Fresh off the Smoke + Vape trade show at ASD Market Week, vaporizer brand G-Pen discusses its Snoop Dogg collaboration and branding strategies to stand out in a competitive, yet buzzing vape marketplace.
Grenco Science, better known as G-Pen, has made its mark on the smoke accessories industry by choosing to identify not as a smoke brand, but as a lifestyle brand, thereby revolutionizing vape brand marketing.
G-Pen’s Brand Strategy
- G-Pen keeps its customer base loyal though collaborations with music superstars and upscale clothing brands, while helping its retailers achieve success through unique merchandising and exclusive special events.
- Creating both an upscale, boutique aesthetic while remaining accessible and affordable to the masses, G-Pen has achieved the best of both worlds and has a huge clientele to prove it.
- With a retail price point of around $100+, G-Pen has cemented its status as the best known brand in the vaporizer industry and pioneer of the pen style vaporizer.
The ASD Insider sat down for an interview with Tim Patenaude, Vice President and marketing guru of G-Pen, to learn more about how his company keeps both customers and retailers happy — and buying more.
(Hint: with innovative retail marketing and celebrity endorsements in the vape lifestyle community.)
AI: Can you give me some background on Grenco Science as a whole?
GP: We started three years ago in 2012. Chris, the owner, and myself both used to work in the music industry, as did many of our other employees. We all used to work for record labels and concert promotion, so once that industry started taking a turn for the worse, unfortunately there was not as much money in that industry as there was in this new developing industry, so we switched gears. We wanted to take a different approach to what was happening out in the vaporizer space.
“We started marketing and doing promotions as if we were a lifestyle brand versus just a vaporizer company.”
That carries through to the type of events that we do, whether it’s Coachella or SXSW — those are the types of events we’ve been sponsoring and producing, as well as the types of partnerships and collaborations we’ve been doing, which include everything from Snoop Dogg, to Black Scale, a high-end clothing brand, to UGK, which is a skateboarding company. The whole brand encompasses music, art, fashion.
AI: What makes you different from other vaporizer or smoke brands out there?
GP: Being a lifestyle brand rather than just a tech-based company or a vaporizer company is what has set us apart in the market today. Every mom and pop company is making their own vaporizers, but we think we have a unique approach to it. We took inspiration from brands like Beats By Dre, which have a product that everyone already had, headphones, and rebranded and marketed it perfectly to a new customer base, and now they’re number one.
“At the end of the day, almost all of these products are identical, so it all comes down to the branding.”
We rely less on conveying the technical aspects of the vaporizer and more on it as a brand. Now people associate any vaporizer with G-Pens, even vaporizers from other brands. We were one of the first to market come with the ‘pen style’ vaporizer, so we capitalized on that.
AI: You definitely have a unique and very successful approach to the vaporizer industry. What would you say is the generic approach most of your competitors are taking?
GP: Most people are going after it as either a straight smoke, “4-20” type of culture, or they come from the more techie, or technical side of it. We’re trying to fall somewhere in the middle. We’re working on some new products that are more technologically advanced as far as what they look like and what they do, but we’re still going to always brand it in that lifestyle way.
AI: Who is your customer?
GP: The good thing is that it’s a super broad spectrum. It’s a very diverse group. We have customers who are 21-year-old college students and we have 85-year-old grandmas who are also using the product. We’re reaching a huge clientele. By doing these collaborations with different brands, we’re trying to hit as many different markets as possible.
AI: With the Snoop Dogg collaboration, what is your plan for the release and distribution?
GP: All of the Snoop Dogg products we’ve done have been very successful for us. Snoop is a big believer in the brand and product. He came on early on and supported us. With the newest collaboration, the BUSH series, the first thing we did was that the G-Pro comes with a digital download of his most recent album. This is the first time any vaporizer company has bundled a full retail album from a major recording artist with a vaporizer product. Again, we’re going back to our music roots by adding in the music and trying to help out the industry that we came from.
We know that we’re selling more G-Pens than they’re selling albums. We felt like we worked the system there. It gives the customer a complete experience, they can listen to the album and they can use the vaporizer. The album is called BUSH so it actually comes with a flowerpot and a bush plant. It’s all about immersing the customer in Snoop’s vision and art of this album and to provide an almost collectors’ edition of this product.
AI: If you were speaking to retailers who carry G-Pen and other smoke and vaporizer accessories, what would you say are some tips for success?
GP: We’ve done with some cool new initiatives for our retailers that carry our product. We offered them the opportunity to host listening parties of Snoop Dogg’s new album at their retail locations, which worked out really well. Retailers were super excited. We sent them a link to stream the album, we sent them promo posters and stickers and some freebies to give away to their customers. That’s one of the advantages we have over other companies is first and foremost we can send them cool promotional materials that they can hang in their shops.
“We offer incentives or events at their locations to get their customers excited about our new products. We’re going to keep doing more to incentivize our retailers and really get behind them and them excited.”
AI: What do you do to incentivize customers to shop through your website rather than other retailers in person or online?
GP: We have a few things that we offer. We have review incentives on our site; if you purchase something on our site and review the product, we’ll give you a discount code. We do social promotions where we drop a social media discount code midday. Also the first way you can get a product is through our website. That’s an incentive if someone is trying to get a new product first.
AI: How do you select and prepare the retailers that carry your brand?
GP: We want to be out there as much as possible. We hand select the specialty, non smoke shops that carry us, all of the boutiques, we want to make sure they’re the right fit. Other than that, we want to be in every smoke shop in the world. Our new distribution deal with Vape World has been helping us get out there. We send our retailers a care package that comes with some free t-shirts and hats for their staff to wear, which we’ve found to be super successful and the employees love wearing our stuff because of the branding. We also provide information about the products and hold their hand through the process. Our sales reps are available to take care of them if they have any questions and to ensure they are moving all of the right products and ordering the right kind of initial order.
We want to make them as comfortable and excited about the products as we are. We want to do special listening parties and events to make the stores excited about G-Pen because we realize when you go into a smoke shop you usually buy the product that looks the coolest on the shelf, or the one that the guy behind the counter suggests. We want to get those people, not even the store’s owner or the buyer, but the actual employees excited so they are almost selling for us.
Insider ‘s Tip: Learn how to turn your store employees into the best advocates – read our post on the topic here.
AI: How do you think the vaporizer culture has changed over the last five years?
GP: It’s absolutely taken off, exponential growth. The trend isn’t dying, it’s only getting stronger. The only things I’ve noticed at this point is oversaturation in the market. Now, you go into a vape store and they have a wall or a display case full of 300 different types of vapes.
“At this point, unless your product stands out on the shelf or you get the people at the store excited about your product, it’s going to be hard to move it on retail shelf.”
That is also changing the price point. Everyone is undercutting everyone. You’ve seen price points go down on most products over the last few years.
AI: Where do you see the industry in the next year, in the next five years?
GP: In general the industry and growing at a fast rate each year. I see this continuing throughout the next 5 years, as more and more states become legal. Vaporizing is not a trend, its the new standard.
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