Robot Food's Simon Forster on Dank Bakery and Creating Goldmine
Simon Forster serves as executive creative director at Robot Food, a fiercely independent agency he founded in 2009. Simon encourages his team to challenge conventional thinking, and leads efforts to create and reposition brands through cutting-edge strategy and design. Alongside progressive startups, global clients include Brooklyn Brewery, Tuborg, Bulk, Co-op, Vocation and Breez.
He is also co-founder and CD at The Others Beauty Co., which formulates and activates "mass niche" brands that address specific consumer needs.
We spoke with Simon for our Higher Calling series, where we chat with leaders in the cannabis space.
Simon, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I was born in New York state, grew up in London and live in Leeds, Yorkshire, England.
Your current role in the cannabis industry, and where you're based.
I am the founder and executive creative director of a branding agency called Robot Food and we've worked on the creative for various cannabis brands including Breez, CQ and Goldmine.
A story about the positive impact cannabis has had on your life.
As a young adult it was all about getting stoned—if I had weed, I'd smoke it until it was gone. But since working with Breez (an edibles brand), I've learned edibles can be a great way to control doses of THC. Small doses allow you to unwind on an evening, often without using alcohol and aid a restful night's sleep, waking up to feel refreshed, with no form of hangover.
A favorite flower, edible, product, or brand.
My favorite brand is Breez—we set them up with a much more everyday, utilitarian feel to "unlock your day." This allows easier product navigation and is more welcoming to anyone exploring the category for the first time. In the U.K., cannabis remains underground, so I have to give a shout out to Dank Bakery in Manchester who make incredible products and deliver a great service, while somehow flying under the radar.
The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today.
The biggest challenge for me is the carry over from before legalization. Brands feel outlawed and there's still a "head shop" vibe prevalent in the category, despite the retail landscape appearing more like Apple stores. Brands need to stop looking inward and follow Breez's lead in opening the category to more consumers who would find their products beneficial, but may be put off by the aesthetic.
One thing you're excited about right now in cannabis branding, partnerships or marketing.
I'm excited by the fact we’re even having this conversation about a product category that was formally universally outlawed. Humans have always had a close relationship with cannabis, so I'm glad views are changing and walls starting to come down. As an agency it's super exciting. We have previously worked a lot in the beer and alcohol space and that's seen as pretty sexy work, but now we're becoming leaders in the cannabis industry and the work we've done has been fun.
A project you worked on recently that you're proud of.
I'm really proud of a gummies brand we created called Goldmine. It's a fun take on the various benefits of the products in the range—sleep, pain relief, creative energy and more—illustrated in a way to delight adults. It's something that hadn't been done before in the category, but has been in others such as craft beer. It's great to break new ground when you know it's going to resonate.
Someone else's project you admired recently.
I refer back to Dank Bakery. The brand lives on Instagram, delivering enticing product visuals and great video content. It's also a great branded experience when you receive their product, which is amazing in a country where it's not legalized.
Someone you admire in cannabis who's doing great things.
Austin Hice, founder of Breez. He's an extremely high functioning cannabis user who has been on a serious mission from California since way before it was legalized. He played a key role in that process and is changing with the landscape, innovating and creating consumer focussed products and brands. The rest of the category could learn a lot from him.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the cannabis industry.
As the founder and ECD of a branding agency that has worked across multiple categories, including cannabis, I'm not directly in it, but it's exciting to cement our leading stance in this industry. If I had more free time, I'd be honing my surfing off a boat in Indonesia.