Social media really can make or break a brand. For The High Rise Co, the power of YouTube lead to a company with an insanely widespread consumer base. Owner of the 420 media platform and cannabis lifestyle brand Erin Coffey, a native Californian and skateboarder, shared his journey into this business, along with his top marketing tips for a growing brand that you won’t want to miss out on.
Click play to listen above. Scroll down for a deep dive into show notes and a transcript.
About this Episode:
The High Rise started six years ago when Erin saw a couple of his friends creating their own T-shirt brand and decided he wanted to follow suit. Now, High Rise TV, which was born out of the cannabis lifestyle clothing brand, has more than 170,000 subscribers and the videos are viewed by as many as 50,000 people.
“I saw a lot of other brands doing it, but they were doing it very in your face, pot leaves everywhere, and smoke weed and stoner and kinda crazy. So I kinda wanted to take the approach to, you know, let’s make the stoner stuff, but let’s also make the subtle stuff that other people can wear,” Erin told Brandboom’s Amy Zhou on the podcast.
And for an industry that is rapidly expanding (North American marijuana sales are projected to top $20.2 billion by 2021), Coffey not only built a brand that consumers love, but he also utilized social media to build a fan base along with his market.
“The first couple of years was a lot of YouTube, a lot of Facebook. And then as Instagram rolled around, we got on Instagram. And then fast-forward to today, and I would say about a year ago, we really started messing with the paid advertising as far as doing Instagram paid ads and Facebook paid ads. And I literally just went 100% into that for about six to eight months. I’ve really, really been able to dial that in pretty crazy. I would say 90% of my marketing budget and focus is on paid Instagram advertising,” Erin said.
So what does Erin say when it comes to tips for new brands? Here are his top five secret sauce strategies for new and developing brands to try…. NOW.
Have a niche – “With the Facebook targeting, they make it so easy and so dialed in for you. You can target literally down to the T. So, you know, if you own a golf company, you could target golfers. If you own a basketball company, you can target Kobe Bryant’s fans or whatever it may be. So with us, obviously, it’s 420-friendly, so I know exactly where my niche is and I know exactly where my target is.”
Test it all out – “The variables that you want to test are obviously age groups, locations, keywords, landing pages; really all it is is testing. It’s testing, testing, testing until you find what works, and then you just do more of that.”
Pay close attention to imagery – “It really comes down to, you need a captivating image. You need to capture their attention when they’re scrolling and you have that 0.001-second window to capture them to stop on your image. So you want to make sure you have a nice, clean organic image. Maybe it’s a lifestyle image of an influencer wearing your stuff, or maybe it’s a short video.”
Just do it! – “The other thing is to just over deliver. Just do it. Go above and beyond because then you’re gonna shine that much brighter than the next guy that’s only doing the bare minimum.”
Embrace the mistakes – “Really learn from your mistakes. Don’t think about things too much. You know, you’re gonna make mistakes. You’re gonna mess up. We all do. It’s just if you can learn from that and improve upon that to not make that happen again or do better the next time. So, kind of common sense, basic information, but really what it comes down to, in my opinion, is just learning from your mistakes and improving constantly.”
The High Rise just signed a new deal with Leafly (aka the yellow pages of marijuana) and produces a podcast titled the “Doobie Talk Podcast.” As the company continues to expand, brands everywhere can take Erin’s advice to heart and soon they’ll be well on their way to success as well.
The High Rise Co.: https://thehighriseco.com/
HighRise TV: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheHighRiseCo/
Erin’s Podcast: Doobie Talk Podcast
Here is a transcript of the whole conversation. Some of this will not appear in the final podcast.
Amy: Welcome to the Brandboom Podcast where we discover trends and share tips and stories from the savviest retail brands. I’m super stoked today. My guest is Erin Coffey, owner of The High Rise, a 420 Media Platform and cannabis lifestyle brand. The High Rise does original 420 videos, hats, T-shirts, hoodies, socks, and so much more. You can find them on YouTube. They have a lot of popular episodes with more than 50,000 views. Erin, welcome to the podcast. How are you doing today?
Erin: I’m doing well. Thanks for having me, Amy. I’m stoked to be here.
Amy: I did a little bit of research on High Rise and I saw that you guys were doing so many amazing things producing media on YouTube, and you guys have, you know, a business selling hats and everything. As I was researching, I was listening to another interview that you were doing. And the inspiration you said in that interview for starting the brand is, you know, that you’re just kind of a skate rat and you saw that other people were doing their own brands and developing their own lifestyle, selling their own products, and that’s how you got inspired to do your own. Is that how it happened?
