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Some have said that the fastest growing sector in cannabis is cannabis technology. While cannabis technology companies often serve very specific regulatory needs and enter the marketplace in a tech-mature world (as opposed to those during the initial dot-com era), cannabis tech companies with hyper-growth ambitions can learn from the tech company failures of the past.

Think Ahead, But Not Too Far

Many emerging industry companies have gone bust because they were simply too progressive. From the dot-com era, WebVan and Kozmo were two delivery companies with considerable capital that both went bust, only to see companies like Amazon eventually optimize the services they both introduced. Not every first mover gets first-mover advantage. There’s a lot to be said for meeting the customer or client where they’re at.

But moving people ahead is completely possible. Cannabis tech companies can think through the future of their business by planning past a regulatory world and creating brand loyalty well before any necessary pivots.

Setting an agenda to change the narrative and create demand is a long-term play, but consumers DO change behaviors and in the wake of COVID, there is still an opportunity to maximize the massive mind-shift happening. Cannabis itself is an outstanding example of changing the narrative. In fact, changing the narrative is an excellent competitive strategy and a way to differentiate yourself.

How Cannabis Tech Can Prepare for Bigger and Better Funded

As cannabis becomes a bigger part of the economy in more states, there will be more entrances into the marketplace.

Cannabis tech only has to look at what happened to the CBD space after the Farm Act passed to see a more recent cannabis example of this. From a tech perspective, a good example of this is the Pebble Smart Watch, which raised $10.3 million on Kickstarter (the most successful Kickstarter ever at the time). But of course, they struggled to compete with competitors like Apple Watch.

B2B cannabis tech companies are vulnerable to this as Silicon Valley continues to double down on cannabis tech from companies and founders with no experience in cannabis, but more funding. Dutchie is an example of this. Dutchie’s model is less cannabis and more tech as they model their services to something more akin to GrubHub. Silicon Valley likes companies that reinvent proven scale models.

Cannabis tech companies, whether they serve B2B or B2C should leverage both advertising and PR, together to secure market share AND trust simultaneously. Align your cannabis advertising and PR campaigns and messaging. Don’t isolate your advertising data from PR. Together they can be stronger. Branding dominance and brand value is the way to secure marketplace valuation; had Pebble done that, they would have stood a better chance of survival or at the very least gotten closer to the original offer of $740 million (which they got in 2015), as opposed to the sell to Fitbit for less than $40 million in 2016.

Cannabis technology companies should also be prepared to tell stories that aren’t technology-oriented. Whether those be founder stories, or purpose, there is also more to talk about, so prepare yourself and get those corporate stories in place.

Watch Consumer Tech Trends

Media consumption on the biggest social media platforms may well have peaked already. 2021 was the first year Facebook reported a decline in users. So what’s happening to those consumers? They certainly haven’t left the internet, they’ve simply shifted platforms.

Consumer communication with a cannabis niche or cannabis advertising platforms can learn so many lessons from the failures of social media platforms, in particular Facebook. These platforms need to evaluable the trust equation and invest in it immediately. Whether the customer is B2B or B2C, there is a broader techlash going on.

Leveraging the trust of third-party media outlets is imperative now. And unlike plant-touching brands, cannabis tech companies have a wide-open playing field about the media outlets who will write about them. We always say that “trust is an inside out job,” and that means PR can only clean up so much if you’re abusing trust; if you’re the Theanos of cannabis tech, PR won’t be your biggest spend.

 

Cannabis tech is sure to be a competitive and thriving sector with massive ups and downs, but those who reach hyper-growth will have taken a page out of the successes and failures of past Silicon Valley darlings.

Hyper growth DTC brands appear to have some things in common. If you’re a DTC brand or the CMO of a DTC brand, the future looks bright. We also wanted to connect a few dots about emerging industries we think are going to be increasingly important.

  1. Average Order Value (AOV) is a Key Indicator of Hyper Growth DTC

    RetentionX has discovered the fastest growing DTC brands have a 55% higher AOV than everyone else. They attribute this high AOV to customer loyalty. Customer loyalty is a holistic and multi-discipline objective.

    But this is where DTC PR really shines.

    Brand loyalty comes from trust. Trust in the product and trust in the brand values. If you’re the CMO or founder of a DTC brand, customer loyalty is your key KPI for revenue growth. One strategy for increased customer loyalty is premium branding, and PR delivers. According to Morgan Stanley’s research, Apple’s premium DTC branding came through a sustained PR campaign that helped deliver  90% brand retention.

