post-covid marketing and public relations Poodle Mafia

There are TWO keywords for your post-COVID marketing strategy: Trust and Retention

2020 won’t be a year any of us forgets anytime soon. Social distancing brought us personal and economic uncertainty that’s sure to last through the remainder of the year. We won’t fully appreciate the full impact on this global pandemic for a very long time. Now IS the time to think about your post-COVID marketing strategies though.

Right now, businesses are having to make decisions that will determine whether they’re company survives or even thrives in a post-COVID-19 world.

Let’s face it, post-COVID marketing and PR will be very needed. It’s not a question of “if,” it’s a question of “what” and “how.”

From past recessions, we know customers steer towards familiarity during times of uncertainty. With this in mind, it’s important for brands to cherish their customers, keep in touch with their customers and tap into and enhance brand loyalty.

Even in a recession, consumers will still splurge, they will STILL treat themselves, but emotional triggers take on outsized importance because consumers actually DO want to feel good about their purchases and when consumers are watching their expenses closely, they have more to lose from a lousy brand (product, customer service, communication) experience. When consumers are watching their pennies, they aren’t taking as many risks with their money.

Get Emotional With Your Customer Retention

Now is a great time to reinforce the brand relationship with existing customers. Think about customer loyalty programs and branding & PR initiatives that strike right to the heart of your existing customers. Discounts and sales are easy, but do nothing for loyalty, so look at reinforcing customer loyalty right now. Now, understand, no consumer says “I want a relationship with a brand,” instead the relationship resides in their subconscious. Our work with Captivation Motivations means we deeply understand how consumers act, even when they don’t understand why they act.

Not only does post-COVID marketing to existing customers cost less than acquiring new customers, but it also pads the bottom line for years to come:

1) Customers with an emotional relationship with a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value and will recommend the company at a rate of 71%, rather than the average rate of 45%. (Motista)

2) Emotionally connected customers stay with a brand an average of 5.1 years vs. 3.4 years (Motista)

3) Emotionally connected customers recommend brands at much higher rates: 30.2% vs. 7.6% (Motista)

Grab Share of Voice While It’s Available

Brands who maintain or even increase ad spends are able to thrive in the years after recessions, the same will be true for post-COVID marketing. There are several reasons for this, first is branding confidence.

While the Edelman Trust Barometer of 2020 addresses the lack of trust in advertising, the strategy behind advertising isn’t trust itself, it’s exposure which leads to familiarity, which leads to increased trust. Also, the ROI will improve because fewer competitors will be advertising so your message will come across more strongly.

Plus, consumers know that marketing decreases during recessions, so by advertising you’re sending a message of your own confidence and strength to both customers and competition.

That said, expect PR, specifically earned media to take an outsized influence as earned media leads in trust. Brands using PR to refine and focus their commitment to their existing customers will score extra bonus points in customer retention.

4) Companies who maintained or increase ad spend during a recession saw a 256% increase in sales over those who cut back (Innovating Through a Recession: Professor Andrew J. Razeghi Kellogg School of Management)

5) 92% of consumers say they trust earned media over purely promotional content. (PR Daily)

6) 70% of consumers prefer getting to know a company via articles rather than ads (Content Marketing Institute)

Maximize Happy Customers


Celebrate your existing customers, because customer retention is the name of the game. But go the extra mile too, ask for and encourage your customers to give you reviews and feedback AND show that you appreciate their willingness to do so. The reason for this is simple, the more engaged a customer, the more likely they are to be in the habit of referring you to others.

For the last decade, we’ve witnessed one of the most incredible consumer shifts in marketing: the traceability of consumer referrals. We now know that for certain that when a friend recommends a product or service, that product or service immediately benefits from a trust boost. This trend will be on supercharge throughout 2020.

During the boom economy, you probably spent the majority of your marketing budget on the acquisition of new customers. In the post-COVID marketing world, now it’s time to turn your funding away from acquisition funnels and into emotional connections and reinforcing trust with your existing customers, pivoting your marketing budget towards this strategy will increase revenues (yes, even during a recession).