Erin: Yeah, that pretty much sums it up perfectly. Kinda just grew up, you know, being a skateboarder and just really into the skate lifestyle. So, that was pretty much most of my life was just. I actually taught skateboarding lessons and worked for bands and
and I was just kinda doing that. And then I was about 23, and a couple of my buddy started their own just little T-shirt lines that they were doing, and I thought it looked cool. I thought it was the dope that they were doing something and they could create their own stuff and sell their own stuff, make their own designs, stuff like that. So, one day, I just decided, “Hey, I got a little bit of money saved up.” I got $1,000 saved up and I just went for it and kinda just dove into it head first with really no experience in anything. Just kind of started going and just kinda learning as I went along. Started making T-shirt in my kitchen with like a heat press and like a vinyl cutter and then, you know, I had my living room, and my apartment was kind of the fulfillment center. And as soon as I dove in, it just kind of became obsessed with the whole idea of creating your own things and being able to put it out to the public and seeing if people like it or not. And it was just really cool to kinda have your own thing to work on. So, that’s kinda how the brand spawned, just kinda seeing other people doing it and like, “Hey, I wanna do that, too. You know, that looks like fun.” So, that was about six years ago.
Amy: That’s really, really amazing. I love the story about making your own T-shirts in the kitchen and using your living room as the fulfillment center. So, I know that you have a YouTube channel and, you know, you started your brand six years ago. So, when was the turning point for you to actually kinda invest resources in producing media versus, for instance, like only, you know, producing shirts and selling and building a brand the traditional way.
Erin: So it was about I wanna say maybe two and a half… No, it was about three years into the brand, just kinda looking at other options of how to drive more traffic to the website really is how it started, seeing other people kinda do the YouTube thing and put out cool videos and stuff like that. So I was just honestly just kinda doing some research one night and I saw a huge, huge opening in the niche that we’re in, which is the cannabis industry. And I was on YouTube just looking at all these videos of all these dudes just getting like crazy views, 200,000, 300,000, 400,000 views and they’re just sitting at a coffee table smoking weed and they’re, you know, kinda boring. And there’s just all these channels do the same stuff. So I figured, you know, let’s replicate this but let’s bring in two attractive girls and kinda just take it to the next level. So that was kinda the game plan was to create our own show. It was called “Two Girls, One Bong,” and there was these two chicks and they matched really well and really just off to the races. We got to 100,000 subscribers in the first six months of launching the channel. So after that, we kinda realize like, “Wow, we might add something else here.” Other than the brand that’s, you know, kinda now turned into an extension of the brand, but it’s still funneling a lot of traffic and attention to our website, which was kinda the initial game plan. So it’s kind of funny how that worked out. It was kind of just like, “Hey, let’s make some videos.” Let’s throw ’em up, see if we can get some attention, some traffic,” and then, boom, it just kinda took off faster than expected.
So after, like, you know, maybe six months, seven months, we saw a bunch of companies started reaching out to us because they wanted to either advertise their products on our platform or they wanted our help creating content. So that kinda led into us just developing High Rise TV as a separate entity. And so, it’s still obviously is part of High Rise and feeds into High Rise, but with High Rise TV, now we do a lot of consulting and content creation for the cannabis industry. We just signed with Leafly as well, which is a big cannabis player in the industry, and they’re kinda linking us up with all these influencers and brands. And it’s been a while, the ride has been really cool, and it kinda just started as, you know, “Let’s try this out and see what happens.” So, it was pretty rad.
Amy: That sounds really amazing. So, this is interesting. You know, six years ago, obviously, cannabis is still illegal in most of this country. And now it’s, you know, going to be legalized in California next year. How did you, you know, think about going into this niche in the beginning, and taking a business approach to make it serious enough for people to resonate and actually grow it into something that is more than like you said, two guys, sitting in front of YouTube channel just smoking pot?
Erin: Yeah. So, like, I mean, I grew up in Southern California, so I’m kinda in the epicenter, I guess you could say. There’s literally a dispenser on every corner down here. Everybody smokes weed. It’s everywhere around here. So, I’ve always been around it. I’ve always been into it. So that’s really how it started. It was just kind of like, that was what I was into. I liked consuming it. I liked what it was about. I liked the industry. I just liked it. So I was like, then with that, **I kinda also saw a lot of other brands doing it, but they were doing it very, like, in your face, you know, very, like, pot leaves everywhere, and smoke weed and stoner and kinda crazy. So I kinda wanted to take the approach to, you know, let’s make the stoner stuff, but let’s also make the subtle stuff that other people can wear. Because people that done even smoke weed love our stuff, too. So, that’s kinda how that happened and it’s only gotten bigger in this area, **The cannabis industry is just, it’s going crazy right now, how fast and how quickly it’s expanding. So, I’m super stoked to be part of this industry as it’s kinda blooming into what it is.
