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.

 

 

the secret to captivating owned content strategy

Captivation Motivations can significantly change your content strategy.


This is the second installment of a series on the seven Captivation Motivations. This installment is all about your owned media and creating a content strategy that meets your objectives while also thrilling and delighting your audience.

 

Did you know that we’re all ruled by a super-powerful hormone? It’s true.
This hormone dominates decision-making, especially split-second choices like the ones digital users are making every day.
Decisions like “click,” “like,” “retweet,” and more importantly, “buy” and “subscribe” are all significantly impacted by this hormone.
Savvy marketing strategists have been triggering this hormone for years, some knowingly, some stumbling upon it.

You’ve undoubtedly heard of this hormone.
You’ve heard about in the context of drugs, sex and even food.
But what does this hormone do for marketers?
I’ll get to that in a minute.

First, a little more about this hormone: dopamine.
See? I told you you’ve heard of it.
Dopamine is best known as the “pleasure hormone.”
It’s the hormone that creates the surge of euphoria that we feel after a particularly satisfying (insert pleasure here).
But, the surge of satisfaction is not actually the most powerful tool in a communicator’s arsenal.

The most powerful tool for the content communicator is anticipation.

And it turns out that dopamine is actually more aptly described as the “wanting and seeking” hormone.
Ah. Now you get it right?
It turns out that the “wanting and seeking” trigger is MORE powerful than the “satisfaction.”
This means we’re hard-wired to keep looking, keep seeking until we satisfy our wanting and seeking.
And then we’re hard-wired to do it all again.

Think for just a moment about the advantage to your content and overall marketing strategy if you can trigger this motivation.
Images can trigger our wanting and seeking. Ever seen a really great close-up shot of your favorite food and searched for how to have it delivered at lunch that.very.day?
Images of just about anything we want can trigger our “wanting and seeking” hormone.
This means you really need to think about the images you’re using in marketing and advertising, because images are incredibly key to the top of the funnel.
While we see food and sex all the time in marketing, it might be that those images aren’t appropriate for your brand.
Good news for you.
Because there’s more.

 

Guess what else fuels our anticipation?

Just guess.
This is super important because not all businesses and campaigns are suitable for triggering the food, sex and drug urges.
Curiosity.
The brain experiences dopamine rushes when we’re curious for more information.
Think about the last Google search you did. Ever been sucked down the rabbit hole of Google and found yourself coming out of the other side 45 minutes later?
That’s your insatiable, hormone-driven seeking and wanting trigger.
That’s your brain on the anticipation train.

Our quest for information is basically never-ending.
We’re hard-wired that way, and from an evolutionary standpoint, this is a splendid thing.
Now WHAT information triggers this is the key.
This is where we circle back around to audience identification and personalization.
We’re inundated with information, so we have to be very, very clear on our audience so we understand WHAT kind of information or curiosity triggers our target audience.
Motivational triggers work on all people, but what triggers the motivation is where your marketing research and strategy comes in.

Another thing that triggers our wanting and seeking hormone is unexpected prompts that are auditory or visual.
You know what does this exceptionally well?
Your phone. It beeps, or vibrates or a message pops up and you almost ALWAYS stop what you are doing to look at it don’t you?
If you don’t, it takes an active and conscious effort on your part.
This is why my most hated and dreaded marketing tactic, pop-up messaging is so powerful.
I personally drop right out of a page when I get a pop-up because I feel like it’s insensitive to the reader, but the truth is, it works on the vast majority of people because the surprise triggers the wanting and seeking.
Novelty and unpredictability also trigger our seeking behavior.
This is why “New and Improved” works.

The Counter Intuitive Path

You’ve probably heard over and over again to simplify. The message is too long. The funnel is to long.
Overall, this is good advice.
HOWEVER, once you really understand the “seeking and wanting” hormone, your path can actually be quite long, so long as it keeps triggering curiosity and gives information in small bits and pieces, if it gives anything until it offers the solution.
Ever seen an ugly landing page that was all text that you ended up reading despite yourself?
Really awesome copy writers understand how to use this tactic in writing to move you through the process.
Interestingly enough, the more time you spend on something, the more committed you are.
So long copy, long funnels, they have a purpose and in the right situation, the right circumstance, the right audience, they work.

In A Nutshell:

Here it is in a nutshell, for fast and motivational results: trigger the wanting and seeking hormone.
Make your audience curious.
Lead them down a path that satisfies in bits and pieces.
Experiment with what triggers curiosity in your audience, experiment with the strength of their curiosity with funnel length.
Triggering the “wanting and seeking” hormone is the very premise behind free information in content marketing and the internet in general.

