Cannabis company Holistic Industries has named former CDM leader Kyle Barich as chief marketing officer.
Barich is set to join the company next week, reporting to Holistic founder and CEO Josh Genderson. Barich will be tasked with building its “greenhouse of brands,” or the individual brands of dispensaries and medical cannabis that Holistic cultivates and sells.
These brands will be marketed across consumer segments, Barich said, to appeal to different types of cannabis users. He also hopes to destigmatize the conversation about medical marijuana.
“After spending over 25 years in healthcare advertising, I spent so much time trying to understand the dynamic between doctors and patients,” Barich said. “In the healthcare advertising industry and pharma industry, that’s old hat now, but coming to the cannabis industry it has a little bit of a twist.”
Because the industry is new, doctors need to see and understand the science behind medical marijuana to feel comfortable recommending it to patients, Barich said. Patients need a different kind of support to try cannabis.
“Consumers, who are increasingly older and increasingly female, are looking for permission from an authority figure to say it’s ok to treat some common symptoms like chronic pain or sleep issues with cannabis,” Barich said. “They had an entire lifetime of ‘reefer madness’ and negative press about [cannabis]. What I’m hoping to do is to help change that conversation to one less stigmatized, more medical, more acceptable and more fluid.”
In this role, he will expand Holistic’s marketing team, which has grown from one to five staffers, with a focus on packaging, social media and brand development. Holistic Industries operates in Washington D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Michigan and California.
Barich previously spent 23 years at CDM, holding various roles from VP to president. In 2016, he was promoted to CEO, a role he held for three years. Chris Palmer, previously head of CDM’s New York office, was named CEO after Barich’s exit in June.
For the past two years, Barich has been an investor and adviser to cannabis companies, working with cannabis startups to help founders effectively run their business and providing support for branding and marketing.
He hopes to bring his experience working with doctors and patients to his new role. Barich recalled the strategies from one of his first accounts, Pfizer’s Viagra, noting that the cannabis industry is facing many of the same issues.
“Prior to Viagra, no guy was going to go to their doctor and say they’re impotent. It was a very unacceptable conversation; [the issue] was stigmatized, secretive and strange,” he said. “The team at CDM unearthed different terminology, ED, and I believe we really changed that conversation to be more medical and acceptable. Now you look at cannabis and you see the connection. The [cannabis] conversation is stilted, uncomfortable, not medical and it has similar audience. I’m hoping to use plays from that playbook and bring increasing evidence to the cannabis industry.”