  2.  Voice Search: DTC’s Premier Opportunity

    55% of American households own a smart speaker in 2022, according to Juniper research. And according to Navar, slightly more than half of consumers use voice-activated search for things like groceries, and by 2030, the global AI-based and voice recognition market should reach $27.3 billion (insightSLICE).

    Voice activation is likely to take advantage of a multitude of signals, just like SEO. A great start, if you haven’t already gotten there, is making sure your product FAQs include “how,” “why,” and “what” questions. The type of questions your buyers are likely to ask in various stages of product consideration.

    While you’re at it, look at Google’s Review requirements, because these types of reviews are likely to play into voice search, at least on Google. From a trust perspective, combining your owned content with trusted third-party reviews is a home run. Also, remember the added benefit of media coverage is stickiness – what Google can count on when creating its interpretation of your online reputation, which will undoubtedly play into your voice-activated reputation as well.

  3. Partnerships For the Win

    From collabs to join placement and pop-ups and the metaverse, DTC brands can double their exposure by partnering on campaigns. These campaigns can get a huge amount of lift from PR initiatives like media relations and events.

    Forgetting the PR component of these opportunities really misses the chance to secure customer retention and new acquisition. While social media, especially social advertising, is a must-have for DTC brands, DTC brands can look at the PR around partnerships as an opportunity to decouple their dependence on social media.

As you research agencies you may see many touting that they are “boutique.” What is a boutique agency? A boutique agency is an agency that prides itself on its smaller size, usually under 20 employees. Boutique agencies tend to offer either specializations or a more hands-on approach to client services.

Is a boutique agency right for you? Whether a boutique agency is right for you certainly depends on your needs. So let’s explore some common questions about boutique agencies.

Do Boutique Agencies Offer the Same Services as Larger Agencies?

In so much as all agencies vary in services offered, yes, but boutique agencies expand and contract as a client needs. To do this, they often rely on a trusted team of subject experts and implementation specialists. There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach. The advantage is you’re not paying for services and team members you aren’t using. The disadvantage is adding to scope and implementation may take longer. Let’s say you need a 3-minute video done, and you need it finished yesterday.

Regardless of agency size, you’re dealing with the adage of “pick two: fast, excellent, or cheap.” But a super-fast turnaround may be firmly in the realm of possibility within a large agency. They may have a scriptwriter, videographer, and editing team at the ready. Meanwhile, if you ask a boutique agency to script a video, record a video and edit one, it may take slightly longer as those team members aren’t ready right away, and to make it happen, you may pay more for the additional scope than at a larger agency, since these are “on-call” specialist team members as opposed to those employed full-time by a larger agency. So if you need an agency for services at the last minute, or with a 24-7 approach, a larger agency may be your better choice.

Do I Get The Same Level of Service?

Of course, it depends on your definition of service. So let’s break down how agencies of different sizes handle client management. Boutique agencies have more “working managers,” which means your account managers are frequently agency executives. Their level of engagement will vary depending on factors like your budget, but they’re more deeply involved with your account than at a larger agency. You may even work with the CEO of the agency at a boutique agency; a highly unlikely occurrence at a large agency. Also, typically, larger agencies assign more clients per team member than boutique agencies do. Where a strategist at a large agency may carry 6-8 clients, at a boutique agency, your strategist may carry 4-5 clients at once. For example, at our agency, we’re regularly receiving service inquiries, but our current clients always come first. We make that choice because our senior strategists are involved in both biz development and client work. If personalized strategies and personal attention matter, a smaller agency may suit you better.

At a larger agency, it’s very common to work with an executive during the RFP or decision-making process, but that executive is rarely involved in the day-to-day of your account; you may see them once a month. So if working with executive-level strategists is important to you, you may appreciate the personalized attention a boutique offers. But if you are someone who only wants to hear from your agency’s account team when necessary or you’re ok with a more junior account team for the day-to-day, then you may appreciate the larger agency’s approach. But if you want more engaged and experienced strategists, who are regularly active in and with your account, then a smaller agency might be better.

Are Boutique Agencies Less Expensive?

First, some perspective. Your $20,000 budget might be a minimum at a larger agency, but quite substantial at a boutique agency. So you should consider the value of working with a larger agency as part of the whole value proposition (like additional services mentioned above). Now, sometimes hiring a larger agency is well worth it; “no one ever got fired for hiring Edelman.” So even though your budget doesn’t command the same level of respect from a larger agency, there may be a real advantage to having a named agency as your agency of record.  But if you want the red carpet rolled out for you, at that price range, then a boutique agency may be a better choice for you.

One of the biggest mistakes that consumer packaged goods companies make is assuming that consumers are only interested in shallow, colorful, brightly designed packages. Consumers care about who makes their products and where they come from. Setting yourself apart in the crowded CPG market is about more than making a good visual impression. Loyalty and brand recognition come from carefully curating your image and making a connection with your target audience in a meaningful and positive way.

