[3 minutes]

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.

Google once again updated its Product Review Update for 2022. Google’s Product Review Update and consumer PR are closely tied. Yet, for many CMOs and PR people, this update falls below the radar, but it has big implications for consumer products, consumer tech and household goods PR, SEO, and marketing, so it’s important to pay attention. Last year, we covered Google’s views on product reviews too, so if you read last year’s piece, some of this may sound familiar.

[5 minute read]

The April 2021 Google PRU provided these guidelines for reviews and consumer PR:

  • Express expert knowledge about products where appropriate? 
  • Show what the product is like physically, or how it is used, with unique content beyond what’s provided by the manufacturer?
  • Provide quantitative measurements about how a product measures up in various categories of performance?
  • Explain what sets a product apart from its competitors?
  • Cover comparable products to consider, or explain which products might be best for certain uses or circumstances?
  • Discuss the benefits and drawbacks of a particular product, based on research into it?
  • Describe how a product has evolved from previous models or releases to provide improvements, address issues, or otherwise help users in making a purchase decision?
  • Identify key decision-making factors for the product’s category and how the product performs in those areas? For example, a car review might determine that fuel economy, safety, and handling are key decision-making factors and rate performance in those areas.
  • Describe key choices in how a product has been designed and their effect on the users beyond what the manufacturer says?

 

What Will Google’s Product Review Changes Mean for 2022?

No doubt, Google’s PRU and consumer PR play in the same sandbox. Savvy editors will look at their product coverage with fresh eyes because this can be a huge impact to large publications with lots of reviews content. Today’s editors are more than content strategists, they’re expected to incorporate SEO considerations into their coverage as well. In the April 2021 Google Product Review Update (PRU), Google announced it would reward in-depth review articles that showed extensive knowledge of the product and context on its usefulness.

This year, it also strongly suggested that it will favor coverage that includes the writer’s own experience with the product – this could be a photos, videos, or other evidence to reinforce the product review expertise and authenticity. Google ALSO wants reviews to provide multiple sales links so the consumer can purchase at the merchant of their choice. This is reasonably good news for DTC products since they will now have a higher likelihood that they will include their URL alongside other purchasing options.

 

Earned Media: Help Journalists and Influencers Be Product Experts

The more you can do to make a journalist or influencer an expert, the better your earned media will be and the happier editors will be to include your products. For CPG companies or consumer tech companies, this means product samples should include in-depth tips that highlight product features and use cases so the reviewer can get to work quickly by experiencing the product. It’s tempting to just throw a product into a shipment the same way you do with consumers – but keep in mind, your customers have already researched your product. Developing B-roll for the product is key also, this allows your reviewer to create high-quality product video quickly. Your customers probably already KNOW the features and comparisons, but a journalist or influencer may not. We’re recommending that companies with a PR sample program get really smart about their PR sample kits. Media kits should also include several links, including major sites with affiliate programs, like Amazon. Take advantage of Google’s Product Review Update for your consumer PR.

 

Paid Coverage: Don’t Lean Too Heavily on Thin Affiliate Content

In April 2021, Google warned that thinly reviewed affiliate links would have even less authority than before – site reviews have proven. Yes, links matter, but if the entire site’s SEO depends on low-quality links, then their content and the site will not receive the much-coveted Google authority. For CPG or consumer tech or household goods brands, this is really important, because historically, your SEO and PR team would work together for affiliate links and product placement. But affiliate links will continue to be relevant for media outlets looking to diversify their revenue streams, so if you haven’t already, make sure you’re providing journalists with an affiliate link too.

Owned Media & Paid Media: Comparison Charts for the Win

It might seem counter-intuitive, but the more you can provide content as to how your product compares, the more likely your product is to be included. This is especially important for consumer product companies who are up against major household names. And if your product is well-suited to a particular niche, this is the time to exploit that. Remember, providing the context saves huge time for the journalists and makes it much easier for them to create multiple product reviews for your product.

On your website, consider these tips for your product pages too. You can’t be too helpful for Google.

