Mike Tyson’s CMO for cannabis brand Tyson 2.0 talks direct-to-consumer weed sales
Mike Tyson’s new cannabis brand, Tyson 2.0, has appointed its first chief marketing officer, Jackie Guarini. She has plans to take the brand higher than ever. As the company eyes US and Canada expansion, Guarini talks direct-to-consumer challenges and opportunities, creating a consistent brand across different regulatory territories and what it means to be a part of the ‘Tyson tribe.’
Jackie Guarini has plans to take Mike Tyson's weed company higher than ever / Tyson 2.0
If you haven’t seen Mike Tyson’s cannabis company Tyson 2.0, there’s a good chance you soon will, thanks to new chief marketer Jackie Guarini. Guarini is charged with developing and directing the strategy and operations for the brand, which launched last October and has big plans for growth.
Guarini knows a thing or two about vice industries. She hails most recently from Anheuser-Busch, where she served as the US head of commerce media and built out the company’s first connected commerce strategy — which brought together marketing and advertising, ecommerce and direct-to-consumer (DTC) programs. She also spearheaded the organization’s social, programmatic and connected TV strategies.
Now, she’s bringing her passion for media innovation and consumer demands to the cannabis industry. She recently spoke with The Drum about her ambitions for building brand awareness for Tyson 2.0, her vision for advancing DTC cannabis operations and the future of the cannabis industry.
It’s clear that there are plenty of similarities between the alcohol and cannabis markets. But what specifically drew you to the cannabis space and to Tyson 2.0?
With alcohol, there's a huge transfer of the same types of issues and also pros that you have. It's a very highly regulated industry. Selling direct-to-consumer is extremely difficult. And it's a challenge, but it's something that I believe [is growing]. We're part of this big green wave.
[There is so much to parse, including] understanding the commerce between different state lines and how you sell in-store versus online. How do you connect with consumers and make products that address their different needs for different occasions?
I really think that cannabis and plant medicine in general are really, really important. It's kind of the future. It's really helped me in my own ways, personally, to overcome anxiety issues and insomnia issues. It has profoundly changed my life in a very positive way. So for me, it was kind of that lightning-in-the-bottle moment where I was like, ‘Wow, I can really integrate my personal and my professional life and my values together.’ It's kind of a dream job for me. And I'm really grateful for that transition.
What are some of the biggest challenges you anticipate facing in your new role and how will you approach them?
Three big goals come to mind [for my new role]: consistency, strong brand identity and direct-to-consumer experiences.
A large part of what I'm going to be doing is making sure that we have consistency of our brand across the state lines — so whether you go to California, or Arizona or New York, you're seeing, like, oh my god, yes, that's the Tyson product. ‘I love it, it feels good in my hand, it's an amazing experience to smoke it’ — it's getting that kind of consistency from product to package. Also [I’m considering] in-store retail merchandising and making sure that that's consistent across all the different brick-and-mortar stores and dispensaries. I’ll be coming up with a standard process of how we show up and turn up the heat there and [mastering] the look and feel so that when consumers walk into our dispensary, we're immersing them in the brand with beautiful, elevated displays to grab their attention to drive sales. I’ll be working with the dispensaries on that and ensuring that everything is up to the standard of excellence that we're looking for.
The other big part of being highly regulated is direct-to-consumer and how that works. It's such an important piece for us to build out in California right now. In California we can sell direct-to-consumer through our website and our new app, which is great. We've been working really hard on developing a strong platform for consumers to easily browse and purchase their favorite Tyson 2.0 products in a matter of seconds on their phone and get that order fulfilled. So for me, that's also a big challenge. It's like, how do we start replicating that [model] across other states, and making sure that consumers can have a very seamless and easy experience from literally clicking on their phone and getting it delivered to their house in a matter of minutes, or using other DTC partner like Weedmaps? We’re making sure that we're working with these aggregated marketplaces in a compliant way while giving consumers access to our products.
