Tag Archive for: branding

We’re just about to round the corner to a key consumer buying season: the fall. And about the only thing that’s certain is consumer uncertainty; but consumers aren’t giving up on conscious consumption. Nothing shows that more than the latest consumer trends from Google Searches. What do Google searches have to do with PR? Consumer media outlets keep a strong eye on consumer trends, and usually respond with seasonal content that matches the customer’s mood. Fitting into that season content is key to earning digitally savvy PR during the fall. There’s another important reason to get it right this fall: you’re likely to have a larger share of voice for any of your marketing efforts as some competitors will pull back, so if you’re not pulling back, or you’re jumping into the market now, it’s great timing because research shows that brands who stay with marketing during economic downturns, get ahead.

What does this mean for consumer brands?

It gives you insight into key themes you can use in your PR and marketing this year. While some of these facts seem contradictory, put these in context with what you’re seeing from your customers.

Searches for “specials this week” is up 60% year over year / Searches for “designer outlet” have grown 90% globally year over year

Keep in mind, that consumer spending remains strong, so this is about the consumer feeling the need to feel like they’re getting a deal. 31% of consumers say they are still rewarding themselves by buying things they want. Consumers haven’t stopped loving name brands, they’re just in need of a discount. They also want to feel their brand choices are premium choices.

Luxury and premium brands with strong brand affinity should lead to smaller, more affordable items for the masses, rather than discount the brand. Premium consumer brands can use this mindset with bonus gifts.

Align your brand with premium publishing outlets by getting an early start on your consumer PR and ad re-targeting. Have your programmatic and PR teams talk before they launch their respective campaigns.

Consumer brands should publish any kind of black Friday promotions well in advance, and use competitor pricing as a benchmark (25% less than a comparable brand), to anchor value.

Now is also the time to focus on loyalty for existing customers. Don’t make your customers search you out. Be there during the key buying triggers for your customers. If your customers tend to buy on Fridays, be there on Thursday with the bonus giveaway or loyalty reward.

Searches for “say no to plastic” have grown globally 200% year over year

Consumers want brands who want what they want. This new purpose-driven alignment applies to all consumer brands. Even if you can’t get around plastic packaging (yet), now is the time to celebrate your sustainability efforts. What’s comforting to consumers right now, more than anything is brands they can trust. So if you’ve been working hard on building consumer trust, now is the time for you to celebrate the efforts in a way that reinforces your consumer’s choices.

Consumers want personal content

87% of consumers said they want personal and relevant content. Keep this in mind with your email marketing and social media. Use your own data to ensure your delivering the right message to the right audience. Consumers want to see themselves in your content – by the way, editors know this trend too, so positioning your brand clearly allows editors to follow this content expectation too.

One of the most notable attributes of “relevant” content is content that is emotionally resonant. Your consumers want to know that you understand them. Note that during previous times of uncertainty, nostalgia and comfort messages surge. Very often, this means consumers would prefer to stay with their favored brands, but that favored brands need to continue to provide the experience customers have come to expect.

More than ever, having digitally savvy and data-informed PR, branding, and advertising will make a difference in your seasonal marketing. Now is the time to dig deep into your customer insights and give your agencies the information they need to supercharge their efforts this fall.

Purpose-driven public relations means the brand proactively builds incorporates values that impact social, cultural, and environmental issues. A true purpose-driven company makes corporate choices within its purpose framework, even when it means purpose over profits.

Truthfully, public relations aren’t purpose-driven, a brand is purpose-driven. Public relations is simply a lever a purpose-driven brand can use to improve the world around them. Building a purpose-driven brand is an inside-out job. They aren’t PR campaigns or PR ideas; they are a cultural way of thinking that’s internalized by everyone in the company.

[3 minute read]

The Importance of Internalizing Purpose

There are lots of ways a brand can support its customers, community, and the globe meaningfully. Cause partnerships, and donation campaigns, are all relevant PR campaigns, but they aren’t purpose-driven. Purpose-driven companies take the long view on purpose and impact.