Amy: Yeah. It feels like you kind of hit the jackpot being one of those, like, early adopters to this more lifestyle brand with the cannabis approach, right? And I agree with you, a lot of the things that I see out there in the past has been really in your face, and your brand is really more polished and something that people could wear every day which is great. It’s got quotes that are kinda funny. So, that’s amazing. So let’s go back to some of the marketing strategies that, you know, you’ve been implementing mainly because a lot of the listeners that we have are, you know, creative minds, they’re creating their own brands, they’re designers, and they may not be as be as business savvy. But even if they are business savvy, they may not have the marketing cap on.
So, you know, like, maybe just from an insider’s point of view who has done so well with YouTube and your social media, how much is this driving for your business, like your YouTube channel, your Instagram, which I think right now has over 110,000 followers, and Twitter and all that, how are they merging together to drive your business? Is it a really big part of everything?
Erin: So, it’s kind of… I mean, as you know, things are always adapting and always changing. So the first couple of years was, you know, a lot of YouTube, a lot of Facebook. And then as Instagram rolled around, kinda, you know, got on Instagram. And then fast-forward till today and maybe I would say about a year ago, we really started messing with the paid advertising as far as doing Instagram paid ads and Facebook paid ads. And I literally just went 100% into that for about six to eight months, and I’ve really, really been able to dial that in pretty crazy. I would say 90% of my marketing budget and focus is on paid Instagram advertising.
We’ve been able to drive pretty crazy results and return just by putting out cool videos and cool ads with, you know, specific deals and stuff like that. And it’s been pretty essential to growing our business. And it’s great because it kinda gives you three layers. If you set your website up properly, you can be capturing emails. So obviously, with the paid advertising, you’re driving traffic to your website. You’re also growing your followers, and you’re also trying to capture these emails if you have everything set up properly. So we just put a ton of effort into trying to drive as much targeted traffic to our website, and then once they get there, we’re either trying to get them to convert or capture their email so that we can hit them on the back end on the email.
Email marketing has also been huge. We’ve been able to grow our email list over 150,000 members just by using these paid ads to, you know, drive the traffic. And on average, every dollar we put in, we get about three to four dollars back and it’s even spawned us to start other brands. And we’ve been able to build other brands from zero to, you know, six-figure businesses within a matter of months just only using this paid Instagram advertising. So, I’m a very… I don’t know the word, I’m like a preacher for this. I tell everyone now, I’m like, “Are you advertising on Instagram or Facebook?” And most people aren’t or most people say, “Oh, does that even work?” Like, you know, “I tried 50 bucks on it,” or “I tried 100 bucks on it and it didn’t work,” and that’s why it didn’t work is because you’re only spending 50 or 100 bucks on it, you know. You really got to spend a little bit of money to get that data and see what people like and what are they reacting to. Once you have that data, then you can really fine-tune it and find that market that works and really just dial home your message. So, that’s kind of our current strategy is a lot of paid advertising, and then obviously we have YouTube on the other end always driving in that traffic, as well.
Amy: So, for someone who’s starting up, because it sounds like you have helped other brands, you know, taking them from concept to like you said a six-figure business, what is the budget that you would recommend a brand that is starting out to test Instagram and Facebook marketing to kinda put in their advertising? And what would they be testing for? Because it sounds, you know, a lot of designs and concepts that you put on a shirt or a hat or anything, it maybe something that you like, but it may not be resonating with the niche that you’re trying to sell to. So, like, is your budget that you’re recommending, like, does it test all of those variables? Like, what are you specifically looking for?
Erin: Yeah, exactly. So, I mean, obviously, if you have a niche, then it’s that much easier because with the Facebook targeting, they make it so easy and so dialed in for you. You can target literally down to the tee. So, you know, if you own a golf company, you could target golfers. If you own a basketball company, you can target Kobe Bryant’s fans or whatever it may be. So with us, obviously, it’s 420-friendly, so I know exactly where my niche is and I know exactly where my target is.