7) Happy American customers will share their positive experiences with and refer about 11 people. (American Express)

8) It’s 5-25X more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer. (HBR)

9) A 5% increase in customer retention can increase company revenue by 25-95%. (HBR)

10) 80% of an organization’s future revenue will come from just 20 percent of your existing customers (InsightSquared)

 

Cannabis Industry Branding Expert Patrick Toste Urges Cannabis Brands to Cherish Your Customers and Rethink Instagram

In an ongoing series this year, we’d like you to get to know some of the fantastic companies and people we’ve had a chance to collaborate with over the years. Our first interview is with an incredibly talented branding expert, Patrick Toste, co-founder of Seattle-based cannabis branding agency, Highopes. 

 

First, a little background about you: 

I’m originally from Rhode Island and graduated from California State University Long Beach with a BFA in Graphic Design. I’ve been designing for over 10 years and have had the luxury of working with both large and small brands nationwide. I am the Creative Director and Co-Founder of HIGHOPES Design. We are a creative studio that focuses exclusively on helping cannabis businesses nationwide unlock their potential through branding, packaging, web design, and marketing services. Our client list consists of over 30 cannabis companies that include Have A Heart, VidaCann, and Nuvata.

 

When did you first start working in the cannabis industry?

Upon moving to Seattle and experiencing the recreational cannabis market for the first time, I recognized an opportunity, and established a passion for, helping cannabis businesses build successful brands. I captured a handful of freelance projects with cannabis clients in Washington and California that I completed some branding and packaging work for. From there, I decided it was best to brand myself as a more established business than just a freelancer to provide more growth opportunities for myself and my clients.

 

What were you doing prior to the cannabis industry? 

Before diving into the cannabis industry, I worked as a designer on the in-house branding team at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf which is a nationwide coffee chain based in Southern California. In this position, I gained experienced managing and expanding a large brand through packaging design, digital advertising, in-store marketing, and other similar avenues. 

After moving to Seattle from Southern California, I decided to explore the world of advertising by joining the team at Publicis Seattle as a designer. At Publicis, I was able to work with even larger brands like T-Mobile and assist in a variety of nationwide digital advertising projects. However, my true passion for branding was established there when I led the design team on the rebrand of the locally world-famous radio station, KEXP. 

 

What lesson did you learn BEFORE cannabis that’s been most valuable in cannabis?

I’d say the lesson I learned before I entered the cannabis space that has been most valuable to HIGHOPES and our clients is the importance of knowing and understanding your customers. This methodology was something I gained over the years of working with larger, nationwide brands like The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, T-Mobile, and even Under Armour. I was able to realize how these companies were branded and marketing was significantly impacted by what their consumers think, want, need, and feel. 

Something I see all too often in the cannabis industry is a rush to bring a product to the market with the idea of targeting all consumers due to a scarcity mindset. Operationally I understand why these businesses feel this is the right approach, but in hindsight, they realize they do not know who their customer is and what delights them which results in an unfocused and unorganized brand direction. 

 

Is there a particular cannabis branding project you’d like to highlight? 

At HIGHOPES we are extremely proud of all the work we create for all of our clients, but I’d like to highlight the project we did for the California-based vaporizer brand, Nuvata. Nuvata approached our team with only a product and a vision so we assisted in establishing their positioning, messaging, branding, packaging, website, and marketing. Each branding and marketing effort we performed was put through the filter of the established strategy resulting in an immensely focused and concise brand for the market. With the Nuvata team’s help, we were able to identify and understand their target customer and then make every branding and marketing decision with the goal to bring them delight. The end result spoke for itself as within the first year they spread across the entire state of California and gained considerable brand awareness.  


What’s the biggest misconception cannabis companies have about branding? 

I think the biggest misconception about branding in the cannabis industry is that your brand is simply your logo when this could not be farther from the truth. In essence, your brand is actually not controlled by you but rather your customers. A brand is the opinion and feeling a customer has about your company based on a combination of your logo, products, packaging, website, marketing, social media, customer service, and so on. For that reason, cannabis companies can only strive to manipulate the emotional response of their customers with the goal of creating a positively recognized brand. 

 

In your view, what is the biggest branding challenge facing cannabis companies today? 

I think the biggest challenge cannabis companies face today when building a brand is the lack of beneficial advertising and marketing opportunities. As mentioned in my previous response, if your brand is simply the feeling a customer has of your company then it becomes very difficult to establish a positive association with customers when you cannot take advantage of the many ways of influencing their point of view. Additionally, customers cannot begin to create that strong bond with your company when you do not have the ability to raise awareness of your brand through advertising and marketing channels. 

