David Bigioni opens ‘fractional CMO’ business

With Brave Strategy, the former Canopy Growth exec aims to give start-ups senior-level expertise when they need it most.
David Bigioni Headshots

A former Canopy Growth exec launched a new venture offering senior marketing leadership to fast-growing startups on a part-time basis at a time when many businesses continue to face the harsh economic realities of a pandemic recession.

The company, called Brave Strategy, is a “fractional CMO” business, offering part-time senior executive leadership to emerging companies on a retained and ongoing basis.

It’s a new venture launched by David Bigioni, the former chief commercial officer at Canopy Growth who left the licensed cannabis producer in May last year as part of a cost-cutting shakeup.

At launch, Bigioni is the only member in the business; however, the goal is to bring on other senior talent, and he has already heard from a number of senior executives who are potentially interested in joining him.

Like other fractional CMO firms, Brave will cater to small- and mid-sized businesses whose marketing investments don’t require a full-time executive but that need additional support building their marketing capabilities, often at a critical point in their growth, says Bigioni.

“When you think about smaller emerging companies, they generally don’t have the resources or the marketing spend to need a full-time senior leader,” he says. “At the same time, [they] can benefit from the strategic perspective and the resources that you can bring to them to support their growth.”

Brave’s fractional CMOs will generally work with two or three clients at a time, spending two or three days per week with each, depending on their needs, he says. And engagements can last a couple of years, at which point a full-time CMO may be needed.

Based in the Greater Toronto Area, Brave is making its services available to clients across North America. By bringing on a temporary CMO, clients gain access to guidance on everything from commercial planning and execution to strategy and brand development. Another important pillar of the offering is what Bigioni refers to as “key enablers,” which include finding and managing agencies, as well as other skills such as insourcing, supporting company culture and growth management.

Brave is launching with a client in the fintech space (which Bigioni declined to name), and also sees an opportunity to put his Canopy Growth experience to work for clients in the maturing North American cannabis industry.

But while sector-specific knowledge is important to the business, Bigioni believes it’s his experience wearing may different hats that will help clients succeed. He worked in marketing roles at Unilever and TD Bank, helped open the Toronto office of Venture Communications and served as VP of marketing and VP of sales at Molson Coors before joining Canopy in 2017 (after which he was named a 2019 Marketer of the Year by strategy magazine).

“What I’ve experienced, particularly through my time at Canopy Growth, was building the capability and the capacity of the organization, building out innovation teams, digital teams, sales teams,” he says. “You want to be hands on at delivery. So you’re helping the business deliver those results, as opposed to making suggestions and going away.”

In fact, that level of involvement in clients’ businesses is what he believes distinguishes fractional CMO firms from consultancies and independent freelancers, and its one of the main reasons he chose to launch Brave, he says. “We participate in leadership meetings, contribute to strategic decisions and engage with your team, unlike a consultant, who might [only] come in with a proposal for the business to execute.”

As businesses continue to grapple with the uncertainty of COVID-19, Bigioni believes Brave can help clients who are unsure whether it’s the right time to bring on a full-time CMO.

“Fractional roles are important ways to give companies flexibility as they grow and test new strategies, and then build that capability over time,” he says. “I think the situation of COVID has just made businesses way more acute to budget constraints [and] to being prepared for uncertainty as you go forward.”