Hiring a purpose-driven PR firm can help hone your message to consumers. This type of firm can also place your message in strategically valuable media outlets to get a foothold in a competitive marketplace. Navigating these strategic PR campaigns can be labor-intensive. An experienced PR firm can provide the professional support you need for brand growth and visibility. Investing in a PR agency with CPG experience may be the right move for you, especially in today’s economic climate and competition.

What are CPGs?

CPG, or consumer packaged goods, are products that are consumed by customers regularly and require routine replacement. These types of goods generally have a short shelf life. CPGs include food items, clothing, makeup, cosmetic products, and household goods. The market may feel dominated by big-name brands with extensive marketing teams at their disposal. However, now is the right time for emerging brands to take advantage of PR to increase their brand awareness and visibility.

CPGs and Consumers

Consumer packaged goods companies are one of the largest manufacturing employers in the U.S. The industry itself contributes nearly $2 trillion to U.S. gross domestic product and generates $1.1 trillion in labor income. What does this mean for the industry itself? It means the industry is not only profitable but also highly competitive. Brands are consistently competing for the attention and the hard-earned dollars of everyday Americans. When store shelves are saturated with products, brand recognition becomes an important factor in relation to consumer buying habits.

Consumers buy brands they recognize and trust. This relationship between the brand and the consumer does not happen overnight. It develops over time through carefully crafted messages aimed at the right audience. Once a consumer develops brand awareness, they are more inclined to continue buying the product they know the most about. Good companies will continue to foster their relationship with consumers by the following approaches:

  • Staying in touch with their needs
  • Managing expectations
  • Generating targeted messages aimed at increasing consumer loyalty

Companies can adapt and market towards their target consumer base by keeping a finger on the pulse of consumer awareness and buying habits.

How PR Can Help CPG Companies

Any economy can experience supply chain issues, rising costs, and product shortages. These issues rarely leave a positive impression on the consumer. The rise of social media has shown us that misinformation or negative sentiments can quickly sour an individual’s image of a brand or company. As misinformation spreads, so do negative consumer responses. Now more than ever, companies need to take a proactive approach to communicate with consumers. PR firms can help CPG companies achieve their communication goals by leveraging their influence with media outlets and crafting stories that positively resonate with their audience.

Public relations agencies specialize in helping their clients generate and distribute information about their business. Public relations is sometimes lumped under the marketing umbrella. While the two share similar goals, they are not the same. Public relations agencies know how to leverage free media, which does not cost a company anything to distribute, unlike paid ads or spots.

PR firms can be crucial in helping CPG companies create purpose-driven, helping to increase brand recognition. Brand recognition helps companies stand out from the crowd and sets them apart from their competition. PR firms can also assist with story placement in local news, newspapers, magazines, and national news organizations, letting customers know that you are out there in the marketplace. With strategic PR campaigns, brand awareness grows and can translate into more sales. With continued PR saturation, what was once brand recognition turns into brand loyalty. One-time customers turn into repeat customers, and sales may continue to rise.

Another benefit of using a PR firm for free media is credibility. Consumers know that when a company pays money for a commercial, billboard, or web banner, they are looking at a carefully crafted image designed to get them to spend their money on the product. PR agencies work strategically to place stories in free media. Free media adds an air of credibility to a company because the company did not directly pay to get its message to the consumer. For example, a story airing on a local news station about a company’s recent good deeds in the community can give the company both brand recognition and credibility.

A skilled public relations firm with experience in the consumer packaged goods industry should be able to help you reach your goals by:

  • Increasing visibility and credibility
  • Increasing brand recognition and brand awareness
  • Strengthening customer relationships and building brand loyalty
  • Generating positive word of mouth
  • Building community relationships
  • Reducing repetitional risk
  • Meeting consumers communication needs

Strategically crafted public relations campaigns can help a CPG company connect with its target audience in more meaningful ways. Building an emotional connection between a consumer and a company is powerful. This connection can eventually translate into more sales and more repeat business for your CPG company.

During difficult times, the first thing that companies often cut from their budgets is marketing or PR. Right now, PR and marketing are the last elements of business that should be on the chopping block. The time is ripe to get your message out to invested consumers desiring authentic and sincere communication. Take this opportunity to connect with your consumer base on a deeper, more intentional level and see how it translates into a better consumer-client relationship.

If you are interested in what a PR agency can do for your CPG business, now is the perfect time to explore your options.

