You can’t buy cannabis ads on Google, Facebook or Instagram. Nor in Forbes or the Wall Street Journal. So Jeremy Jacobs and Colby McKenzie created a platform for brands that want to get involved in the booming cannabis industry.

Jeremy Jacobs

Jeremy Jacobs

By Lee Barnathan, California Business Journal

Trivia question: Which U.S. President grew cannabis?

Jeremy Jacobs and Colby McKenzie know the answer because they supply intriguing tidbits such as that as part of the retail media platform that they provide to more than 500 dispensaries in 21 states.

The two created Enlighten, which brings such elements as text marketing, brand videos, instructional videos and trivia on the many screens that appear all over the cannabis stores that use their services.

Actually, Enlighten Chairman Jacobs, 37, and CEO McKenzie, 30, have been at this for more than a year. Their technology serves some 650 clients nationwide. They have about 30 locations in the Los Angeles area and are about to penetrate the Bay Area.

“You don’t see anybody else doing this with the expertise and sophistication with which we are operating,” Jacobs says. “We didn’t see any formidable competition.”

There was, however, one major obstacle: the cannabis industry itself.

“You can’t buy cannabis ads on Google, Facebook, Instagram or any company owned by Google or Facebook,” Jacobs says. “You can’t buy cannabis ads in Forbes or the Wall Street Journal.”

“There are no traditional media avenues,” McKenzie adds.

And yet, many companies want to get involved in cannabis. Jacobs saw a Totino’s ad in Colorado that reads, “Better When Baked,” and McKenzie sites a comforter ad in a New York subway that read, “For Foreplay or 420.”

“Those brands want to get involved in this booming market,” Jacobs says.

Colby McKenzie

Colby McKenzie

Enlighten provides a way with its media network that replaces traditional signs and posters. Jacobs, who already was in digital signage through his company Eyeconic, received a call from a Denver business owner asking about doing a digital-menu project at his friend’s dispensary.

“I told him, ‘I think it would be the coolest digital-menu project I’ve ever been a part of,’” Jacobs says.

Walk into any dispensary that Enlighten serves and you are met by various screens (including some in a break room) on walls, desks or tables. McKenzie and Jacobs offer as many as eight different retail technology solutions.

Enlighten TV, the company’s in-store media platform, has a 10-minute loop of content playing. At the dispensary’s discretion, it could include ads from the many cannabis or related companies that work with Enlighten.

The Enlighten TV loop also plays educational content about such topics as the intended effects of particular strains, precautions about consuming edibles, how to clean a bong or remind tourists not to ship cannabis back to states where it’s illegal. These promos are sometimes sponsored by brands or local government.

Another screen (Social Wall) is dedicated to social media, where people can post a predefined hashtag that will populate on the screen real time.

On a display case or table is a tablet (Showcase) that details the products on display. Their digital menus seamlessly integrate with the client’s POS system and their wow-factor solution (Captivate) encompasses a multi-screen digital wall that displays eye-catching content and interactive features. And another screen (Direct Connect) allows repeat customers to score loyalty points and learn of dispensary specials and events via text message.

There are also screens in the break room (Breakroom TV) devoted to reinforcing the company vision, mission and goals, bringing wallpaper bulletin boards to life with fun, customized content, animated videos, and interactive quizzes.

Additionally, dispensary management utilize Enlighten’s proprietary analytics platform (TrafficWise) and measure customer traffic flow.

A popular segment of Enlighten TV is devoted to trivia. A sample question: What plant is a cousin of cannabis? Answer: hops. And the cannabis-growing president? None other than George Washington, who grew hemp.

“Our customers love to see what’s new and will often just sit in the lobby and watch for a while,” says a manager with The Marijuana Company in Butte, Montana.

One reason this is possible is that the cannabis industry is a leader in retail technology. Four years ago, Jacobs used a touch screen to buy cannabis in a Denver dispensary. Now, he can order a burger at McDonald’s the same way.

Starbucks and other restaurants and food-service establishments offer online ordering, but Jacobs saw this in dispensaries long ago.

“Cannabis is on the cutting edge,” McKenzie says. “It’s a once-in-a-generation industry boom. Who doesn’t want to be a part of this generation’s industry boom? We were a little young for the broadband boom, but we caught this one.”

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