What will be the biggest branding challenge in 2020? 

I believe the biggest branding challenge in 2020 will be establishing and solidifying customer loyalty. Most cannabis markets, both medical and recreational, are seeing a surplus of emerging brands which provides customers with an overwhelming amount of options to choose from. Additionally, product innovation has not kept pace with the number of companies entering the market leaving customers with a plethora of brands essentially selling the same product. These two factors combined prove the importance of understanding your specific customer and catering everything about your brand to what brings them delight. When that emotional bond is created with a customer it creates a sense of loyalty and trust in your brand that becomes invaluable to your success. 

 

What can companies do to alleviate their branding challenges?

When it comes to navigating the regulations around advertising and marketing in the cannabis space companies can look to outside-the-industry partnerships to alleviate these challenges. When a business understands their brand outside the lens of cannabis it allows the possibility of partnering with non-cannabis companies that share the same mission, vision, and values. Through these types of situations, cannabis brands can advertise and market indirectly through their partner to an audience that is similar, if not exactly, their type of customer. For example, Plus Edibles recently partnered with Casper for their line of CBD gummies as both brands can benefit from each other’s audience.

For establishing customer loyalty, cannabis companies simply need to take the time to understand who their target customer base is and either build or shift their branding to align with that audience. The more focused the ideal customer then the easier and more efficiently a brand can market to their wants and needs. Every move a cannabis brand makes should be filtered through the lens of their consumer. 

 

In your view, what is the most under-rated tool in the cannabis branding toolbox for cannabis companies?

I believe the most under-rated tool in the branding toolbox for cannabis companies is their brand website. This goes for cultivators, manufacturers, dispensaries, delivery, and ancillary businesses. With all the regulations surrounding advertising and marketing, your website tends to be the only platform where you can comprehensively communicate to your customer all the details of your brand. Additionally, depending on your business type, it tends to be a major channel in driving sales. For these reasons, the proper investment should be made in creating a website that is aesthetically attractive, engaging with content, and functions as a conversion tool for your business. At the end of the day, no matter who your customer is, people tend to take brands seriously that look like they take themselves seriously and your website is the perfect platform to communicate that. 

 

In your view, what is the most over-rated tool in the cannabis branding toolbox for cannabis companies?

Although still an important cog in a cannabis companies marketing plan, I believe the most over-rated tool in the branding toolbox for cannabis companies is their Instagram profile. Many of the cannabis brands we speak with feel that Instagram will drive a majority of their sales and the data just doesn’t support that theory. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s very critical for cannabis brands to have a consistent Instagram presence to communicate credibility to customers but I don’t think it requires a premium-level investment. The customer journey from Instagram to purchase is long and complicated resulting in frequent drop-offs, especially for CPG brands. Additionally, with the algorithm changes in Instagram, it’s most likely that only a small fraction of a cannabis brand’s followers are even getting fed their posts. My recommendation to our cannabis clients is to invest in their Instagram as a way to raise brand awareness but don’t throw all their marketing dollars at it thinking it will drive sales.

 

What’s the BEST piece of cannabis branding expert advice you give everyone you work with?

Focus on a target audience. Your brand doesn’t need to alienate customers, but it needs to understand who is going to hear you the loudest.

components to corporate storytelling

Telling your company story is imperative and corporate storytelling is as much of an art form as writing a novel.

Yes, a PR company can help, but in order to be effective AS a story, it needs to be told and re-told, which means everyone has to be able and willing to tell the story. Additionally, your story will influence your company culture, the way your customers relate to you, everything. It’s important to get the story right.

You’ve probably heard that there are only 7 basic stories ever written. Every single story falls into one of these categories – each its own journey:

Overcoming the Monster
Rags to Riches
The Quest
Voyage and Return
Comedy
Tragedy
Rebirth

One of the great modern-day corporate stories is Steve Jobs returning to Apple after his humiliating exit. It’s a “Voyage and Return” story. Look closely at those stories. What’s missing? The motivation, the characters, the setting and/or place. This is where telling your story becomes individualized and authentic. Personally, I believe one of the most compelling story aspects is motivation, but setting/place can also set a compelling stage for the journey and the characters. What makes Steve Jobs return so compelling is the setting/the time. Apple was in trouble. Big trouble. It was his chance to return to his visionary roots and undoubtedly, his time away from Apple contributed to the turn-around.

