By Maryann Lavelle
Celeste Miranda is no newcomer to the marketing industry. About 12 years ago she founded a traditional marketing company, Miranda Marketing Lab, in San Luis Obispo, California. When a grow light company sought her out about five years ago to handle their marketing, she produced a very successful campaign for them. Obviously, many people use grow lights to grow cannabis, so from that campaign she became recognized in the cannabis industry. At that time that she founded The Cannabis Marketing Lab (TCML), as a division of Miranda Marketing Lab.
A lot of companies began knocking at her door to handle their marketing and today the company is 95% cannabis-specific. The reason they aren’t 100% is that she chose to retain several clients who had been with her from the outset 12 years ago. They are law firms that believed enough in her to take a chance when she was starting out, so she kept their business out of loyalty and appreciation.
Celeste stated that for a person who didn’t have cannabis in her life at all, it has been a very interesting ride. Now she is intimately familiar with the industry and has become well-known, respected and the go-to person in her field.
Celeste said TCML is one of the oldest cannabis-specific marketing firms around. She and her staff know the industry well and are very connected and networked. A lot of companies specialize in consulting, but only do bits and pieces and a lot of paperwork “stuff.” Much administrative work is required and a lot of people aren’t interested in doing paperwork. In addition, being a grower (farmer) is so all-encompassing that it is difficult to focus on administrative details. Having someone to reach out to for building plans, permits, licensing or marketing is essential.
Banking for the cannabis industry creates problems and solutions require creativity. TCML deals with this issue for many of their clients. Although the word “cannabis” is part of the company name, it is a subdivision and the parent company is used primarily for banking. The Cannabis Marketing Lab has a staff of about 20 specialized team members. Their system is predicated on the ability to offer a variety of services to clients.
They create and develop web sites, and provide social media marketing and management, as well as graphic design. Three full-time designers are on staff, along with six or seven social media managers, two web developers and three content writers, some of whom are specifically tasked with writing press releases. There is also a search engine optimization (SEO) specialist who works on client web sites, as well as a videographer whose job is to produce promotional videos for clients. Project managers handle different projects, as needed. It is quite an impressive staff, and they all enjoy their jobs and are passionate about their work.
What sets TCML apart from other cannabis marketing firms is the system that Celeste created. The firm is not a cookie-cutter business—meaning that there is no package A, B or C from which to choose. Each client receives a custom offering. For instance, a client may need web design but not social media management; or a client may need content writing but not press releases.
The TCML system works well because of the interaction of the varied staff. For example, if web developers are creating a web site and find that they need content they ask the content writers to provide what they need. All the work is done in house so the process is fluid for clients and branding is kept consistent.
While TCML is based in San Luis Obispo, California, Celeste attends most of the bigger expos. She speaks on marketing in the cannabis industry including marketing through social media, website design, content marketing or video marketing.
Celeste also hosts a public podcast, The Cannabis Marketing Lab radio show. It is a weekly podcast where she interviews people regarding marketing for cannabis entrepreneurs. The podcast is available on iTunes and The Cannabis Marketing Lab website. In addition, she publishes a digital-only quarterly magazine on the web site, which is all about marketing in the cannabis industry.
Celeste is passionate about outreach and education of the public regarding the cannabis industry. She has gotten a lot of business from sharing her experiences and knowledge at expos and conferences with what she has named the “Cannabis Marketing DIY Sesh.” She envisions it as a one-day conference where mentors from the industry teach participants how to succeed in the industry. The first one is planned for later this year, possibly in Northern California. She plans to distribute and promote the latest issue of the Cannabiz Journal at that Sesh. For 2017 Celeste has planned four or five stops in major cities across the USA.
Celeste said that she is disheartened about the trend in expos and other events to hold “pay-to-play” events where only exhibitors are speakers and the purpose of such events is just to make money. She would like to see those with talent, but not interested in purchasing a booth, be able to speak at such events.
According to Celeste: “…We were the first cannabis-specific marketing company in existence; our experience is invaluable. We aren’t trying to be the largest. You get lost in large. We are just trying to be the best. We want the juice to be worth the squeeze.”