Gregg Greenberg is the co-founder and co-CEO of Everything But The Plant, a B2B ancillary eCommerce marketplace that sells everything you need to build, run, and grow your cannabis business.
As the cannabis market becomes increasingly crowded, it’s more critical than ever that your brand stand out from the competition.
Your product or service may be the next big thing in the cannabis world. But without proper branding, will anyone really know or care?
This article discusses how to brand your cannabis company for success:
- Learn how to find your brand
- Make a human connection
- Communicate your cannabis brand to your audience
- Create a better product design
- Become a cannabis educator
- Keep your message simple
- Other tips important branding tips
Learn how to find your cannabis brand
Companies like Coca-Cola, Samsung, and Toyota, to name a few, have mastered the art of branding. When people hear these brands, or see their logos, they feel.
Maybe you remember having a cold Coke with your grandpa on the beach. Or perhaps you smile when you see the Toyota symbol because your old Camry was like a member of the family. These companies have transcended normal selling and found their brand.
And you can too. Your brand is the way the world perceives your company.
If you need help finding your cannabis brand, take a look at the following tips:
- Research your target audience — To create a powerful brand you need to start with the most important part of your business: your customers. You must do research into your target audience. This means you need to understand who they are, where they work, where they play, their age, sex, religion, etc. The more defining characteristics you can identify, the better. Once you have an in-depth understanding of who your customers are, you will have a better idea of the type of brand that they will respond to.
- Know your competition — To create an effective cannabis brand, you must understand the competition. Analyze your rivals to discover new angles. What do customers love about your competitors? What do they hate? Where can improvements be made?
- Create a logo — Do not underestimate the power of a well-thought out logo. An effective logo conveys all the emotion, value, and excitement of a brand with just a glance. It’s what appears on your website, billboards, business cards, social media posts, etc. Think logos are a waste of time and money? The best companies in the world are willing to shell out big bucks for the perfect logo. For example, in 2008, Pepsi spent $1,000,000 for a new logo.
- Develop a consistent brand voice — If your logo is what people see, then your voice is what your customers hear. It is vital that your brand voice accurately reflect your target audience. And your brand voice must be consistent across all platforms from TV spots to social media posts.
- Monitor your brand and be ready to change — Is your cannabis brand effective? Monitor your brand carefully and be sure to engage with the community for insight. Maybe you got it right the first time. Or maybe your target audience has some info on what you should change. You should also be ready to adjust your brand based on current events. For example, Aunt Jamima and Land O Lakes have recently made dramatic alterations to their long-standing logos based societal changes.
An effective brand doesn’t just sell a product, it sells an emotion, an experience, a feeling. By finding your cannabis brand, you can gain loyal customers that are excited to buy your product.
Finding your cannabis brand will separate you from the generic companies that only care about selling. With a strong brand, you become a friend to your customers. Your company causes an emotional response — excitement, comfort, nostalgia. Unconsciously, your target audience becomes hooked — they’re willing to pay more for your product because it sparks a human connection.
Make a human connection
For your brand to be successful and thrive in the cannabis industry it needs to make an authentic connection with your target audience.
Anybody can sell a product one time. But ideally, you want a loyal customer. To turn a one-time purchaser into the coveted “repeat” customer, you must connect with your audience.
To do this, you need to understand your demographic. Who are they? Where do they work? How does your product fit into their life? These are big questions.
Below are a few ways to make the human connection:
- Rely on archetypes — Archetypes are recurring themes or myths in the human experience. Tap into one of these correctly, and your cannabis brand could gain customers for life. According to the work of the highly respected psychologist Carl Jung, the 12 basic archetypes for branding purposes are: The Innocent, Hero, Outlaw, Everyman, Explorer, Creator, Ruler, Lover, Caregiver, Magician, Sage, and Jester.
- Acknowledge world events — Things are crazy right now. You can connect with your audience however, by acknowledging the state of the world and what people are going through. They likely still need/want your product. But by acknowledging what’s going on, your customers will realize that your company is run by real people who care.
