Tianna Waite didn’t know she was destined for a career in cannabis. The Oregon native entered the military after high school, serving for 12 years including a tour in Afghanistan. Upon returning from overseas, she realized she wanted to do something more with her life — she just didn’t know what. Waite studied communications at the University of Oregon and was first exposed to the newly emerging marijuana industry in graduate school while working for a communications firm with several cannabis clients.
“That was my first introduction into cannabis, and I was actually still serving in the military, so it was kind of this weird straddling of two different worlds,” Waite laughed in an interview with Green Flower. “It was a new and fascinating industry, but I didn’t really fully understand the passion that I would have for (the plant).”
Waite is referring to the fact that she didn’t actually have the chance to consume cannabis until 2018 when she left the service.
“When I retired from the military, I tried cannabis for the first time and it really opened my eyes to this amazing world, and I really felt a relief I never knew existed before,” she explained. “And that’s really when I realized, ‘Okay, cannabis is really where I belong.’”
A ‘Cannabis Data Nerd’ Emerges
After finishing her education, Waite began working with a large-scale West Coast cannabis company. She helped them develop their research department, assisted in product testing, and set in stone the notion of understanding consumer behavior and trends. After the company was acquired, Waite realized these needs were being unmet in the quickly-emerging legal industry, founding Cannalytics Research at the end of 2019.
“I realized that there was a huge opportunity here for me to help other brands really tighten-up and be successful within their strategies, that’s really what motivated me to do it,” Waite said.
“I started seeing that there were many brands in the market that weren’t necessarily reading the market well. They were putting out products very quickly because of just the way this cannabis industry is. It’s constantly evolving and regulations are changing, so many companies were just making decisions very quickly on gut instinct without reaching the consumer and understanding the potential that they could actually have.”
Waite put the designation “cannabis data nerd” on her LinkedIn profile and was quickly inundated with queries. Cannalytics’ market research, consumer insights, and product testing services became highly sought-after as companies hoped to cement their positions within the fast-moving marijuana landscape.
“We’re at the tipping point where consumers are starting to get a little bit more knowledge on cannabis and what the effects are and understanding what their needs are with the plant. The reason why market research is so important is that for any product to be successful, you have to meet the consumer needs — it always has to start with the consumer.
“Allowing yourself to meet the consumer where they’re at, understanding their needs and providing something that’s completely unmet in the market, it’s the key to success.”
Crystal Balling The Future Of Cannabis Consumer Trends
When asked if anything has surprised her, Waite laments the lack of maturation in the scope of goods on the dispensary shelves despite the illusion of new offerings, specifically in the edibles category.
“We still are at legacy-market-style products in terms of edibles. You’re seeing brownies, you’re seeing cookies, and mostly, you’re seeing gummies. It’s really interesting to me that as this category grows, we’re not seeing differentiation from products. That’s something to really keep an eye on as we move forward because there should be some more development there because consumer-behavior and consumer-case is not all just weed.”
Waite adds she believes the future holds wider acceptance for the nascent industry which in turn will force a reckoning in the way brands develop their catalogs.
“I think through that acceptance, there is going to be a huge segmentation across the board, and that’s going to bring in many different demographics into the market. From that, there should be (and I really hope that there is) a huge product variation.”
As far as words of advice, Waite commends the current efforts cannabis businesses are exerting but implores them to go the extra mile prior to introducing their wares to the consumer — the ROI will come back tenfold.
“Companies are doing excellent work; they’re trying their best and it’s a very difficult time because of all the pivoting that’s happening. But if companies are going to be spending all the money on product development, it only makes sense for them to spend a little bit more to make sure that those products will resonate with their consumers and to make sure that it’s successful because product-launching is extremely expensive and time constraining.
“Giving yourself an extra month or two to do your proper market research is going to completely be a game-changer for any company doing product development.”