Cannabis Branding Is About To Become Extremely Important To Cannabis CMOs and Founders
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 whose 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 whose 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 the 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 cannabis 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.
The A-Team specializes in converging great brands with marvelous stories the media wants to write about.