- Send a personal thank you — Another technique is to include a personal thank you note of any kind with your products. It can be a signed note, a small gift, a sticker — anything you want that ultimately tells your customers, “Hey, thanks for choosing my brand!” Don’t underestimate the power of a thank you — it can create an unconscious bond that just might mean the difference between your product and everything else on the shelf.
For further inspiration on how to make a human connection with your cannabis brand, look at existing companies.
Take Disney World for example. Think about how excited its customers get. Disney has mastered the art of selling magic, childhood, and adventure.
Or take a look at Apple. Through innovative product design, they’ve set the standard for gadgetry in the modern era. People are willing to wait in the rain for the next iPhone. Now that’s brand loyalty.
Next, you need to communicate your brand to your potential customers through savvy marketing.
Communicate your cannabis brand to your target audience
Advertising in the cannabis industry is challenging. Even though laws and restrictions are continually changing, mainstream platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Google remain largely closed-off to cannabis-related advertising.
So how do you reach your target audience? Consider the marketing strategies below:
- Inbound marketing — Many cannabis users are looking for lifestyle content that is not stoner-centric. The secret is providing that value in the form of brand activations, BuzzFeed style quizzes, email marketing campaigns, or partnerships with local brands across digital and print platforms.
- Storytelling — Hyper-local tactics and storytelling are useful marketing tools for mainstreaming your cannabis brand. With the industry all about catering to local tastes, you should spend more time developing your brand ambassador(s), informational content, robust word of mouth marketing, and a cohesive narrative across your earned channels.
- Omni-channel marketing —Look out for local omnichannel marketing opportunities. Start programmatic retargeting campaigns for both your online and physical stores with consumer modelling if possible. The future is bright for digital campaigns, especially with the rising use of data science. Update your calendar to include cannabis-focused events where you can interact, connect, and engage with the community.
- Couple advertising with guerilla marketing aids — To market your cannabis brand effectively, you need to utilize the mainstream media as much as the laws of your area or state allow. Additionally, focus on generating word-of-mouth promotion through loyalty programs, referral rewards programs, community outreach, partnering with local liquor stores and bars, sponsorships, giving away free merchandise printed with your logo, etc.
- Have specialized cannabis agency partners — Hiring an experienced digital marketing agency is an excellent way to increase brand exposure — if you can afford it.
To reach your target audience, your marketing strategies do not have to be super-complicated. It’s actually better, if they aren’t. But they *must* be authentic and 100% representative of your brand. Now, let’s discuss the importance of effective product design.
Create a better product design
The industry’s fierce competition has set the bar high when it comes to cannabis branding and product design.
But don’t be discouraged. Instead, focus on providing your customers with care and consideration by producing a quality product/service.
Here are some examples of companies that found success through better product designs:
Punch Edibles — If you have any experience buying or selling in the edibles market, you may have noticed a lack of creative product design when it comes to cannabis packaging. Further, identifying the exact dose for the right “buzz” can be tricky. And to top it off, many edibles lack flavor or have a pungent cannabis taste. Punch Edibles was launched in 2013 with the goal of creating “a sensibly sized, high-dose edible”. Combined with simple, yet informative packaging, it’s easy to see why Punch Bars have become a hit.
Black Mirror — The amount of bingeable TV shows and movies at your fingertips is nothing short of amazing. But it’s all the same — you hit play, you watch, you pause, you rewind, you fast-forward. Netflix’s twisted sci-fi show Black Mirror, however, turned the product design of media on its head by allowing users to interact with the show ala a choose-your-own-adventure-style menu. Whether you love or hate the episode Bandersnatch, you can’t deny that it’s creative.
Dyson — Most people would agree that Dyson products are works of art. And not just visually. The company has successfully set itself apart by creating fans, vacuums and other appliances that have become synonymous with next-level engineering.
Shake Shack — Who says fast-food needs to be cheap and unsophisticated? Shake Shack was created to give customers a chic, user-friendly, awesome-tasting burger alternative to other fast-food chains. But this didn’t happen overnight. In 2001, the company was just a hotdog cart!
