29 May 2022 |

The Sweet Recipe Behind Cookies’ Success

By Kaitlin Domangue

Why I haven’t talked about the Cookies brand with y’all before – I’m not sure.

Maybe it’s because lots of people talk about it, so I didn’t want to say the same old thing. 

But. I think the Cookies brand is unique, and I know other professionals agree.

There’s not another brand that operates the same way Cookies does. So I want to break down why it’s so successful.

Spoiler alert: it’s not by chance. There’s a strategy behind the entire blue business. 

It starts with Berner

If you’ve been a part of The Green Paper community for a while, you might have heard me talk about celebrity brands in cannabis and why I’m not particularly bullish on them. 

I don’t hate cannabis brands, I just think this industry is so complex and taxing. Most celebrities don’t have the time, effort, or energy to stick around and navigate these challenging landscapes. So many celebrity cannabis brands inevitably fizzle out. 

That’s fine by me – because it leaves room for homegrown operators. 

With that being said. Some celebrities, like Snoop Dogg and Seth Rogen, truly care about the cannabis industry and the problems facing our community. I’ve talked about that in the newsletter and on Twitter

Then of course there’s Berner – the co-founder and CEO of Cookies. Berner is also a rapper whose been signed with Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Gang Records since 2012

He released a solo album in 2007 and 2009 and in 2015, his EP, 20 Lights, reached #95 on Billboard’s 200 charts. 

Berner founded Cookies in 2008, but the company went mainstream in 2011 – around the same time Berner signed with Wiz Khalifa. 

Berner is a celebrity in his own right, but cannabis serves as his core mission. He’s a talented and passionate artist, but Berner encompasses the Cookies brand with nearly every move he makes. 

His Twitter profile doesn’t even mention his musical accolades, just that he’s the founder and CEO of Cookies. 

Scrolling down his Twitter feed tells the same story. Berner is at the forefront of his brand. He wants to be part of every event, sale, new product drop – everything. 

Bring me your resume personally? Some cannabis CEOs with less than 100 employees don’t even do that. 

It’s things like this (on top of an impeccable strategy, which we’ll get to) that make Berner’s brand such a success. People want to be around him. 

This industry looks up to him and his brand. Personally handing Berner your resume to work at a Cookies dispensary is a guaranteed way to see a great turnout – and some of the industry’s best talent.

Humanizing the brand

Berner obviously loves his brand and the brand’s community. That’s why he’s so involved with everything Cookies does and is truly part of the cannabis culture. 

Thankfully, that works out well for sales:

  • Employees, on average, have 10x more followers than their company’s social media accounts 
  • Content that’s shared by a company’s employees sees 8x more engagement than content shared by company accounts
  • 92% of people trust recommendations from individuals over brands – even if they don’t know the person 

I don’t know if Berner knew this when he started Cookies, and honestly: my guess is that he probably didn’t. At least not to the extent that he (and we) do now. 

Cookies launched in 2008 and Berner joined Twitter in 2009. Social media didn’t operate the same way it does now, especially when it comes to personal branding. 

2009 personal branding looks like MySpace glitter graphics and your top friends. Needless to say: we’ve completely evolved, y’all.

Nowadays, personal branding means being your authentic self online while promoting your core mission. 

And this is exactly what Berner is, and has been, doing. He cares about advancing the legal cannabis industry and making opportunities available to people. 

All he’s doing is sharing that online. 

The strategy behind the success

Beyond being active on social media, Berner is involved with nearly every other aspect of the Cookies operation. 

“At the heart of everything we do, it’s all about the quality genetics, and Berner is super actively involved,” VP of Marketing, Tori Cole, told Cannabis Business Times. “He selects every cultivar and really sets our brand strategy. He’s even the creative director when it comes to our strain illustrations, which are like our own billboards on the packaging. Everything that we do centers not only on the customer and their experience—but really on staying true to our roots.”

Cookies’ genetics are unmatched. Cultivars like Cereal Milk and Gary Payton are almost synonymous with the Cookies name. Cereal Milk literally tastes like melted ice cream and its THC content sits at around 22%. 

Berner’s co-founder, Jai (known as Jigga), is a master cultivator and geneticist. Unlike Berner, he is somewhat mysterious and doesn’t keep much of a public profile. 

That’s okay though because everything he’s produced is absolutely incredible. He doesn’t need to be on every magazine cover. 

Some of our most beloved genetics, like Girl Scout Cookies, come from Jigga. All of the Cookies’ cultivars are delicious (Apples and Bananas, anyone?) and yield powerful effects. 

And the packaging. Any consumer can recognize the iconic blue Cookies packaging from a mile away. Their dispensaries are even blue. 

Cookies’ VP of Retail said in 2021 that the reason behind the blue hue is to replicate a similar calming effect that cannabis has on people – after the brand was accused of marketing to children. 

Research shows that the color blue might make us feel more comfortable and calm. Blue streetlights even decreased crime in Japan and Scotland after they were installed – so Cookies isn’t far off.

Connecting with the culture 

Berner isn’t just part of the culture, he is the culture. He was a dealer in the illicit market and then become a budtender. Then he became an ultra-successful rapper and powerhouse cannabis CEO. 

His story represents that of so many people in our industry.

“What you really see coming through in our marketing strategy is really a connection to the customer and also where we came from. It’s a lot of emphasis on our core values, which are really respecting and honoring the plant and our legacy,” Cole said. 

Cookies houses a Social Impact Program designed to create a more equitable and accessible cannabis industry. 

The Social Equity Program supports industry social initiatives through public outreach, investment, and education. Brand partnerships have included AmplifierThe Hood IncubatorAlliance of Californians for Community Empowerment(ACCE), and more. 

One of their most recent & exciting initiatives, Cookies Campus, started last fall. It’s a 2.5-month, expenses-paid learning experience in the California Redwoods. 

This program is built to empower minority entrepreneurs in cannabis and equip them with the knowledge and tools needed to succeed in this industry. 

But, Cookies also bring equity in-house. Cole said “about 50%” of the CEO staff at the brand’s weekly leadership meetings are women. She says each of them has a seat at the table and plays an active role in shaping the brand. 

Berner even brings his passion for cannabis culture to his music. One of his albums with B-Real, Prohibition, features cannabis-centric songs like Shatter and Smokers

The intro song is just compilations of news anchors and lawmakers with a musical track talking about prohibition, legalization, and the success of state industries. It’s simple, but undoubtedly reveals Berner’s heart, soul, and mission in cannabis. 

Berner can’t help but take his purpose to his music, and everywhere else he goes. And that’s the foundational reason why Cookies is successful.