Paid Media: Incorporate Branded Content Accordingly

For both your earned and owned media, keep these updates in mind to ensure your content stays fresh in the eyes of Google. Whether that’s a press release or a blog post or sponsored content, do yourself a favor and incorporate both 2021 PRU updates. And think ahead. What Google is trying to do is ensure search results match intent (informational vs. buying, for example), match the searcher’s desires. Take the high road on content – make it useful, contextual, and keep your buyer’s customer journey in mind. If your content is for those on the early side of the buying decision, then make sure your content answers common questions for early-stage buyers, if your content is for those who are ready to buy, be sure to incorporate those keywords as well. If you think ahead and remember your customer’s intent matters a lot to Google, your content can pay dividends for years to come. Regardless of who is creating the content, be sure you include keywords and the overall strategy of the document to the writer. A decade ago, SEO content could be reasonably low-quality content, so long as it was jammed with keywords. Since then, Google has been signaling its desire for high-quality content, and it’s been doubling down on that every year – product pages and product reviews are no exception. Now isn’t the time to take a shortcut.

 

2022 will be a big year for a lot of consumer products as the supply chain (hopefully) loosens up, so stay attuned to Google and make sure your SEO and PR are coordinating intentions and content. Contact us today to incorporate these important digital considerations into your PR.

[4 minute read time] Today’s CMOs are constantly scanning the news and social networks for the latest trends and cultural shifts. For emerging brands, cultural trends and shifts couldn’t be more important. But even the savviest of CMOs needs to put these separate trends into a broader cultural context in order to put them to use. Enter TrendHunter, their annual Trend Report is a must-read for PR firms, CMO’s, Product Managers, and Innovators. Guess who else watches these massive cultural trends? The media.

As a PR firm that specializes in emerging brands and emerging industries, we’re extremely fortunate to be working with brands already leading the charge on many of the trends and cultural shifts that the latest TrendHunter report documents in its 200+ pages. A few cultural trends caught our eye and thought they were worth digging into on a deeper level for our community of CMOs and media.

3 Massive Cultural Trends for Emerging Brands

Magic Mushrooms

Over the last 6 years, we’ve noticed an increasing demand for mushroom-based functional foods. The wonders of the mushroom knows no bounds. Nowhere is this more true than in the expansion of psychedelic mushrooms. As researchers fast track the science behind therapeutic benefits of psychedelics, global businesses in Brazil, The British Virgin Islands, and the Netherlands, benefiting from legal loopholes are launching brands and experiences that include psilocybin (the compound that creates psychedelic mushrooms). In the US, like cannabis-based THC, psilocybin remains federally illegal, but the local movement to decriminalize the psychoactive ingredient in mushrooms has already begun in Denver, Oakland, and Santa Cruz (as of this writing). Emerging businesses and innovators see psilocybin following the same path of cannabis, but moving considerably faster towards legalization.

Audio Only

Most marketing executives could not ignore the break-through app of 2020: Clubhouse. Clubhouse may or may not have peaked already, and everyone’s listening to see what’s next. Interestingly, the pandemic surge on ClubHouse came just as marketers were wondering whether podcasts, famously popular with commuters and gym rats would remain relevant. But podcasts survived, and some would say even thrived. Apps like Calm, which uses sound to ease tension also surged during the pandemic. Music lovers know the secret to these apps: listening to sounds has a measurable effect on mood and dopamine regulation. Could it be true? Audio-only meetings are more memorable than video meetings? Twitter is betting on it with it’s pandemic feature: ‘Spaces.’ Emerging from the pandemic, sound will be part of every experiential memory and brands will be looking to research to determine how their sound logos impact people’s moods much the way the we investigate how color impacts mood for graphic logos. We’re launching the ability to LISTEN to our blog posts starting with this very post.

 

Inclusion

Brands Celebrate Inclusivity

Gillette Skinclusive Line

Inclusion is no longer a buzzword, it is now part of our day-to-day awareness.  This year, Gillette Venus’ Skinclusive line launch with a summer line, “My Skin, My Way” on video game Animal Crossing. But inclusive skin is in, and so it differently-abled bodies with this launch. In-game inclusivity is mirroring our greater awareness of how our differences can be beautiful. We’re seeing inclusion happening in apps like Chapters: Interactive Stories, where users can create an avatar that reflects their ethnicity as well. Expect to see this in-game inclusivity mirror: gender inclusion and political points of view as well.

Brand Purpose

Bonus round: brand purpose. From sustainability to social good, TrendHunters covered the trend we’ve been seeing for several years: brand purpose. The best brands in the world are already ahead of the game on this, but it’s also trickling down to emerging industries and smaller brands and that’s because tomorrow’s most influential buyers care very much about where their products come from and what the social, political, and environmental costs of the brand are.