Creative product design will compliment your cannabis brand. Yes, there are many, many competitors in the cannabis industry. But just as the companies above found ways to improve on the existing market, so can you.
Look at current products and trends in your space as a customer. What’s lacking? What can be better? What do you want from your product? You can differentiate yourself from other brands by creating an educational blog and answers community questions and provides accurate legal information.
Become a cannabis educator
If you’re going to sell in the cannabis industry, you must become an educator. Why? Because cannabis is illegal in many states and on a federal level.
As a result, many social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google limit or restrict cannabis marketing. However, educational content is par for the course.
This means that you can actually advertise your cannabis brand in an indirect and subtle way: through an educational blog.
Some of the topics you may want to cover in your cannabis blog include:
- History of cannabis in America
- Info on current and upcoming legislature
- Difference between the word cannabis and marijuana
- Number of professions within the cannabis industry
- Info on growing or cultivating
- Difference between Indica and sativa
With so many companies, products, and regulations in the industry, an effective strategy for differentiating and promoting your brand is to become a trusted cannabis educator for consumers and retailers alike.
Focus on educating your audience and your brand will develop organically, gaining credibility and exposure with time. Eventually, you may even become a go-to source for authoritative content in the cannabis industry. But remember, don’t overcomplicate things or you risk losing your audience.
Keep your message simple
Cut the clatter throughout all your communications and default to the simplest message.
Follow these tips to keep your brand message as straightforward as possible:
- Remove excess wording from content, marketing materials, and packaging
- Eliminate visual clutter from marketing materials, social media — anywhere you sell your product
- Avoid unnecessary elements that distract from your core message
- Be honest about who you are and what you want
To consumers, less clutter means more clarity. Your brand should have a clear and precise intent about what you’re offering.
Other tips for achieving success with your cannabis brand
The cannabis field is constantly changing due to new (or relaxed) regulations and rapid market growth.
To help you achieve success with your new cannabis brand, consider the following tips:
- Know the rules — Every state has different laws regarding the use and sale of cannabis. And in some states, city and county laws differ as well. Before going all in on a cannabis business idea, research the laws in your area. Is marijuana legal for medical use? What about recreational? What type of regulations are there for edibles? Concentrates? The answers to these questions will greatly influence the type of brand you develop.
- Break stereotypes — Cannabis brands need to widen their reach if they want to appeal to a broader range of customers. Unless they are your target demo, ignore the quickly dissolving “stoner” stereotype. Cannabis users are moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, grad students, manual labors, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) sufferers — the list is endless. Gone are the days of intimidating hippie posters, Rasta flags, smiley faces, and pot leaves, which may turn off medical patients or other potential customers. To develop an original brand be sure to avoid common cannabis stereotypes.
- Use your passion, skills, or background — The cannabis industry is extensive and consists of a lot more opportunities than sellers, growers, and producers. Ancillary services have opened the market up to a range of specializations such as marketing, finance, consultancy, etc. Rely on your passion, skills, and/or background to help find your cannabis brand.
- Innovate — Given the astonishing growth of the cannabis industry, there are countless areas to explore. As laws and regulations change, new markets are cropping up everywhere. 60 years ago, cannabis enthusiasts had limited options. Today, there are CBD bath bombs, cannabis lip balms, lollipops, pills, lotions, intimate lubricants — the list goes on and on. If you’re going to break out and be the next big thing, you need to be willing to take risks, experiment, and think outside the box.
Don’t be afraid to find inspiration by reviewing the success of others. And remember, even the mighty oak tree started as a seed in the ground.
The bottom line
The cannabis market is saturated with businesses peddling oil, concentrates, edibles, gummies, topicals — pretty much anything you can think of. But that doesn’t mean there’s no room left for you.
Due to changing laws and social views, there are plenty of opportunities for savvy entrepreneurs to exploit. However, if you want to have sustained success in this space, you must develop more than a good product, you need an effective cannabis brand.
Know your audience. Understand what they want and need. Be sincere and focus on providing trusted information as well as a positive customer experience, and your brand will begin to take form organically.
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