So let’s look at a few of the OTHER elements that contribute to great corporate storytelling.

The Character

In corporate story-telling, the character can be a founder or the brand. The best brands have personalities all of their own. One of my absolute favorite brands is Coca-Cola. For over 30 years, their brand has been a happy one, spreading joy around the world. I envision Coca-Cola’s brand persona as a group of people from around the world smiling together and laughing together as the life of the party, the center of the action, the group everyone gathers around. Notice how my character is defined by the setting (the world, the party), we’ll get to the setting in a minute. The point is to envision your brand as a persona, who are they? Are they serious or comedic? Are they reserved or wild? Are they old or young? Your brand is as complex as a person, so you can enjoy the multiple aspects of your brand, but the important thing is to choose no more than 1-2 personality elements to focus on. Simplicity creates powerful brands, and multiple personalities muddle them.

Keep in mind, in our example of Steve Jobs,  Steve Jobs doesn’t make the story compelling, Steve Jobs is more compelling (as a character, an icon) because of the story. This is true of all stories – the character is made great by the other elements of the story, not the other way around. Without the other elements in the story, there are no compelling characters.

Motivation and/or Inspiration

Marketers will recognize this is “The Why.”   What’s the compelling motivation behind the main character’s actions? Is it service? Is it retribution? Is it righting a wrong? Is it glory?  Great motivations drive action. Sometimes, in novels or films, a truly compelling character will have conflicting motivations, this can be true in corporate storytelling as well. For example, perhaps the character is driven by both the need to serve and glory. Humans often have conflicting motivations, but for the purposes of corporate story-telling, it’s most effective to emphasis one motivation. In corporate story-telling, we rarely have 1,000 or more pages to develop our character’s motivation. Focus on a single motivation as the driver.

Interestingly, using the above example of Steve Jobs’ motivation, in the corporate story about Jobs’ return, the motivation is left absent. This is brilliant because it leaves us all to wonder and speculate what his motivation really was. Personally, I believe the reason its left out of this corporate story is it’s probably unflattering, but leaving it out makes the motivation as absent even more powerful than if it had been included.

The Setting/Time

In corporate story-telling, the setting and time are often represented as the “ah-ha” moment, which is made richer by what was happening to the character or in the world at that moment. Was the character liberated? Frustrated? Was there an event that triggered the action? Perhaps the setting/time impacted the motivation and most certainly impacted the action.

Take for example the Coca-Cola brand, they started spreading joy at a time when globalism was really first taking hold, also during a time of great cultural upheaval for the United States, 1971. The “I’d like to buy the world a Coke,” is considered the world’s most famous commercial and it’s joy and happiness is in direct contrast to what was happening in the United States at the time. Somehow, the brand of Coke delivered a much-needed smile to America. In fact, the story behind the creation has similar-it happened under frustrating circumstances.   Coca-Cola didn’t hold a mirror up to us, it provided us with an escape. Since then, Coca-Cola has always focused on creating moments of joyous respite, during the best of times and the worst of times.

 

Keep in mind, while you must have all these components in a story, one of these components will be the star in your corporate storytelling. In the Coca-Cola brand example, the star is the setting. In the Steve Jobs story, the star is the journey.

If it’s time to create or reinforce your story, begin with taking stock of these elements, determine where your strength is and be sure to simplify your story so it’s easy to tell. If you’re “stuck” with your story, contact us. We will help you create a story worth telling and even work with you to create content that tells your story.

5 emotional triggers in marketing

Imagine your advertising and marketing becoming 2X more effective overnight. Using emotions in marketing and branding is the key to more effective campaigns

According to Roger Dooley, emotional ads work TWICE as well as rational ads. So it’s important your campaign incorporates emotion from the start. You can deploy these emotions through copy and creative in all formats, analog and digital.

Before you create your next campaign, check in with these powerful emotions in marketing and branding.  Be sure you’ve considered your strategy, both long and short term before deciding which emotion works best in your marketing.