 

All of these trends have massive PR, product, and marketing implications. More and more, our clients are bringing us in at the beginning stages of ideation, to ensure not only do campaigns hit newsworthy notes, they also keep them out of hot water, which is a moving target these days. But our team, hand-picked for emotional intelligence, are here to help you see emerging trends all around.

 

Thanks for joining us today!

Cutting Edge Drone UAV Technology PR Case Study Sets The Stage for Tomorrow

THE PR CHALLENGE

Our client, a publicly-traded drone company, has been groundbreaking drone development for 8 years already. As they enter the next stage of growth including defining new verticals and lines of business, our team manages press relations, reputation management, and provides strategic analysis into emerging industries. We also collaborate with the Investor Relations Firm.

THE PR SOLUTION

We develop a strategy that meets the needs of this dynamic commercial drone company through a managed approach to press relations with an owned/earned/paid campaign strategy towards verticals of importance.

DATA DRIVEN COMMUNICATIONS


With media monitoring, we provide insights and strategies which increase reputation and authority.

CAMPAIGN MANAGEMENT


We develop ongoing campaigns which meet the needs of this growing & publicly-traded company.

STRATEGIC ADVISEMENT


We evaluate industry trends through the lens of goals & opportunities and provide strategic insight to manage the brand reputation.

THE PR RESULTS

101% 


Increase in Share of Voice versus key marketplace competitors.

31% 


Share of Voice throughout entire industry conversation.

142%


Increase in share price within first 4 months.

150%


Increase in audience size over previous year

343%


Increase in media inclusions over previous year

$4.6 Million


Estimated earned media value

32 


Average media inclusions per month

149%


Increase in earned media value over previous year

Building Community Around Purpose

THE PR CHALLENGE

Our client, a beta platform to provide parents with controls and tools for their kids’s social media usage was ramping up extremely quickly. They needed market research, but also needed real-time qualitative feedback to inform UX, branding and messaging.

THE PR SOLUTION

Since the target audience of parents was on social media and the product addressed key parental concerns on social media, our strategy was to utilize the platforms to create awareness of the product while also providing on-going feedback and community. We developed a strategy which gave parents early access while also offering them a place to discuss online safety with one another. We lead with community development and encouraged loyalty by providing a “safe space” for parents seeking resources. The community received early access to the tools and their conversations informed messaging and product development. Through a blend of owned content including organic social media and blogs, we provided resources and guidance to parents looking for advice surrounding social media. We engaged parental influencers and mental health experts to provide emotional support. All owned content was integrated into product development, PR and marketing initiatives.

STRATEGIC ADVISEMENT


In addition to providing community management services, we also ensured internal team members were empowered to engage their audience through community management training to ensure integrated internal understanding of the consumer and community.

DATA DRIVEN COMMUNICATIONS


Through social and media listening, we developed a data-driven feedback loop used in all marketing and communications, resulting in timely messages for use in marketing & media relations.

COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT


While providing social media resources to parents in the community, we also tested content types and styles to see what resonated most strongly with parents.

INFLUENCER ENGAGEMENT


We identified and engaged influencers who resonated with parents to review the product in both beta and pre-launch mode.

“From strategic planning to implementation, (they) demonstrated their expertise…truly a pleasure to work with,”


Jeana D.,
Marketing Director

THE PR RESULTS

2.8 Million


Organic digital brand impressions across social platforms including Facebook & Twitter.

252,000


Average monthly unique people reach on owned digital properties.

300% 


Increase in organic Facebook impressions. Our community of engaged parents and influencers were sharing tips & hints and engaging with our client’s tool providing essential feedback for both product development and communications teams.

OUR PR WORK: Results and Case Studies

A Hyper-Growth Consumer Tech PR Company Leverages PR to Change the Narrative


Making New CPG Wellness Product Part of Daily Life


Defining Drones in a New Age


Driving Early Education Outcomes Through Social Impact Messaging


Global Tourism: Storytelling in Social Media Across Cultures


Launching a National Brand with Press Coverage


A Consumer Tech Startup Taps Parental Influencers


Launching a Consumer Lifestyle-By Subscription


Consumer Technology PR Brings Home Company Sales Records


Cannabis Beverage PR Sprint Product Launch