For Willie Nelson, a celebrated musician who has lived a life well lived (on the road, that is), it’s no secret that his travels never lacked his tradition of sharing, caring and toking with friends, fans, and musicians alike.
With the cannabis revolution underway, it’s no wonder Willie decided to, literally, jump on the bandwagon and cash in on starting his very own cannabis venture, Willie’s Reserve.
While Willie brings his ‘stash’ of personal experience with cannabis, it’s Elizabeth Hogan, Co-Founder and Vice President of Brands for GCH Inc., who leads the brand strategy, communication and marketing behind Willie’s Reserve.
Grit Daily’s very own Jordan French sits down with Elizabeth to discuss the high times ahead for cannabis’ next big product to enter the market.
Grit Daily: For the uninitiated, what’s your role with Willie Nelson’s brands?
Elizabeth Hogan: I develop and manage the brands in our portfolio. What this means in practical terms is defining the brand strategy – what it stands for, what type and assortment of products are offered, how the brand is expressed and interacts, and the impact the brand works to have. Working with Willie Nelson as a source of inspiration makes this easy in many ways, and adds a huge responsibility to get it right!
GD: How do you decide which concepts or products would make a good association?
EH: Willie is known for a life on the road as an artist, and a lifetime of advocacy for cannabis. We build from his reputation, perspective and preferences to assemble the product line.
A broad variety of high quality flower and ready roll joints are at the core because Willie has always enjoyed the best from local growers as he traveled from show to show. Our edibles line features his wife Annie’s original chocolate recipe and our vape hardware and formulations are strong enough to keep up with Willie’s use.
GD: How common are infringements or impostors, really? Is there a particular issue we should be more aware of when it comes to likenesses and artist rights?
EH: We have seen Willie’s Reserve imposters in the market over the last few years. Luckily, this seems to be on the decline as our brand gains awareness and grows in distribution. The more familiar consumers are with what you offer, the less room there is for a counterfeit to gain footing.
GD: Why focus on hemp — especially for Texas markets?
EH: Willie’s Remedy is our new brand of hemp-derived CBD products. Hemp is part of the cannabis family, but doesn’t produce THC, the element that creates feelings of intoxication.
Willie has been outspoken about hemp as a beneficial crop for American family farmers for a very long time. Texas has an opportunity to take a leadership position in supporting hemp farmers, hemp industry and hemp products. We’d love to be able to source our hemp-derived products from Texas. The American Hemp Campaign is an effort to help Texas and other states take proactive steps to build hemp economies.
GD: What makes a pop-up shop at SXSW so compelling?
EH: SXSW brings art, culture, technology and media in to one awesome conversation. The Willie’s Joint concept was designed to bring Willie’s Reserve and Willie’s Remedy in to one branded experience to help people discover and understand the differences between hemp-derived cannabis products and those sold in adult-use and medical states. Based on the response, engagement and attendance, Austin is definitely ready to legalize.
GD: What’s one conventional wisdom about hemp that’s just plain wrong?
EH: Not all hemp is cultivated equally! The growing, sourcing and handling practices for hemp-derived products are as important to product quality and efficacy as in food, or regulated cannabis. Luckily, many companies are taking a transparent approach from the beginning. Always make sure you know where your hemp comes from.
To read about Willie’s other line of CBD-infused products featured on Grit Daily, click here.