Welcome to So You Want My Job?, where each week we ask the people working in some of the industry’s coolest jobs about how they got where they are. And, along the way, we dig into their philosophies, inspirations, processes and experiences. Hopefully, our interviewees can help inspire you to pursue (or create) a job that’s just as exciting.
This week we speak to Nicole Wolff, brand director at cannabis company the Flowr Corp. Also remember to subscribe to our bi-monthly newsletter, Working it Out, which gathers up the best new marketing vacancies and helps you get interview-sharp.
What did you want to be when you were growing up and does your job now resemble that in any way?
My mom reminds me to this day that when asked this question in grade one, my answer was a Dickie Dee girl (for the non-Canadians, that’s a cycling ice-cream seller) or a doctor.
I was a patient at SickKids Hospital in Toronto at a young age, so that explained the doctor piece, but as for the former... I must have really liked ice-cream. Fast forward a decade and I was convinced I was going to Harvard after watching Legally Blonde. One of my elementary school best friends and I even planned on opening our own law firm together. She’s currently a lawyer, while I’m over here building brands.
While the two jobs may seem incredibly different, I do believe there is something that ties them together: curiosity. A curiosity of the human body, curiosity of the human psyche, curiosity over, umm... the latest ice-cream flavor? And now I’m endlessly curious about the consumer.
How did you get your job?
At university, we had a career center that brought in prospective companies hiring students right after graduation. Most of these companies would bribe you with free food and drinks. For a student, a free dinner is like winning the lottery, so when I heard Molson Coors was coming the next day and it included pizza and beer, jackpot!
I almost didn’t submit my resume. After a number of years running its Career Apprenticeship Program, it had only ever hired business students. Surely this communication major wouldn’t stand a chance? At Molson, I was hired into a rotational program where I spent time in both sales and marketing. I really love building relationships and fed off that in a sales environment. But at the end of the day, I fell in love with marketing.
After spending nearly a decade with Molson, a new budding industry called my name. How often do you have the opportunity to get into an industry like cannabis? I mentioned this to one of my girlfriends during a gym class and she immediately responded with: “I have someone you have to meet.”
I was then connected with the Flowr Corporation’s former chief people officer, Ashley Thomson, and passed immediately on to Flowr’s senior vice-president of marketing, and my now boss, Alexandre Jalleau. Right away something just clicked. I still remember how comfortable everything felt in the room that day. The interview consisted of Alexandre having the word ‘premium’ circled all over my resume and we spent the next hour and a bit discussing premium brand building.
For anyone interested in getting into marketing, I would highly recommend getting your feet wet by being on the ground and hearing what the customer and consumer are saying first hand. That insight is invaluable and I’m convinced I wouldn’t be half the marketer I am today without first being in the field. I also appreciated the foundations I was taught at Molson. Workshops, case studies and training were all the norm. Learning the budget was your right of passage. And the perks – well, those were pretty great too. I learned where my strengths lie and what my passions were. It led me to the cannabis industry.
What does a day of work look like for you?
That’s the beauty of marketing and working in a startup – truly, no two days are the same. Without the luxury of a large team, I find myself wearing a lot of different hats on any given day.
One day I am briefing our agency on the latest campaign, another day I am flying out to Kelowna to tour the facility for the first time. One hour I’m on the phone with a guy who is pricing out merchandise and the next I am knee-deep in brand health metrics. And you never know when you’re going to suddenly get a strong whiff of some dank bud and you immediately know it’s time for show and tell with our vice-president of business development, Adam Brockest.
OK, so what do you actually do? How would you explain your job to a taxi driver?
It’s hard to define marketing because in a sense it is all-encompassing. At the end of the day, the role of marketing is to drive sales. But not sales of everything to everyone. Everything that we do needs to start with a defined consumer target. After we have a firm grasp of who our consumer is and what the consumer needs are, we’re able to transition to the 4 Ps and establish how those all work together – product, place, price, and promotion. Building a strategy, analyzing insights, budget management, relationship building, brief writing and getting creative are a few pieces of a very large puzzle.
Do your parents understand what it is that you do?
I’m going to give my parents a little bit of credit here and say yes. Perhaps they don’t understand all the intricacies, but we talk almost daily so they’ve heard all the good and some of the not-so-good. Just so I was 100% sure, I asked them this question. My mom replied with “Aren’t you the brand director at Flowr?” But I think my Dad’s answer was more on point: “Anything to do with promoting and marketing the Flowr brand to the public.”
What do you love most about your job?
There is something special about a consumer choosing your brand to be a part of their life. Cannabis is not a need, like toilet paper or tampons. When someone picks up Flowr, they are choosing the brand because it is something they identify with and they want it out of a huge array of products on the market. That’s really special.
Another thing I love is when you see something that you’ve worked on for a long time out in the world. When we launched our new cobalt blue glass jar in January, I was waiting (rather impatiently) for it to hit the stores. Unfortunately in Toronto we are still locked down so I couldn’t see it in-store, but that BC Black Cherry in a cobalt blue glass jar delivery was definitely a highlight.
How would someone entering the industry go about getting your job now? What would be their route?
One of the greatest parts of the cannabis industry is how friendly and supportive everyone is. It’s really amazing to be around so many people who want you to succeed (and I’m including competitors in that). People in the industry are more than happy to have conversations – whether it be a coffee, a Zoom meeting or even a conversation in the DMs. I wouldn’t hesitate to reach out and ask any questions or for advice.
As a marketer, I found that the more traditional CPG experience I had a Molson definitely helped me. I look back at my time at Molson knowing that on top of building brands I was also building my own foundations and learning marketing 101. Cannabis is new, there are no strategy documents, no previous AOPs, no benchmarks to start from. Having the foundations I did enabled me to build a very sound strategy and brand plan in not only a new company but a new industry.
What advice would you offer to others entering the advertising industry, especially at this weird time?
There’s never going to be the perfect time to do something. If there’s something that you’re interested in or curious about, get after it – have the coffees, send that LinkedIn request.
What would you say is the trait that best suits you for your role?
I’m a bit of a chameleon in that I can adapt to different situations and different environments rather easily. As I said previously, marketing is all-encompassing and being able to adapt is so important. When I am reviewing creative I am tapping into the right side of my brain, but need to flex the left side when I’m deep-diving into consumer insights and need to be more analytical.
Who should those who want your job read or listen to?
I’m going to toss it out there – go and get yourself a Clubhouse invite. There are so many interesting conversations going on, I find myself dropping into random rooms throughout the day and night. I also think it is really important to be tapped in and active on social media. There are so many consumer insights that you can tap into by going down a rabbit hole on a Reddit thread, following inspirational brands on Instagram or doing social listening on Twitter.
Last week we spoke with Laura Jordan Bambach, president and chief creative officer at Grey London.