Fear
Fear comes in many forms, and it creates a sense of urgency.

Fear also heightens any other emotion created alongside it and it drives us to make deeper connections with those we share the fear with-this is why scary movies create deepen relationships. 

There are several different kinds of fear, but two common types include:
“Fear Of Missing Out” (FOMO): This particular fear tends to work well on younger people in social media. This works particularly well for items with time sensitivity.
“Fear of Isolation”: closely connected to FOMO, fear of isolation, used in connection with health products, deodorant for example: “use this so you don’t smell, because when you smell, you become a social pariah.”

When to Use Fear in Emotional Marketing/Branding:

  • To drive leads
  • You have a specific and actionable solution
  • You have an easy, no stress way to buy

Happiness/Joy
What happens when we feel happy? You might be surprised.

It’s a fine line because if we’re too happy, we might not be motivated to purchase. But happiness DOES make us want to share. It seems good news travels fast. According to a study by Fractl these are the Top 5 emotions which drive viral content:

  • Amusement
  • Interest
  • Surprise
  • Happiness
  • Delight

When to Use Happiness in

in Emotional Marketing/Branding:

  • You want others to share your message
  • You want to build trust and loyalty
  • You can commit to happy content as a brand

Inclusion

One of our oldest motivations is the need to be part of a tribe, included in a group. For our earliest ancestors, it was a requirement for survival, today, that need is still a powerful motivator and when we have it, we feel safe which leads to loyalty.

When to Use Inclusion in

in Emotional Marketing/Branding

  • To attract or retain customers
  • When you can also utilize the fear of missing out
  • When you have the processes and platforms to create and sustain community

Anticipation

We’re hardwired to anticipate outcomes. We’re not always right, but we are always anticipating. You can use anticipation in a couple of different ways, to attract and retain customers.

Attracting customers with anticipation typically comes with a stimuli and an outcome. The faster the outcome, the more likely we are to repeat the stimuli. Once we’re hooked on the stimuli, the outcome frequency can become variable (you might have learned about Pavlov’s dog, this is the same theory). Gamification uses anticipation brilliantly.

Keeping customers with anticipation requires a product commitment (free sample with every order) or an anticipation experience connected to the product (why subscription boxes are so popular). You can create variables in the anticipation (products, frequency) that will actually heighten the anticipation.

Something else about anticipation: it DECREASES when we’re stressed and change can be stressful. This is why consistency in branding is so very important and why big changes for big brands are big-time risks. Can you think of a brand whose big change created major negative upheaval for them?

When to Use Anticipation in

in Emotional Marketing/Branding:

  • You have the willingness to keep the anticipation fresh
  • You want to build loyalty and repeat buyers
  • Your brand is elevated and/or lifestyle oriented

Expertise/Leadership

Making your customer feel like they’re the smartest/sexiest/most influential is a great way to get people’s attention. People love to be the most “something” of their friends and people will work to achieve this effect.

This marketing emotion is closely connected with our need for mastery and our innate value of time. Because of these two addition motivations, the harder you make it the more committed they will become to the process. It’s all about our emotional triggers again, we’re hardwired to commit more time to something we’ve already committed time to – this is the same theory behind the test drive and keeping you at the dealership during a car purchase.

Again, games do this quite well. Successful fitness trainers do this quite well.

When to Use Expertise and Leadership in your Marketing/Branding

  • When you have a unique process people can move through and see improvement
  • As a relationship builder, such as influencer marketing or tips and tricks your customers can use

Good luck and I look forward to hearing how you’re using emotion in your marketing and branding.

cannabis brand public relations

Cannabis Branding Is About To Become Extremely Important To Cannabis Entrepreneurs

Adult-use marijuana is on the ballot and in the minds of thousands of people in the United States this fall. Adult-use, especially in California, because of its market size will change everything for cannabis companies. What should cannabis brands be thinking about in preparation for market expansion? As a cannabis entrepreneur, you might be so busy keeping up that you haven’t given much thought to branding.

Before we jump into our 3 tips for cannabis branding, let’s talk for a minute about what branding is (and isn’t) so we’re all on the same page.

Branding: the emotional response the consumer has to your company and products. 
Branding: the humanity of your company.
Branding:  the often difficult to define, but easy to spot feeling people get when they know whether they want to “hang around” your brand.