The Pursuit of Pleasure Captivation Motivation is tied closely to how we internalize rewards as well. The next post in this series will be all about rewards, the kinds used in promotions, so stay tuned.

 

About the Captivation Motivations:

The Captivation Motivations are all built around what I call our “other 90%” of our brain. The part of our brain that is the oldest and most developed part of our brain.

I didn’t make up the Captivation Motivations, I’ve been studying them and their effects since 2009.  I’ve been testing them in my strategies and tactics, reading and writing about them.
Simply put, these motivations are not some flash-in-the-pan-do-what’s-trendy-now strategy, these are strategies which trigger reactions from the oldest part of our brain.  Over the last few years, more and more has been understood about these motivations. But one thing is clear: despite the fact that these motivations developed in the earliest days of humanity’s survival of the fittest experiences, these motivations are very much alive and well today. What triggers them in the modern world is just different than what triggered them in our earliest evolutionary days.

 

PS: If you’re really interested in this topic, I suggest you read some of the academic works by Kent Berridge; he’s done some really amazing research on the topic.

customer focused communication strategy

The Communication Strategy Everyone Will Thank You For.

We’re inundated with messages every day. As communicators, it’s up to us to have  some empathy for our audience, whether that audience is the press, an employee, a customer, or an investor.

Yet, this single communications strategy I’m about to share with you is so simple, so basic, you’ll wonder why you’re not doing it already.

Before we go any further, let me ask you, which would you rather be:
A product or a movement?
A cause or a movement?
An idea or a movement?

If you don’t care, I’ll save you-you can stop reading right now.
If you want to be a movement, it’s time to re-frame your thinking.
If you’re going to have a movement that matters, you’re going to need people to get on your side.
PEOPLE.
Not Twitter accounts, not Instagram followers, not Facebook likes.
These are vanity metrics that provide little insight into the passion and interest people have in your brand, product, or personality.

Are You Really Ready?

If you’re ready, you’ll re-frame your thinking.
If you re-frame your thinking, it will change everything.

So get ready…
The world is crowded now with communicators, marketers, messengers, and “me, me, me.”
Some days it’s soul-sucking.
It’s why everyone who uses social networking says brands ruin everything.
And yet…people WANT to receive messages, they just want messages tailored to them.
One of the reasons digital marketing is so powerful is that it creates a give and take in the relationship.
It provides an opportunity for the customer, the reader to think about their favorite subject for a moment: them.
But here’s the rub:
It takes strategy, focus and creativity to create content that your consumer wants to see.

So, please.
As you review your communication goals and communication strategy, stop for one moment and think about the reader, whether they’re a customer, a client, an investor, or an internal employee.
Make it about them.
That single phrase is the one that thing so many brand communicators ignore.
Why? Because it takes serious work to “Make it about them.”
It means getting serious about audience identification.
It means getting serious about your brand, it’s voice and how it relates to the audience.
It means diving in on messaging and strategic choices in advertising.
It means actually creating a relationship and even (GASP) an in-person relationship with your customer or client.
It means, communication and branding for the long haul,  not some flash-in-the-pan-make-it-go-viral-I-need-some-vanity-numbers-now kind of campaign.

And while we’re thinking about it, let’s consider language and what it says about our strategy.
If you’re saying you’ll “use influencers,”  do you think you’re thinking about it from the “All About Them” standpoint?
If you’re talking about how you’ll “promote”  your message, event, or idea, does that sound like you’re getting ready to make it interesting to others?
If you’re talking to a PR agency, a strategist, or a social media consultant who is using words like “promote” and “use” you really must ask yourself if you’ll have an opportunity for a customer relationship.

I still see and hear this language every day on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, everywhere.
It’s gotten to where my eyes glaze over.
Guess what?  So does everyone else’s.

Let’s step it up, together.
We can do this.
We can make what you have to say interesting and relevant to the right people at the right time.

Now What?

Here’s my communication strategy challenge to you.
Go check your last 10 social posts.
See how many times you used the words “we, us, or I.”

How much of your content was about the consumer?
How much of your content was strategically shared to reinforce or create relationships?
Is there anything there that would make someone curious?
Is there anything at ALL that makes people feel ANYTHING?

How do YOU make people feel?
If you make them feel ANYTHING you’re miles ahead.
If you make them feel stronger, smarter, special, you’re really hitting on something.
If you made them terrified, scared, outraged, you’re really hitting on something.

