa) as well as old classic architecture from the late 1800s and early 1900s. People are cool. It is home. My creativity can live anywhere—being in a beautiful place like this helps.

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

My role in the cannabis industry is now as chief creative director/co-founder of cannabis beverage brand Klaus. I prefer to focus on this brand at this point in time. As aforementioned, I am in downtown Tampa—Channelside to be specific. I designed a house that I will be building in Old West Tampa—within the city—in 2023. I am starting a home design company called DIMA design bureau in 2023/2024. This is another story, but this extends my creativity to other areas that I am passionate about.

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

Branding cannabis has opened a new means of expression for me and has helped me form new partnerships with creative talent. With Klaus, the creativity is unbridled—as we are lucky enough to have the perfect (and extremely rare) mix of brand elements—a great brand story, a master-mixologist and cannabis influencer in Warren Bobrow, and a gnome from 1851. You cannot make this up. Cannabis should be a brave new world for creatives, unfortunately it isn't. 

A favorite flower, edible, product, or brand.

I had Covid around the 4th of July in 2022, (although I'm fully vaxxed and boosted). After that, I am hesitant to smoke anything, although when I do, I gladly accept recommendations from friends and Warren. So, in the rare instance when I do smoke—I like Sour Diesel. But, honestly, I am not an aficionado. My favorite cannabis product is Klaus. I say this honestly, it is really fucking delicious. As a lightweight, one can can last me a week. It serves a duality of purpose in that it is a very good digestif.

The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today.

The market is flooded with products and really poor creative. It is difficult to break though in any meaningful way. To break through, a brand needs stellar design and creative. Without it, the brand is at a great disadvantage. This is the same in any vertical. We have had quite a bit of creative challenges with the can design for Klaus, and analog would be the restrictions on pharmaceutical packaging. We have worked in the pharma space, so it was something I have seen before in some measure. Compliance is something we take very seriously.

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

I am excited and quite pleased that we won three Clio Cannabis awards. Gold, silver and bronze. The recognition was amazing. Creatively, I love the idea of traditional OOH for cannabis in the California market. I was blown away by the digital billboards—advertising cannabis—in the airport in Palm Springs. (The idea, not the actual creative).

A cannabis trade/social justice organization that you support.

The Cannabis Beverage Association is dear to me as we did the branding and we are members—both Klaus and MAMUS Creative. 

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

Besides KLAUS, we created the branding and packaging for House of Saka. I am very proud of that work. It is beautiful and it was a collaboration between creative partners in Tampa, Italy and the Philippines. The brand has massive gravitas and we won first place for packaging design in a couple of contests in the Bay Area. I am very proud of the work we are doing for John Mackey's new brand, Love.Life. I am also proud of the brand work for Atmosphere Brewery USA. It's a zero alcohol beer developed in Brooklyn and made in a 450-year-old German brewery.

Someone else's project you admired recently.

I admire much of the work the brand "Old Pal." It is beautiful and authentic. House of Puff has really done a beautiful job with curating their products. Xaolin's products are remarkable and their branding is quite nice.

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

I admire Luke Anderson of Cann as his brand is really helping pave the way for cannabis drinks. Luke is a genuinely nice person (we have not met in person, but I saw him speak at the Clio awards in Vegas). His brand is moving forward in the way they want to, not the way people think they should. I have a lot of respect for their approach.

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

Truthfully, cannabis is a small part of my work as a creative. I feel that as a creative, it is important to be multifaceted and not work only in one vertical. I derive inspiration and learnings from every sector I work in. Architectural design is a passion of mine as well, and I feel I am only beginning. With our partners in London—Casa e Progetti—we have created absolutely magnificent interiors. The house design company I am starting is an extension of this as well. I cannot imagine not doing creative work. It is impossible for me.

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.

Jessica MacAulay
Jessica MacAulay is a contributor for Muse by Clio. She's also a recent graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder's College of Media, Communication, and Information.

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