Internalization distinguishes purpose-driven brands. When everyone from the Board, to the CEO to the janitor walks the talk of purpose, then a brand has authentically implemented a purpose-driven brand. This also means when employees face choices, they incorporate the purpose into their decision-making. This can include employee hiring, employee programs, purchasing, and product decisions. It also means employees feel safe in making a purpose-informed choice because they know they’re acting within the company’s ethos; their choice is supported and even celebrated.

 

Should Purpose-Driven Initiatives Even Have a PR Component?

The deciding factor on this issue is the “why,” behind the initiative. Every day, businesses from Fortune 500 all the way to emerging industries are making decisions that have a social impact, and most of the time, these decisions don’t get the credit they deserve. But it’s not one decision, or one campaign, or one person who makes purpose – it’s people moving in unison making decisions that impact millions.

For example, let’s take eggs. When you go to the grocery, you face a lot of buying choices. Cage-free eggs, organic eggs, local eggs, inexpensive eggs. Many of these egg producers are balancing product, purpose, and price. Even though the organic or cage-free eggs are more expensive, it’s likely the margins on those eggs are considerably less than the mass-produced eggs. It’s also very likely that the producers of the cage-free or organic eggs are making other choices that cost more – maybe they buy the more expensive food, maybe they supplement their electricity with solar power. These are all purpose-driven decisions that are really important, but they won’t make news. What may make the news is the impact or the multiple steps they take for their purpose might make news. The people behind these choices may have interesting stories to tell. There will be PR opportunities, but they require real storytelling. Therefore, it’s important to have experienced purpose-driven PR agencies who can tell ethos and purpose stories.

Brands should have PR at the table when incorporating purpose-driven ethos, but PR should be part of the purpose, not the purpose of the purpose.

 

Are Purpose-Driven Brands Born or Made?

Both and neither. Some brands are founded in purpose, we can all name a few. Other brands grow into purpose. Both are as legitimate as their ability to stick to their ethos. It’s important for both types of purpose-driven brands to be authentic. Just because a brand is founded in purpose doesn’t mean it won’t lose its way. And just because a brand develops purpose doesn’t entirely absolve them from past actions. All brands should be very careful with their initiatives because consumers are getting fantastic at sniffing out disingenuous missions. These disingenuous missions create consumer distrust and may even run afoul of today’s cancel culture. A brand is better off doing nothing than taking on duplicitous or insincere purpose-driven initiatives.

 

If your company is considering a purpose-driven plan, please download our guide and call us. We can help you and your team navigate the exciting opportunities – and avoid the pitfalls – for purpose-driven brands.

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.

[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.

 Is a press release an effective investment? That’s a question that many business owners and marketing professionals are asking themselves in today’s digital age. The answer, unfortunately, is not a simple one.

If you’ve already done your press release research, then you know it’s expensive for good press release distribution and it’s time to focus on press releases. However, before we talk about press releases, let’s take a step back and look at some basic PR knowledge.

On the one hand, press releases can be an incredibly valuable tool for getting your story out there and reaching a wider audience. They can help you build credibility with media outlets and create a positive image for your brand.

On the other hand, press releases can be quite expensive to produce and distribute, and they may not always be effective in reaching your target audience. 

Given the state of the press in today’s media-saturated environment, press releases do this: more people see them than they did years ago when people actually opened their mailboxes to find physical press releases with paper clips on them! In other words: today’s press releases aren’t exclusive to journalists. In fact, most PR experts agree: press releases do little to gain earned coverage. Direct pitching an inside scoop is much more effective. 

But, press releases are still an effective way for organizations to disseminate news to journalists, media outlets, and bloggers in a format that is easily digestible by search engines. This allows for wider distribution of your message, which will eventually lead to backlinks and press mentions. However, if you’re looking for tangible ROI from press releases, you might be disappointed – press releases are not the silver bullet for marketing success.        