Today’s brands are looking for ways to differentiate. Brand storytelling trends for businesses and especially emerging industries or hyper-growth brands are an important strategy, especially those in competitive industries. Brand storytelling is an outstanding way to separate from the pack and it’s likely your competition hasn’t even tapped into this data.  Macro-trends for 2022 can provide insight into the brand stories you tell, what purpose to highlight, and even what platforms and channels you advertise on.

Fast-growing companies and industries in their infancy (drones and cannabis, for example) especially need to tap into these trends. Brand storytelling makes all the difference in public perception and brand superiority, especially for early movers who need to expand upon their advantages.

Whenever we’re looking to help our clients differentiate in PR, especially for fast-growing companies, one place we turn is Trend Hunter to see where brand values, initiatives, and ideals fit in with the trends of now. Regardless of pandemic status in 2022, the world is in flux. Where your customers and clients fall on these post-pandemic tensions may be a differentiator or a way to increase loyalty through your brand storytelling.

Now is really the time to think through your brand storytelling strategy for 2022, because effective storytelling is multi-faceted and requires commitment from the inside out.

The Big Box vs Local Trend in Brand Storytelling

One post-pandemic tension Trend Hunter touches on is the new push-pull between Big Box and Local shopping. Big Box includes huge online sites like Amazon, by the way, at least in the mind of the consumer. During the pandemic, many Americans woke up to realize the importance of supporting local restaurants and retail. Meanwhile, thousands upon thousands of small businesses populate Amazon. If you’re in the retail space, be thinking about this tension and how you will incorporate this consumer choice into your brand storytelling. Emerging industries and fast-growing brands seeking VC funding should absolutely tap into this trend, as it’s likely to be a defining trend for some time.

Big Box vs. Local reflects another macro-trend, and that’s a distinct distrust of the 1%, and especially the .05%. The pandemic only highlighted the enormous differences between the haves and the have-nots. While one portion of the U.S. population worried about keeping the heat on and long-term unemployment, another portion of the population was buying second homes, and banking the savings staying at home afforded them, and got on a plane to a remote island vacation at the first opportunity. This has led to a deepening sense of distrust for the super-rich.

Where are your customers on this tension and how can your storytelling reflect their current frame of mind on this issue? If you’re in the travel industry, you probably want to appeal to the portion of the country that’s feeling flush, unless, of course, you’re a discount brand. In either case, a humble origin story could be a well-placed media and advertising strategy.

 

The Robots vs. People Storytelling Trend

This one has been brewing for a while, but it’s really coming to a head as AI becomes more integrated and the country confronts global supply chain issues. This is an interesting trend because there are so many stories to be told on both sides of the equation. Even technology companies can tell stories about people, so now is a great time to think about how the technology trend is affecting your customers and where your brand storytelling can tap into this trend.

A brand storytelling trend for businesses subtrend is  “Made in America” may take on higher importance from a branding perspective. The issue, with the “Made in America” storyline, is authenticity. Most products have at least a component or two imported from elsewhere. Ironically, if you’re a foreign company operating in the U.S. you can incorporate both these trends by highlighting your commitment to people. But if you’re a U.S. brand, this story, tread lightly about how you use this trend in your brand storytelling.

 

How Big Media vs. Creators will Affect Storytelling

This is a trend started by influencers, but today’s influencers, at least the big ones now have agents and are more closely associated with the elite than your neighbor. Naturally, for every rule there are exceptions, but today’s consumer looks at an Instagram influencer with 10 million followers and imagines they live very different lives; there is an aspirational value to that, so by all means, brand accordingly because luxury marketing is still incredibly relevant.

Meanwhile, influencers aren’t the only creators in today’s global marketplace. Illustrators, artists, and writers are all finding places to hone and monetize their craft. For example, Substack made a brilliant play by tapping into BOTH these trends. On one hand, Substack contracted with content creators and creatives who are well-known or famous because of their associations with major brands. For example, journalists who write for huge publishing companies, but have their own following, have found Substack can be a fruitful side hustle (in 2020, the top 12 subscriptions averaged over $160K). Meanwhile, all these famous names exposed readers to fresh voices as well.

You can think about this push-pull as you consider ad buys as well. Are your consumers more responsive on big platforms like Facebook or in the niche communities of TikTok?

 

Monitor these 3 trends and others as you think through your 2022 brand storytelling for businesses. Tapping into the macro trends helps you understand whether you should “zig” or “zag.” Brand storytelling trends for emerging industries or hyper-growth brands requires a particularly deft touch and emotional intelligence. Do your research to be sure you’re using these trends in ways your customers can relate to them.