Can you spell out your high-level vision for the brand?
[In terms of] long-term strategy, one of my biggest goals for the brand is scaling market share with innovation and growth creation. I want us to be a leader in the distribution space across the US and also in Canada and globally.
I also really want to focus on consumer trends. That's part of why, in my media career, I absolutely loved media innovation — because I was hyper-focused on what consumers want and need and how they're consuming media and how they're consuming products and the what's the next, best thing. I want to make sure that we're creating products to match those trends.
From a marketing standpoint, our connection to consumers and their love for the brand is really what's going to drive our strategy. There’s a very strong human connection to Mike [Tyson] with this brand, and that's something I definitely want to leverage. I want people to feel like they're part of what we call the ‘Tyson tribe.’
Something that's really important to me is ensuring that we're meeting consumers where they are, in whatever occasion that they find themselves in. Whether it's relaxing at home, hanging with friends or attending a concert, we should have a product to make that experience feel really great. Evoking that sort of joy and nostalgia is something that I'm really interested in. I think [in the long-term], Tyson 2.0 is going to be a portfolio of brands and it's going to cover a wide spectrum of consumers. An integral piece of that strategy is developing the house of brands within Tyson 2.0 by acquiring more IPs — with that, we'll be able to reach more audiences with different and fun products that meet their needs and things that they want to buy and share with their communities. I want to make sure that we're delivering there, and I want to grow our product lines into new territories that are unexpected and definitely can bring a social buzz factor [because] word-of-mouth is everything in cannabis.
In such a highly-regulated industry, what does advertising look like? Are you buying media?
I'm super excited about learning all of the different regulatory and compliance laws that we need to focus on to make sure that we're showing up right and showing up in a legal way. You can definitely purchase media, which is great. We're using a partner called Fyllo, of which our chairman is the CEO. They're an amazing company in the cannabis space to help do managed-service media buys for us in targeted markets and ensure that we're using really rich cannabis purchase data or progressive audience data to reach the consumers where they are — whether it's on digital, out-of-home or otherwise.
We are limited to a degree. We're just starting to see connected TV ads here in New York trying to educate consumers on what [the laws are] and when [they’re] coming and preparing them for that with all the questions that will come. But then there are other states like California, where you can see billboards for dispensaries and you're like, ‘Whoa, that's amazing.’ I definitely want to make sure that we're taking advantage of that… and addressing our immediate media needs, which would be like brand awareness kind of campaigns, and then hopefully, lower-funnel [media priorities] would be more [work with] our DTC partners like Weedmaps and Jane.
What’s next for Tyson 2.0?
We're actually going to be launching our CBD line with one of our partners over the next month, so that'll allow us to have CBD products across the country nationally; that kind of enables us to have more direct consumer experiences, because CBD is not as regulated. I’m really excited to have our products be accessible to everybody.
In the next few weeks, we're also going to be launching some more of our edible line, which will be like chocolates and lollipops, which I'm super excited about. We're also going to be dropping our Ric Flair Drip line, so any 80s and 90s wrestling fans will be super stoked about what's to come there. I'm personally really excited about that, too.
We're also going to be focusing a ton on merchandising — building out new revenue streams for the brand outside of just cannabis. [That will entail] creating clothing lines, houseware lines and consumption products that can help enhance your experience as you're utilizing our products.
My top priority is still going to be the cohesion of the brand and making it feel consistent to consumers. I want to make sure that our social strategy also continues to grow — we're almost at 100,000 followers, which is amazing in seven months organically.
Any predictions for the future of the cannabis industry at large?
I hope that my coming into this role will kind of shake up the industry a little bit and make room for more female types of products and different perspectives. I'm really excited to be a part of that, and it's not lost on me. I think the cannabis industry is going to continue to foster a more inclusive environment for women coming into these roles. That's something I would definitely predict over the next few years: you're going to see a lot more females in senior leadership and C-suite positions, which I'm excited about.