So the variables that you wanna test is obviously age groups, locations, keywords, landing pages, you’re creative, really all it is is testing. It’s testing, testing, testing until you find what works, and then you just do more of that. That’s in the simplest form how I can give the best advice. But you’re definitely gonna lose a little bit of money in the beginning, but don’t think of it as you’re losing money. Just think of it as you’re buying data. That’s how I think of it. So, maybe you spend 500 bucks, 1,000 bucks and you don’t get any sales or you get 1 or 2 sales, but hey, now you know what works and what doesn’t and you can take that to move forward on your next campaign, and really just keep fine-tuning until you can find what works. Because once you find what works, then it’s just a matter of putting new ads up and you already have the market of the target. So that’s kinda cool.
Amy: Got it. And would you say that is the ad or the product that because, you know, the product itself is also kind of like a design itself. So I’m just trying to figure out, you know, when do you actually say, “Okay. This product doesn’t work no matter how much I advertise it,” versus, “It’s the campaign or the asset that is failing me and driving that purchase?”
Erin: Right. So, obviously, you have to have a good product. If you have a good product, then boom, it’s even that much easier. It really comes down to, you need a captivating image. You need to capture their attention when they’re scrolling and you have that 0.001-second window to capture them to stop on your image, you know. So you wanna make sure you have a nice, clean organic image. Maybe it’s a lifestyle image of the influence you’re wearing your stuff, or maybe it’s a short video. The videos have been kind of a new thing that’s really starting to pop up. Yeah, there’s really just so much that you can do with these paid advertising. It’s really crazy, and a lot of people don’t even really know about it. A lot of people are still kinda stuck on, you know, Google AdWords or kind of the older form traditions. And right now, the value is in Instagram and Facebook because not so many people are on it right now.
So on the next year or two years, it’s obviously gonna get a little more saturated and in a cost per click and the conversions are gonna go up because there’s gonna be a lot more competition. So, right now, it’s kinda like strike while the iron is hot and, you know, really just get the most out of it before it becomes footed how, you know, Google Adwords did, you know, 5 or 10 years ago or whatever it was.
Amy: That’s really, really good advice. And I’m hoping that everyone who’s listening right now is taking notes on everything that you’re given them. These are really good secret sauce that you’re sharing with. You know, the cannabis lifestyle brands, you know, it’s promoting, you know, making sure that you have fun, you’re always kind of relaxing even though you’re working hard, you should play hard. So how do you balance having fun doing all of this stuff, while you’re trying to build a business with High Rise?
Erin: Yeah, you know, it’s kinda funny because, you know, we are a weed brand. So, the culture at our office is pretty hilarious sometimes. We always joke about it because, like, our media guy would be like, “Oh yeah, what did you do at work today?” And he’s just rolling joints and taking four-foot bone ribs and just kinda doing all these crazy weed stuff, but that’s the reality of our job. You know, we create this crazy weed content for people and literally smoking weed is part of our company and part of our job. So, it’s really crazy to just, I don’t know. Sometimes we just stop and we’re just like, “What are we doing? This is insane.” We literally just hanging out, smoking weed and, you know, we’re getting paid to do it and we’re growing our businesses and it’s a beautiful thing.
Erin: So I have a couple of businesses but for High Rise, we have seven employees. Other business, we do manufacturing. So, like, three years into High Rise, a lot of people are asking me, you know, like, “Hey, where do you get your hats made?” or “Where do you get your t-shirts printed?” or “Where do you get your product shots?” or whatever it may be. So I’ve figured, you know, why not offer that, too. So, I started up another company that offers, you know, embroidery, screen printing, all that.
So we have a big warehouse where we have our embroidery production, our screen printing production, our fulfillment, and then High Rise kind of plays into that. Obviously, we run all the production for High Rise. We have two other apparel brands, as well. So everything is kind of in-house. So all together, we have 18 employees, but it’s multiple businesses that we have under one roof, and they all kind of play into each other. So it’s kind of a full dynamic.
Amy: That’s great. So it sounds like everybody kind of get to wear multiple hats and work on different things depending on what needs to be done.
Amy: So would you say that a lot of… because, you know, you’re dealing with clients obviously because you guys are, you know, working to do production for other brands, as well. It sounds like you do consulting. So how much of your employees are actually spending on operation versus for instance like, you know, doing acquisition, you know, in creating media content? Or do you outsource that as well?
