It’s no secret that as outdated perceptions and legal barriers dissipate, brands are rushing into the cannabis space.
Those seeking to do so, however, have to navigate a web of legislation and cultural norms, so perhaps it was only a matter of time before a global agency specializing in the space emerged. Enter Gram By Gram.
Co-founded by former president and managing director of Vice Canada Ryan Archibald and media entrepreneur Ted Chung, a longtime business partner of Snoop Dogg, Gram By Gram officially launched today. The agency focuses on helping cannabis brands grow from inception to scale. Gram By Gram grew out of Merry Jane, the cannabis culture digital platform co-founded by Chung and Snoop Dogg, with existing client relationships from early operations.
“There was such a demand coming through them and through Ted Chung because of their cultural and cannabis expertise that there was a need to break off,” Archibald said.
Gram By Gram is a stand-alone agency headquartered in Toronto, with U.S. operations based out of Los Angeles and offices in Mexico City and London, and it has aspirations for further international expansion.
Gram By Gram comes along after Canada’s legalization of cannabis for recreational use last year. In the U.S., 10 states have legalized cannabis for recreational use, while 33 have legalized it for medicinal use. There’s also a booming market for CBD products. And brands need to navigate the nuances of legalization across state and national boundaries.
“As other countries are starting to look to Canada for lessons and examples for what to do and what not to do, we have a real-time understanding of what’s happening there,” Archibald said.
While the U.K. is likely further away from legalization than many U.S. states or Mexico, Gram By Gram decided to set up shop in London with an eye toward the future market in the U.K. and Europe.
“The whole vision of what we’re putting together is that we’re going to continue to grow around the world as legalization starts popping up more and more,” Archibald said.
Meanwhile, Gram By Gram is hiring a local team for its Mexico City office that understands the culture of the region and can help brands with the challenges of entering the space. Those types of challenges could prove instructive as legalization spreads and Gram by Gram seeks to expand its footprint.
“One of the tools we’re currently developing is trying to map out from a strategic perspective how the legal context and the sociocultural context interact,” Gram By Gram chief strategy officer Badr El Fekkak said. “We have tools in which we position potential markets and look at signals both culturally and legally that would help our clients enter the market in the right way.”
In addition to cannabis brands, Gram By Gram wants to help brands outside the space interested in leveraging cannabis culture.
“But we come at it with the actual expertise in the cannabis culture and the lifestyle,” Archibald said, giving brands an “understanding of what the culture is all about and how you want to access that.”
“It’s not just another lifestyle that you want to cling on to from a marketing perspective; it’s something that you want to become a part of,” he said.
He added that there are “different cultures” and “different values” around audiences using cannabis for “medicinal, spiritual and recreational purposes” and there are “different cultures for each one of those, and they all need to be treated differently.”
“If you’re going to enter a market you have to position yourself differently” and tailor your entry to that specific market, he said, “becoming a partner in the evolution” in mindset from “what cannabis used to be to what it can be.”