People rarely forget how you made them feel.
But YOU’RE utterly forgettable when you make them feel nothing.
Digital branding and marketing is a long game, with peaks at appropriate times.
But always it surrounds emotion.

Regardless of the movement you’re trying to start, start with the idea that “you” are not necessarily interesting.
What’s interesting to people is what they do with “you.”
How you make them laugh or think.
How you make their lives easier, better or richer.

Here’s another reason to re-frame your thinking: it takes discipline and thought to create content that makes people pause.
That’s why so few marketers do it.
So while everyone else is “zigging” go ahead and “zag.” and watch how it changes the way people respond to your brand or product.

That is all.

social impact public relations

Creating Social Impact with Movements that Matter

Whether you’re a nonprofit with a cause or a startup with an idea, at some point, I’m sure you’ve wondered whether your passion would ever catch spark with others. Social impact is here to stay. Creating a movement that matters is more important today than ever before.

It’s clear, what fuels movements is more art than science and not everyone has the advantage of chemically inspired insanity. The idea matters, but it’s really the tipping point, created with art AND science, that creates movements that matter.

We’ve learned a few things about social impact movements over the years, and I wanted to share with you some key insights I’ve found in creating movements with true social impact.

Social Proof Is Important for Movements That Matter

Relatively quickly, it will be important to develop your followers. You’ll need to show you aren’t alone in this idea. BUT, you’ll need those followers to be just as into your idea as you are. These “early adopters” have distinct profiles – figure them out and speak to them. This is the time vs. money stage. There are plenty of things you can do for free, but they take time. Decide which is your most valuable resource.

Social Media Matters – But So Does Real Life for True Social Impact

Social media isn’t where ideas are born, it’s where ideas are spread. The idea and the collaboration of said idea almost always takes place offline. Don’t be afraid to use your offline connections, whether they’re on social media or not, to help fuel your movement.

And don’t discount traditional PR tactics as well, they play nice with social media and one will help the other. And the endgame isn’t about HOW it happens, it’s THAT it happens. Give your movement every chance it has to survive.

Tweet: “Give your movement every chance it has to survive.” – @taracoomans

Passion or Quantity?

You’ll want influencers, but you’ll want to make very sure your target audience relates to them, even if they don’t totally resonate with you.  You aren’t communicating to you, you’re trying to get some collective steam. And your influencer’s community is balanced by the passion of that community.  There’s an inverse correlation of a number of followers to passion. Think of it as a circle, the bigger the circle, the further from the center more and more people are. So ask yourself, does passion matter more than people? The answer may surprise you.

Tweet: “There’s an inverse correlation of number of followers to passion.” – @taracoomans

Movements That Matter Peak At The Right Time


It’s true with all public relations messaging and especially with social impact movements. Just about the time you’re tired of seeing the same messaging is about the time that anyone takes notice. Again, inverse effect, you say “no one’s responding,” just as they are starting to take notice. Breathe.

Tipping points have a timeline of their own, you can’t rush them. It WILL happen.

The bigger concern is peaking at the right time. Peaking at the right time could correlate to internal or external deadlines. What happens if your movement peaks too early? Will you be ready?  You can’t totally plan for peak time, but you should make sure you don’t peak too early. Think about what peaking at the exact right moment looks like and work backward from there – what’s it going to take (planning, time, money, people)  to create enough energy for that exact moment? And remember, in a world where we’re constantly inundated with messages, rallying people usually takes longer than you think it should. They used to say that it takes 7 exposures to a message for someone to remember the message, in today’s message cluttered world, I’d put that at closer to twelve.

You’ll Know When The Tipping Point Happens

If you don’t know whether you’ve hit the tipping point, then you haven’t yet. When tipping points happen, there is nothing you can do to stop them. You are no longer in control. This is a crucial moment. As Derek says, you want to treat your community as equals, empower them, let them stand for you. Conversely, at this point, you’ll need to be more and more clear on your message. I’ve seen movements become something completely different than the original intent because of unclear messaging at this point. Social impact movements that turn into disorganized mob scenes aren’t effective, even if they are riveting to watch. Mob scenes are good for word of mouth, but they aren’t very good for conversion.

Tweet: “Mob scenes are good for word of mouth, but they aren’t very good for conversion.”- @taracoomans

PS:When you’re feeling alone and isolated about your movement, watch this this short TedTalk by Derek Sivers.

Epically true, right?  I love this line: “The first follower is actually an underrated form of leadership.” What’s you’re biggest take away?