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Sometimes, sliding in the DMs is all it takes to spark a meaningful partnership.  Take Katherine Wolf’s story, for example. She fell in love with the flower produced by Malek’s Premium Cannabis, and stayed on top of all the new drops. At a popup event, she met Malek Noueiry, the man behind the name and business, and told him how much she loves the brand and products. Later that day, she sent a simple message along the lines of: “I work in cannabis marketing and would love to help further build your brand.” She’s now their Chief Marketing and Operations Officer. 

Malek’s is a Colorado brand, and though Wolf recently moved from the Centennial State to Seattle, she still makes it work. Naturally, capturing social media content is difficult when you’re nearly an entire day’s drive from the grow, but the team has pivoted to help provide on-the-ground content when needed. Plus, there are some benefits to the distance. “I get a unique perspective now because I’m tapped into the local cannabis community in two very different markets. There are a lot of ideas and inspiration I’ve gotten from Washington brands that I’ve been able to apply to what we do in Colorado,” she explains. 

In watching Wolf speak at a recent Cannabis Marketing Association panel, it became clear that her approach to marketing cannabis is a delicate balance of precision, flexibility, and personability—and one that has paid off. 

Katherine Wolf, far-left, speaking at a Cannabis Marketing Association event

Along with managing the company’s operations, Wolf spends her days hammering out digital marketing content. Spearheading both means finding a good balance. “Some days are spent deep in creative marketing and others I have to prioritize day-to-day operations,” she explains. And as a detail-oriented person with a keen eye, she’ll gladly skip over making an Instagram post, for example, if she doesn’t have time to make it look perfect and in-line with the brand’s aesthetic. 

This is reflected in the company’s Instagram page, which showcases the eye-catching pink packages Malek’s is known for, mixed with terpene profile information and other consumer education materials. Wolf has shifted her Instagram strategy to primarily providing education that pushes readers to their website, where they are free to operate outside of Instagram’s content rules. “Instagram will always be important but brands shouldn’t ever rely on it alone; they need to include other channels that can work alongside their Instagram profile,” she explains. 

The distinct pink packages have helped Malek’s find its own unique place on the shelf. In an effort to break through some of the clutter in Colorado, the company opted for bright pink packaging that stands out to consumers among shades of green and gray. For an added touch, they also use Blazy Susan’s pink rolling papers. Wolf thinks the pink package provides a retro, Miami vice vibe, which speaks to her days growing up in Florida. Most cannabis in Colorado is sold deli-style, so the decision to sell their cannabis pre-packaged in a bright pink bag is a bold and intentional move. “People might not always remember our name, but they usually remember the pink pack.”

After working her way up to two high positions at Malek’s, Wolf credits her success in part to the powerful women in the industry who have mentored her, including Lisa Buffo of the Cannabis Marketing Association. To pay it forward, she’s involved in several women-centric cannabis groups, including Women Employed in Cannabis, Tokeativity, and Women Grow. 

To get a better idea of the work she does, Katherine allowed me to pick her brain about cannabis marketing over drinks at a local Seattle cidery. Here are some of the highlights:

Cannabis marketing Q+A with Katherine Wolf

What’s a common marketing mistake you see in cannabis?

I see brands telling stories that don’t actually align with the product they’re putting out and the kind of experience their customers are getting. The marketing has to align with the actual product being sold, or it may end up doing more harm than good. 

As the sole person marketing the brand, how do you keep track of success?

Obviously analytics like Instagram engagement numbers and visits to our site are important. But also how many units we sold during a pop up, how quickly certain products sell on dispensary shelves, and which new retailers end up putting in a second order with us are all big. We also rely on qualitative analytics, like the feedback we get through DMs and what people actually say to us at our events. 

As the CMO, you mentioned that you’ve never spent money on paid advertising. Can you talk about how you’ve pulled this off and why it’s been successful?

All of our marketing is centered around authenticity. We don’t ever pay for media awards or features. We drive brand awareness through different methods, like brand partnerships and collaborations that help get our name out organically. Since we only sell flower, we don’t really have a way of getting in front of other types of users, so collaborations are really useful. For example, we were able to get in front of edible users by collaborating with Dialed In gummies. 

How do you establish your price point?

We offer a premium product that is super labor intensive. We hand trim and package our flower, as well as hand roll our joints, and this work is reflected in the price point. 

We also collaborate with Gordo Scientific, using their hand-blown reusable glass tips. We drop these boxes in small, limited releases that help  us to play up the premium and establish a higher price point because of the additional value the reusable hand-blown tips provide

And just for fun, what are your favorite strains from Malek’s?

Strawberry Slurpee is my go-to and literally tastes just like a slurpee from a corner gas station. It’s an in-house cross of Strawberry Banana and XJ-13 and has a super uplifting high, so I love taking this one on a hike. The other strains in my top three would be Petrol Rainbow (Jet Fuel Gelato x Sour Gelato), which we say smells like pulling up to a gas station in the middle of nowhere on a road trip. It’s super gassy and gives me a really creative high. And then finally is Mr. Suds, a cross between Animal Mintz and Kush Mintz 11. It’s creamy and milky but I personally get a ton of funk from this strain. It’s like shredding parmesan cheese over a bowl of pasta – super fresh but with a funky, earthy smell on the backend. We also have some new strains coming out this summer that I can’t wait to try…Hazelnut Cream is the one I’m most looking forward to! 

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