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While connecting with customers in person is one of the hardest parts of marketing, being face-to-face with consumers can boost brand awareness and sales. At Airfield Supply Company, a vertically integrated cannabis company located near San Jose International Airport, retail teams and brands collaborate on one-to-one marketing partnerships that allow coveted consumers to hang out with them.

From its Tesla Model 3 delivery fleet to e-commerce, Airfield strives to provide consumers and brands with a premium experience built around exceptional service for all. At the heart of Airfield’s in-store program is a shop-in-shop space called The Hangar, with dedicated brand ambassadors trained to educate consumers and convert sales.

Since its official launch in January 2021, The Hangar concept has evolved from month-long brand showcases to personalized immersive experiences that include longer-term marketing partnerships between cannabis brands and the store.

Chris Lane, Airfield’s Chief Marketing Officer since 2019, offers a simple explanation: “Across all aspects of the business, we’re always constantly looking at how to perfect that experience?”

The evolution of the shed

Airfield’s boutique-to-boutique concept was inspired by Lane’s extensive experience in branding and branding outside of cannabis. He acknowledges that pop-up shops are not a new idea. But in cannabis, in-store engagement typically involves transaction-focused demos or static brand sections. In The Hangar, he imagined a more meaningful experience.

© Courtesy of Airfield Supply


RELATED: Listen TCC’s Cannabis Conference Beyond the Show podcast with Chris Lane to learn more about Airfield’s approach to customer experience and merchandising.

“It’s basically a rotating educational curation space where we showcase the brands we love,” says Lane. Curation goes beyond a product showcase. The space allows brands to tell their own stories about the people behind the companies, share details about production practices and the social causes they champion, for example, to educate and engage.

At first, brands were paying $17,500, plus $200 a day for staff, for month-long in-store takeovers and prime airfield exposure. “We’re very fortunate to be a very high-volume dispensary,” Lane says. He puts pre-pandemic transactions at 1,500 to 2,000 a day. Daily trading volume now averages around 1,300, but with an increase in basket sizes, he adds. (According CCT “2022 Cannabis Dispensary State of the Industry Report”, nearly three-quarters of participants reported average daily transactions at a single location of 250 or less, and 51% said their average individual transactions were between $41 and $80 .)

February 2022 brought a new era of Hangar, under what Lane calls a holistic partner marketing programming strategy that includes more frequent Hangar changes.

Unlike in-store demos, where brands typically bring their own product and handle their own marketing, The Hangar is stocked with Airfield inventory, and the Airfield team partners with brands to create promotional plans.

In this iteration, individual brands and Airfield’s marketing and retail teams design year-long editorial calendars around Hangar time slots, co-creating email and SMS campaigns and content marketing on social platforms and blogs. There’s also a 25ft LED showcase wall in store, with videos shot at the airfield appearing in person and on the e-commerce website. It’s essentially a brand takeover, where a participating company’s message is promoted across multiple in-store locations and on Airfield’s digital platforms, so consumers get an immersive experience. Pricing is at an annual partnership level, tailored to the brand’s editorial calendar.

“If a consumer comes in once a week or once every two weeks, they’re almost guaranteed to be exposed to a new brand, a new story, a new product, a new experience,” Lane says. The change has proven beneficial for community engagement and business in general.

Brand Insights

Lane shares that brands use The Hangar in a variety of ways: to build market leadership, challenge market leaders and competing companies, launch new products, introduce different product forms, such as drinks and tablets , and advancing social agendas alongside product sales.

Brie Emerson is co-owner and COO of LEVEL, an effects-focused cannabinoid brand that took a month-long stay in the Hangar in 2021. The brand spent two weeks in May in space and had also two weeks on the September calendar. “I love that they split it up and provide a bit more flexibility,” Emerson says. “I think it’s a great way to connect with customers more often throughout the year.”

© Courtesy of Airfield Supply

Airfield supply

Emerson shares that LEVEL finds the Hangar’s customer relationships particularly valuable. The brand is expanding into two new product categories this fall, but so far the focus has been on tablets, a format unfamiliar to many. Additionally, the brand’s proprietary formulations focus on lesser-known emerging cannabinoids and cannabinoid ratios that are not naturally accessible in flower.

“For LEVEL, our biggest challenge as a brand, especially one that’s a bit more complicated and advanced, is being able to connect and educate the customer,” says Emerson. In most cases, she explains, the brand sells products to a retailer and then is left out of the equation.

With products built around less familiar cannabinoids, uncommon ratios and unique effects, Emerson says consumer communication and education is key for LEVEL: “That’s what Airfield has delivered, which is amazing. , because they really value that aspect of the customer relationship as well.”

Emerson adds that Airfield’s team of three-person brand ambassadors dedicated to the continued staffing of the Hangar is one of the best benefits of the collaboration. Already trained to educate, engage and convert, Airfield employees receive direct training from the brands about their people, their products and their stories.

Emerson describes the Airfield collaboration as a partnership, built on cutting-edge retail experiences. “I am always proud of what we accomplish together. Together we are much stronger than just a retailer and a brand operating independently,” she says.

Future in motion

As The Hangar continues to evolve, Lane is focused on creating richer customer experiences and the “next generation of 360 partner marketing and collaboration.” This means finding new ways to differentiate with products, deepen brand collaborations and drive experiential excitement for Airfield fans.

Expansion mode is underway for Airfield. Lane expects a new retail outlet in Redwood City, set to open early next year, to take immersive retail higher and answer questions about the future of shopping of cannabis. A new delivery depot in Mountain View is opening and a second store in San Jose may be in the works. The late 2021 acquisition of Airfield by California-based vertically integrated cannabis company Gold Flora also has teams contributing through that retail channel.

Lane says everything in cannabis is twice as hard as any other industry. But he thinks the industry can do a lot more to create deeper connections with consumers, from hangar-like pop-ups to whatever the future holds.

He believes these connections will happen at the brand level through immersive brand experiences. “Right now, people identify with brands that make them feel cool or maybe help them do other things. But we want to reach that deeper level of emotion where people feel understood, supported, philosophically aligned. And I think it’s coming,” he says.

This goal drives Airfield’s scalable 360 ​​degree approach to brands. “Let’s think globally about our year together. Where do we want to create moments in time? Where do we want to go big? Where do we want to shout? Lane asks. Amidst it all, he adds, The Hangar is the centerpiece in store. For the moment.

Jolene Hansen is a freelance writer specializing in cannabis, horticulture and specialty agriculture. Contact her at

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