What is a top cannabis firm anyway? How important is it that someone else thinks a PR agency is great? What YOU need to know is if a leading cannabis firm is right for YOU. If you are leading a cannabis business or are trying to grow and develop an existing cannabis brand, one of the most important decisions you’ll need to make is choosing a leading cannabis industry PR firm that understands your business objectives. As the industry explodes and cannabis becomes more accessible in more and more states where it is legal, many cannabis businesses are searching for an agency with whom they can develop a long-term, successful relationship.

To help you make the right choice for your business, we’ve put together a list of qualities you should look for when scouting a PR firm. By following these helpful tips, you’ll be better able to find the best firm for you and your business.

Does The Firm Have Experience In Your Field?

When you are seeking out a top cannabis PR agency, you want one that combines a strong knowledge of the fundamentals with experience in your specific field. A firm that has worked in the cannabis industry is one that understands the challenges your business faces due to the patchwork of state-level laws regulating its production, marketing, and consumption, and one that knows how to appeal to your target audience. The last thing you want is a firm that doesn’t know Facebook’s policy about advertising cannabis on its platform, or has outdated assumptions about the consumers who might be excited about your product.

Does The Agency Maintain Strong Relationships?

It’s important to determine whether the cannabis PR firm knows the major players in the cannabis industry, if it has preexisting relationships with influencers and important publications, and whether it can put you in touch with the consultants and other experts who can help take your cannabis brand to the next level. Having access to a PR team’s vast network of professionals can be incredibly beneficial to your business, so it’s worth asking who they know as well as what they know.

To put it simply, you want a PR firm that is more than just a database — you want a team that has ongoing working relationships with industry insiders and the other cannabis industry personnel who can be your entrée to more opportunities down the road.

Is The Firm The Right Size For Your Business?

You should seek out a cannabis PR firm that compliments the size of your business, one that offers you all the resources you need to flourish but also the personalized attention that your company deserves. If you own a small business, you may not need the resources of a 100-person firm. But you also might require more work than a single freelancer can provide. Finding that balance is critical.

What Is The Staff Like?

Since it’s common to work with one group as you explore PR firms, and another team when you sign with an agency, you should ask questions about the makeup of the team you’ll be working with. Ask each person you’ll be working with about their professional backgrounds and experiences, inquire about their responsibilities as part of the team, and find out why they’re interested in the cannabis field. Lastly, make sure that you have the opportunity to consult with senior-level executives at the firm and confirm that they will be available to provide strategic advice when needed.

Does the Firm Offer Integrated Services?

You should seek out a PR firm that offers an array of services, including earned media (such as press coverage, social media mentions, quote tweets, shares, and reviews) and owned media, also called content development (which encompasses blogs, studies, vlogs, podcasts, and more). You should also ensure that the team has the ability not just to develop content, but to do the hard work that ensures this content is meaningful to your target audience: researching, conducting interviews, and writing in an impactful way.

Does the Firm Work in a Timely and Efficient Manner?

You should also consider whether the firm takes the initiative and puts proactive plans in motion in a timely and efficient manner, rather than waiting around for you to approach them. The last thing you want is a PR team that doesn’t understand your business or your goals, doesn’t regularly strategize to help you accomplish those goals, and makes you reach them yourself.

What is the Turnover Rate for Employees of The Firm? What About Clients?

The average rate of turnover between the agency and their clients will give you an excellent idea of how much other companies trust the agency with their business. How long do their professional relationships usually last? Even if you are only signing a limited contract, would you be able to continue the relationship under a renewed contract? You should also ask what the firm’s employee turnover looks like. Low turnover is always a good sign that the firm is a place where employees enjoy working. Happy employees are better for your business, as they will likely be more invested in your business strategy and in helping you succeed. And less turnover also means that the firm won’t be cycling people in and out of your account — people who may not be familiar with your business and its goals.

What’s The Cost?

Like any businessperson, you’re going to have to settle on a budget, and that budget will influence what services you can afford. It’s important to factor the cost of an effective PR campaign into your budget, as this could make or break your business. You should be upfront about your budget and ask other cannabis businesspeople and peers how much they pay for the services you’re seeking. Being upfront about your budget will ensure that neither your time nor the PR firm’s time is wasted.

Ask For References

You should review what other clients have to say about their experience with the firm. Do they express hostility, indifference, or enthusiasm for the firm? How other clients respond will tell you a lot about what kind of relationships the firm builds with its clients. If your peers don’t get excited about the agency, then it may not be worth your time.

Contact the PR Professionals of Avaans Media

If you are starting a cannabis business or are looking to take your existing business to the next level, contact Avaans Media today. We look forward to discussing your business objectives, introducing you to our team, and determining if we’re the right fit for your needs.