 

Maybe the most important question is why should you CARE? Strong brands develop customer loyalty and they sell products for premium prices. Interested?

I thought so.

You know what companies are branding masters? Alcohol and tobacco. Technology. Beverages like soda, water and sports drinks.

Truly great brands incorporate values, voice, design and especially the customer into their presence, whether it’s in-person, online or in-store. Notice I did NOT say that branding is the packing and logo. Those two are important aspects of branding. Logos and packaging should not be the last thing you ever do with branding. Branding should be a cornerstone of culture, communication, and position that your customers continue to relate to.

Strong cannabis branding will be a steady platform from which you make decisions on everything from products to partnerships, hiring and marketing campaigns. Cannabis brands need to nurture and develop their brands to be ready for the expansion of adult use. This is particularly important in California where consumers expect sophisticated brands and branding.

So, regardless of where you are in your branding process, it’s never too late to consider these 3 tips for cannabis brands in the adult-use market:

 

BE REALLY CLEAR: WHO is your customer?

Many people hear this question and they immediately think of demographics. That’s fine, be clear on demographics, it will save you time and money. But dig deeper. Think about your customer’s lifestyle, their other passions and what motivations you’ll be tapping into when they see your brand.

Are your customers proud proclaimed pot users or have they been an “in-the-closet” user for most of their adult lives? If they aren’t open cannabis users, why is that? Is it because of kids, jobs, cultural fear? The potential of adult-use is tapping into the existing cannabis user or the adult who’s perception of cannabis is changing and they’re beginning to see marijuana like a craft beer. This is future of cannabis branding-it’s wide open. You can do some really powerful branding when you understand these deeper aspects of your customers.  Do 2-3 customer profiles as you would if you were writing a bio on someone, this simple exercise can give you extraordinary clarity on your customer.

The potential of adult-use is tapping into the existing cannabis user who is in the closet or the adult who’s perception of cannabis is changing even though they aren’t regular marijuana users. These new to marijuana customers will gravitate towards brands that are as well-rounded and credible as the other brands they’re used to buying. This is future of cannabis branding-it’s wide open. You can do some really powerful branding when you understand these deeper aspects of your customers.

To prepare for these different customers, do 2-3 customer profiles as you would if you were writing a bio on someone, this simple exercise can give you extraordinary clarity on your customer.

 

ASK YOURSELF: Do I really SPEAK to my customer?

Now it’s time to look at the way you speak to your customer? Depending on how you view your brand, your voice might be “friendly-let’s-hang-out” or it might be “knowledgeable advisor” “edgy-hipster” or “couch-locked stoner”. There is room for each of these voices, but not within the same brand.

Whatever your voice is, be sure it’s one that your ideal potential customer can relate to. The cannabis market is expanding beyond the traditional young person’s product and while there’s still room for that branding, the market is expanding.  Today’s marijuana user isn’t necessarily hiding from their parents, they might be hiding it from their kids. I hear a lot of cannabis entrepreneurs say that they absolutely understand their market because they are marketing to their friends. Well, that’s a great start, but the average person only has 338 Facebook friends – you’re going to need your business to be a lot bigger than that, so you may have to dig deep and really think about whether your brand is relatable to a larger audience.

 

REMEMBER: Be consistent!

Now that you’ve identified your customer and the voice, take a hard look around at the rest of your branding. Is your branding consistent from the four senses perspective – does it look, feel, smell, taste like your brand? Would your ideal target customer buy and more importantly recommend to their friends? Sophisticated branding will take all this into account.  Commanding a higher price for your product requires that you consider these elements. Set some branding goals for your company and prioritize based on budgets. But do set them because as the market opens up, the strong brands who have developed loyalty will be the ones truly capitalizing on the future of cannabis branding.

 

 

I’m super amp’d in this Podcast, it’s obvious I had my coffee this morning.

These are 5 quick branding tips for anyone with a project, whether you’re a startup, movement or personality.
I had the pleasure of joining Debra Eckerling on her Guided Goals podcast.
It’s quick, it’s high-energy and everyone’s hair looks elegantly aggressive. Join us.

 

P.S.: Like this? Subscribe to the Debra’s podcast because she’s got some great guests on tap!