Priyanka Pulijal of Miss Grass on Building a More Feminine, Sensual Cannabis Brand

Plus, debunking the 'stoner bro' culture through design, partnerships and more

Priyanka Pulijal is a multi-disciplinary artist and head of creative at the cannabis brand Miss Grass. As a creative director, Priyanka fights outdated ad formulas with innovative concepts, fresh narratives, social media responsibility and a modern aesthetic. Throughout her career working with startups and corporations, she has pushed for true empathy and emotion behind every piece of branding, advertising or editorial.

She has worked on music, fashion, technology and entertainment brands including Adidas, Tresemmé, Dove, Kraft, Nascar, AT&T, HBO Max and more. Most recently, Priyanka led a rebrand at Miss Grass, which launched March 15 this year. Her inspiration behind the rebrand design was around depicting the more feminine, sensual, introspective and playful aspects of the plant in an especially male-dominated industry.

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

Priyanka, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up on the East Coast, in New Jersey. Then I moved all over the place: Virginia, Chicago, New York—where all my family resides. I moved to Los Angeles in 2019 right before the pandemic.

Your current role in the cannabis industry.

I am the head of creative at Miss Grass. We are a female-founded, flower and pre-roll brand focused on conscious consumption through education and destigmatization—all in the fight for a more equitable industry. 

Recently, I entered Miss Grass to perform a holistic makeover to the brand's world across its marketing touchpoints and products. I saw an opportunity to create an antidote to the intimidating cannabis shopping experience and lack of readily available information, and to debunk the "stoner-bro" culture. I envisioned our brand living and breathing the more feminine, sensual, introspective and playful aspects of the plant. 

Depending on the strain, moment, intention or individual, the cannabis experience can be so intimate and multi-dimensional. It was important to factor these emotions and experiences elicited from our signature strains into the rebrand through color psychology, copy and visuals. From product packaging and our identity to our website, social presence and store displays—we brought to life an inclusive and modern safe space to nurture a cannabis relationship.

Your earliest cannabis memory.

This wasn't my earliest memory, but definitely my most formative. Imagine an off-white carpeted college apartment with posters of Fiona Apple, Radiohead, and for some reason Slipknot surrounding you. An elaborate speaker system and a big clunky desktop and its honorary child, the noisy modem. I was a freshman in college and I thought that this simply "won't work on me." My friends handed me this very tall glass bong named "Wesley Snipes," for no apparent reason other than the fact that it's just a cool name, and walked me through the process of inhaling cannabis step-by-step. I had no idea what type of strain it was or where it came from. I didn't ask because back then all weed was one weed to me. I can't help but laugh imagining myself inquiring about its terpenes and expecting an informed answer in return. Anyways, I remember coughing like a first-timer and the night turned into a movie scene. My eyes felt heavier than before. I was at peace. I giggled a few times, too. I thought, "Do I look like an idiot to everyone?" Probably, dude, the bong's name was Wesley Snipes. 

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

The more I learn about cannabis, the more I'm delightfully surprised by the plant. The unfortunate stigma around weed is that it's a vice, something that people use to escape from their reality, but for me, cannabis has helped me manage my reality. My journey really began when I was able to access it more seamlessly in California and learn about which strains are right for me. I wish everyone had this experience instead of the classic "I had a bad high once and pot isn't for me." I hope they are able to find their strain-soulmate. Cannabis has helped me manage my anxiety, connect with my creative process, reflect on my internal work, and enhance whatever intention I had throughout the pandemic. Cannabis brings me closer to myself.

A favorite flower, edible, product or brand.

Miss Grass, duh! More specifically, you'll catch me with a "Fast Times" mini joint, our Sativa-Dominant strain.

The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today.

The best analogy for the marketing challenges we face is that it's like the scenes in Avengers: Infinity War when the movie is cutting from one intense situation to another. The tall order of obstacles in the cannabis space can be overwhelming. In terms of legalization, the laws and regulations of what we sell are incredibly intricate, and how we can sell it, who we're talking to, where we're communicating, and the "why" behind what we're saying it is all highly controlled. Also, because we can't sell cannabis on mainstream social platforms, we have to find creative ways to reach our consumers without getting our social feeds shut down. Additionally, the specificity of each state's regulations makes it tough to make an impact and scale our consumer reach. Despite big barriers around access, I'd say the biggest marketing challenge is still the stigma around cannabis. We work hard to educate consumers in order to break the "stoner-bro" notion around cannabis and to encourage more consumers to connect with the plant, and ultimately themselves. 

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

We were in a place where consumers had limited product choices and accessibility. What you were given is what you would get. I'm so excited to see all the ways cannabis is becoming a more sophisticated industry through intentional brand choices, premium product design, and talent partnerships. I appreciate all the ways we are able to de-stigmatize and normalize the plant through unexpected connections and creative collaborations. I'm energized to further deepen our relationships with our cultivation partners as we expand into more states and on how we can localize our branding over time. 

A cannabis trade/social justice organization that you support.

We have partnered with several social reform organizations to support an equitable industry, eradicate the stigma surrounding weed, and make cannabis more accessible for all: National Bail Out, Last Prisoner Project, Trans Lifeline, Success Centers, The Hood Incubator and Cage-Free Cannabis. 

A recent project you're proud of.

We just launched a rebrand of Miss Grass with an entirely new identity, packaging and SKUs. It was an intentional creative process building our brand every step of the way: from the color psychology behind each of our strains to building their worlds across touchpoints for our consumers. It was a pleasure to collaborate with such talented designers, photographers, models and creatives to make this vision a reality. It's always a beautiful thing when people come together and express a passion around the plant in a variety of ways. Cannabis has helped my creative process and it's been a trippy thing to step back and look at the creative we built for the plant, which was supported by the plant itself. It's touching to receive positive feedback from our community and to know this is just the beginning of something much bigger.

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

I'm inspired by so many people and things happening in cannabis. Women's Prison Association, Last Prisoner Project, Cage-Free Cannabis and so many more redressing the harms of cannabis criminalization through effective education, criminal justice reform advocacy and legal intervention. I admire Jasmine Mans' use of cannabis apparel to support women in weed with her sharp, to-the-point statement, "Buy Weed From Women." I enjoy Sundae School's brand. It's fly. It's fun. I feel emotionally seen by the Asian-American experience told through the marriage of fashion and weed. 

A movie, TV show, music or food you most enjoy pairing with cannabis.

I have a long list of shows and movies that pair perfectly with cannabis depending on the mood. I need to start a detailed blog called "High-Takes" that expands upon this soon. TM. More specifically, I recently went to the Planetarium show, "Centered in the Universe" at Griffith Observatory. I paired this experience with the Miss Grass "All Times" mini joint and felt spiritually transported. 

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

I would be working for NASA as a research scientist with a PhD in astronomy. That or maybe running a cat sanctuary. I have so many ambitions.

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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