Erin: Yeah. So we kind of just divide it. So I have specific people that are solely focused on the marketing and content creation aspect of things. So, I have two people dedicated to the photo, the video, the social media, making sure all the accounts get posted too, making sure the email blasts are out, making sure we have fresh ads and fresh content and fresh website banners, and all that stuff that goes along with content creation.
So, we have people that are solely focused on that for all the businesses. So, you know, one day they’ll be shooting all the High Rise stuff, and then the next day, they’ll be shooting some production stuff. And then, you know, so they have kinda like their set areas to work on, but it’s kind of across the board for multiple brands. And then, same thing kind of goes for the operation side. We have dedicated office production managers that solely focus on making sure, you know, products are being run and items are getting ordered and customer service is on point and all that good stuff.
So, everybody has kind of got their specific area to work on. And then I kind of just, you know, direct to ship. I really enjoy the whole marketing aspect. So that’s kind of what I’d like to do the most is coming up with these marketing campaigns or video ideas or stuff like that. And then, luckily I have an amazing team so I can just relay them my thoughts and my ideas and 9 times out of 10, they can knock it out of the parts. So, it’s pretty awesome.
Amy: That’s really important to hire the right people and sounds like with 18 people, you have a lean team that’s actually really effective and productive.
Erin: Yeah, exactly.
Amy: If you were to be able to give anyone advice starting their own brand, because a lot of our listeners are kind of in that sweet spot of just starting their own brand or just trying to get it out there, what kind of advice would you give them?
Erin: One of the most important things that I’ve learned or just a lesson, in general, is just, you just need to go for it. You need to not just kind of sit back and worry about things and worry about, like, “Oh, is this photo shoot gonna come out perfect? Or is this product gonna come out perfect?” Because nothing is ever gonna come out perfect, and you’re just gonna overthink it and waste your time. You just need to really get your hands dirty and go for it and make mistakes as you go because that’s how you learn and progress. As long as you learn from your mistakes and keep improving upon them, then you should be successful. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t.
The other thing is to just over deliver, you know. Just do it, go above and beyond because then you’re gonna shine that much brighter than the next guy that’s only doing the bare minimum. So those are kind of like the two main things that I always like to relay, is just really learning from your mistakes. Don’t think about things too much. You know, you’re gonna make mistakes. You’re gonna mess up. We all do. It’s just if you can learn from that and improve upon that to not make that happen again or do better the next time. So, kind of common sense, basic information, but it’s really what it comes down to in my opinion, is just learning from your mistakes and improving constantly.
Amy: That’s amazing advice. Thank you so much, Erin. Well, one last, last question, I promise. What’s next for High Rise? What’s next for High Rise and all these other businesses? What’s next for you?
Erin: What’s next? So, the most recent thing that we’ve really been working out, we just signed a deal with Leafly. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re pretty much like the yellow pages for cannabis. So they’re like on the Top 500 Fastest Growing Companies right now, and they’re doing a ton, a ton of cool things in the industry. So, we’re super excited to be working with them. They just flew out some influences as fast as we can and we did a bunch of content, and they’re working on getting us some show deals and some branding deals and sponsorships and all kinds of cool stuff. So, really excited to kinda see where that takes us, and then obviously, we’re just gonna keep pumping up cool content and cool clothes. We just launched a podcast maybe like three or four months ago called the “Doobie Talk Podcast.” It’s just me and my partner, and we just talked about business and marketing and mistakes that we’ve made and kinda try to help out all the entrepreneurs that are getting started and let them know the mistakes that we’ve made so that hopefully, they don’t make the same ones. We’ve got a lot of stuff in the works, but really just trucking along, doing the same stuff, putting out cool content and trying to get it every day.
Amy: How can our listeners today who’s listening to this go and listen to your podcast, contact you if, you know, they need consulting, you know, advice from you guys? Like, how do they do all of that?
Erin: You could check out our YouTube channel. It’s just youtube.com/thehighriseco. We have multiple shows on there including our podcast, it’s once a week. Check us on Instagram @thehighriseco, that’s our main account. My name is Erin Coffey, High Rise Erin on Instagram. Any questions, anything, feel free to reach out. I’d love to kind of help people out and, you know, do whatever I can to help out and give back. So thanks to you guys for having me on. Super cool. So stoked to be a part of this.
Amy: Thank you so much, Erin. It’s been such a pleasure. These are all amazing, amazing advice. So, that’s it for today. That’s the Brandboom Podcast. So, visit us on SoundCloud for new episodes and go to brandboom.us for our show notes and more. I’m Amy Zhou, and thanks for listening again.