Whether to issue press releases is a decision made on a case-by-case basis with your PR agency. If they recommend press releases, there are a few reasons:

1) Well-written press releases are an effective part of an SEO strategy and improving search engine rankings. 

2) Press releases help to establish your company or organization as an authority in your field.

3) Issuing press releases can help you to build relationships with journalists and bloggers.

4) Press releases can enhance the all-important trust factor.

5) Press releases can be a way to spread the news about your company’s products and services during slow news periods.

6) Issuing press releases is a great way to stay connected to journalists and bloggers who might write or blog about you in the future.

7) Press releases can serve as “proof” that you are actively involved in your industry if someone were to call out of the blue for this reason.

8) Well-written press releases can establish thought leadership, which may help attract new clients down the road.

9) In today’s world, press releases can be powerful social media content tools — if they’re written well, quickly go through press mentions and social sharing.

A modern PR agency can help you determine whether press releases are the right tool for your organization and, if so, how to write them to garner the most attention. We’re a top-rated Los Angeles PR firm with a distributed team in major media centers. For more information on press releases and other aspects of effective PR, please contact us.

You don’t need to be an influencer or celebrity to make public relations work for you. Having a good PR team on your side can help a business increase its visibility, brand recognition, and bolster its reputation in the community. These things can eventually translate into more customers and a bigger slice of the proverbial pie.

However, hiring a PR team isn’t free. A PR agency is an investment. Before deciding if hiring a PR firm is the right move for you, consider what makes a PR team an asset. Then ask yourself if a PR team is worth it for your business. Having a clear vision of your short- and long-term objectives and goals will help you understand the desired direction of your business. When looking towards the future, you may be surprised at how much value the right agency can add to your image and your bottom line.

What is PR?

Public relations agencies are businesses that specialize in helping their clients craft and distribute information about their business or industry. However, this information is not distributed in the form of paid ads or commercials. It is essentially “free” media that doesn’t cost a company anything to circulate. Free media can include local news stories, national news stories, newspaper articles, or magazine articles. Stories can also be distributed via the Internet or certain social media outlets. This type of media allows customers to see information or stories about a business without the filter of product sales.

The goal of PR is to put the right message in front of the right people. By generating favorable media coverage, a PR firm can help a client cement their image in the minds of potential customers. A good PR strategy can build brand recognition and customer loyalty, adding value to a client’s business.

Why is PR Worth It?

Numerous factors can make PR worth the price of a good agency. However, what makes a PR firm is worth its weight depends on the client’s needs, goals, and overall objectives. You get from PR what you help put in. Outlining your values ahead of time and communicating your needs with a PR firm helps them understand what you want to get out of the relationship. From there, a PR team can craft a unique strategy that can help you reach your objectives and allow them to target the audience you hope to capture.

An important way that PR can help bolster a client’s business is through brand recognition and credibility. PR professionals understand which media outlets can help build credibility while simultaneously increasing their visibility in the community. A solid PR firm will then be able to pitch story ideas and distribute press releases to the outlets that may help give their client the clout they need.

For good or bad, a strong public relations team can use the power of words to change the hearts and minds of people. Placement of positive stories and positive messages about a client can help build trust and loyalty. When something traumatic or negative happens, a strategic PR firm may also attempt to mitigate potential damage to a brand or turn the incident into a humanizing moment. Crisis management is just as important to a brand as positive story placement. A solid PR firm should have experience with both skills.

Skilled Professionals Who Know the Business

Many businesses handle PR internally. This strategy may work for certain industries. However, if you are considering what makes a PR firm worth hiring, consider the skilled professionals they hire to fill their firms. Many current public relations specialists are former journalists. This is important to note because former journalists have inside information about the business. They tend to have a wealth of contacts in the media industry and know how to get a media outlet’s attention. From drafting compelling press releases that don’t end up in the trash bin, to reaching out to community contacts, they know how to leverage their contacts for the client’s benefit.

