You may be copying and mimicking the package designs of your competitors on shelfs and listed in online marketplaces, but what you may not know is that your competitor is tapping into talent and experience that has worked with some of the biggest brands of the world. David Paleschuck has a keen ability to spot gaps, fill said gaps, and contribute his knowledge and experience to serve an ever growing market. Based out of Seattle, Washington, he typically drives from Wallingford’s hill filled streets to the south of the city where a large number of cannabis operators have their warehouses, the SODO district. There, he spends a large portion of his day working with the team at Evergreen Herbal managing a number of new products and brands for delighted cannabis consumers. What I find keen about David is his spirit for more. More in the sense of contribution, connections, and doing. Outside of his regular work and spending time with his family, he works with companies in the cannabis space through his own company New Leaf Licensing, a cannabis consultancy firm specializing in branding, marketing, licensing, and partnerships.
David grew up in New York, and for three decades, David’s been at the cutting edge of lifestyle marketing and product development. He’s been the co-founder of a gallery known as Fullscale. It was an art and design gallery showcasing the work of artists, designers, and architects. Earning his MBA in International Marketing and Business Ethics, led David to American Express where he spent two years working within the Travel Related Services Division cutting his teeth on ‘block & tackle’ marketing programs. He developed campaigns for American Express and Thomas Cooke Traveler’s Cheques and other travel related services and products. You can see where he gets his chopping blocks.
With credit card & payments industry experience, David moved to MasterCard for seven years where he worked as a Director within the Global Marketing, New Ventures & Investments and Mobile Commerce groups, participating and co-managing campaigns, programs & products such as the “Priceless” campaign; and “PayPass” the first RFID ‘wave’ payment vehicle developed for commercial transactions – and the predecessor to the recently launched Apple Pay.
Seeking an opportunity to leverage his passion and contacts in the action sports world, David joined PepsiCo as the Brand Manager for Mt. Dew where he developed and co-created Mt. Dew action sport programs and campaigns including “Brick & Mortar”, the first video series from a beverage company using skateboarding, graffiti and street culture as the backdrop; The Dew Tour, one the most successful sponsored action sport tours including music, competition and other lifestyle-based experiential elements.
In 2006, David was recruited to Microsoft’s Entertainment & Devices Division to help launch Zune, Microsoft’s new MP3 music player. In his role as Director of Brand Partnerships, he created and cut co-branded partnership deals with companies including, but not limited to Adidas; Burton Snowboards; Heineken, MasterCard; McDonalds, Mt. Dew; Nike; Nokia; NBA; Pepsi; Puma; as well as various action sport and youth marketing firms including publishers; content & video producers; equipment and hardware manufacturers.
Seeing the rapidly evolving laws regarding & regulating the sale of legal cannabis, David recognized the opportunity to help newly formed cannabis entities and their brands move into the competitive landscape of consumer brands & packaged goods. To that end, David left Microsoft in 2012 to form New Leaf Licensing, a brand & marketing consultancy firm focused on the newly formed legal cannabis market(s).
So, after a very long career at American Express, MasterCard, Pepsi and Microsoft in branding and marketing, David did what many people seem to be doing today. He decided to leave his comfort of his office in corporate America to get into the cannabis industry. Through New Leaf Licensing, his initial stints included consulting to retailers setting up shop helping them sort through the often confusing LCB rules and regulations. Once in the industry, David continued to network, build relationships, and attend all events and trade shows possible.
Soon after, David partnered on developing a book on cannabis branding and marketing titled, “Branding Bud: The Commercialization of Cannabis” with Allie Beckett – a renown and award winning cannabis photographer. Together, they traveled through recreational and medical states visiting cannabis business owners and interviewing them to better understand their brand, product offering, and the creative assets that support the brand.
“As I met more people, opportunity presented itself. That’s how I ended up joining Evergreen Herbal as Vice President of Marketing.” David mentioned. So what does someone like David expect to occur in the industry as we move forward? “Standardization, acceptance, and normalization.” David’s very pragmatic. He see’s the situation for what it is. He mentions that standardization needs to occur in the cannabis space across products quality, testing standards and results, packaging solutions, and marketing channels and options. “Once standardization happens, we know we’re on track to take this to the federal level.”
At a time where more and more business individuals are jumping into the industry to claim their corner of the market, someone like David has goals for the industry. “Pro’s before Bro’s” he says. It’s almost part of his brand. You can see him carry a strong and defined sense of professionalism anywhere he goes. His advice for early cannabis entrepreneurs in new states coming online is to work with real qualified and accredited business people. That’s something Washington State and Colorado had to learn the hard way and many hours and dollars were invested into that lesson. Having friends who enjoy cannabis recreationally and express an interest to start a venture is one thing. Having business professionals with the business stamina to see an operation through to the end is another. “I believe as the industry develops and more professionals enter, standard and fair business practices will come to the fore – and the “Bro downs” will disappear.”
It takes a dedicated focus to build a professional career like that of David, and it takes even more gusto to build professional resume like that and leap into an industry that is not just new but coming out of the black market. That’s partially why David was in the front of our list of individuals to cover. Primarily and more importantly, David is someone to know because there are not many who have dealt with the number of gazelles he has from Mt. Dew to Microsoft and others in between. He’s positioned himself in the cannabis space very pragmatically. At a time when you’re in need of a strategic partner or advice for branding, David tends to be in the forefront of cannabis business minds.
The industry is young. So young, you can predict and see many things happening over the course of the next 3, 5, and 10 years. The question, in terms of branding, is how long until we really begin to see the so called ‘Coca Cola’s’ or “Walmart’s” of cannabis pop up state after state. With 8 states having recreational laws in the books, it’s exciting to predict who’s going to be the one to gamble such a move. Especially now, Las Vegas, our countries nightlife playground, with recreational cannabis laws and the possibility of social clubs that allow for public consumption, someone has to be putting this on the whiteboard for their Monday morning meetings. How this plays out will be interesting to see. Ask yourself this, which of your favorite brands would you love to also purchase in Las Vegas?
Branding continues to play an important role in the success of a cannabis cultivators when it comes to selling products on front end of the house. In some states like Washington State, consumers can’t smell and sometimes can’t see the product. The competition is fierce for shelf space, and how you convey your brand message in a small package limited in design by government regulations has never been more challenging. It’ll take someone like David to knock some sense into your regular ways of thinking to realize that there’s other ways to win the hearts of the ever consuming customers.