News stories come from a variety of different sources. Because of the saturation of information, it’s not enough to simply email a press release or event notice to someone these days. It takes carefully crafted communication, outreach, and tenacity to pitch stories and get them placed in the right outlets at the right times. Good PR professionals are transparent, proactive, and passionate about what they do. They want your continued business and will go the extra mile to make sure that you see the value they add to your business.

How Else Can PR Benefit a Business?

Contrary to popular belief, PR is more than just submitting press releases and sending out event invites. At its core, public relations is about good storytelling. It is about crafting compelling and engaging messages that linger with an audience and spur them into action. A skilled PR firm should have experience handling different tasks as well as monitoring and responding to new and emerging trends within a client’s specific industry. Generally, a solid public relations firm will understand how to handle the following:

  • Crafting press releases
  • Following up with media outlets
  • Writing pitches
  • Speech writing
  • Copywriting
  • Blog writing
  • Event planning
  • Strategic crisis management
  • Market research
  • Community engagement

With these elements in play, a PR firm can contribute to the success of a business by:

  • Increasing credibility
  • Increasing brand recognition
  • Enhancing a business’s public presence
  • Enhancing a business’s online presence
  • Generating positive word of mouth
  • Handling crisis situations
  • Building community and customer relationships

What do these contributions all translate into? For many businesses, they translate into increased growth and sales. New customers are drawn to the business while existing customers develop brand loyalty and keep coming back as repeat customers.

If you are looking to grow your business or remain competitive in a thriving marketplace, you may want to consider the benefits of hiring a PR agency. Spending money on a firm today may add tremendous value to your company tomorrow.

Tag Archive for: branding

GLOBAL HYPERGROWTH STARTUP LEVERAGES TECH PR


TO CHANGE THE NARRATIVE WITH TECH CONSUMERS

THE PR CHALLENGE

A creative global AI powered content creation and niche content app seeks to create awareness around product launches and existing properties to increase consumer awareness and increase brand value to enhance investment negotiations. Our nimble team works alongside this hypergrowth technology company to create a lasting impact.

THE PR SOLUTION

We conduct a thorough brand audit to identify key messages, over-arching themes, and storylines for both a consumer PR campaign and an investor PR campaign. We align brand messages with cultural overtones line gender, and equity alongside technology themes like AI, content creation, and global access that strike a chord with journalists.

We create on-brand digital assets and make recommendations to existing assets to support the messaging and develop stakeholder engaging campaigns to launch four product launches within 8 months and pen many thought leadership pieces that appear around the globe on some of the most trusted news outlets in the world.

Our media relations strategy develops general population topics along with pitches for niche interests such as gaming, entertainment, publishing, social media, and technology.

The consumer PR campaign aligns with monthly product launches, each with its own consumer persona and niche interests. We implement the campaigns with an emphasis on technology and entertainment media relations and we implement monthly owned media which aligns with campaigns and product launches.

PRODUCT LAUNCH PR STRATEGY


We develop campaigns with owned and earned media designed to increase awareness for consumers while creating interest with journalists.

TECH MEDIA RELATIONS


Our bespoke campaigns use the cross-over strengths of the brand and its global community to leverage media opportunities. We activate with multiple in-house spokespersons and key influencers.

OMNI CHANNEL STRATEGY


We recommend and implement an owned media strategy that complements business goals. We also review branding assets including the website and social media accounts, to unify the brand, eliminate consumer confusion with unified messaging.

EXECUTIVE THOUGHT LEADERSHIP


We deeply engage with executives and technologists to create a thought leadership campaign that advances key talking points in investor-friendly outlets.

THE KUDOS


“Our experience with Avaans Media was more than we could have asked for. Not only did you blow us away with results, we learned so much from your team of experts. I know we will work together again.” 
-Brand Executive

THE CRUSHING RESULTS

68 pieces of earned media


in global news outlets, not including press releases in 8 months

5.36 Billion 


Global Audience Size

.00003


Cost per person reached 

How to get in fortune magazine
how to get featured on msn.com

DTC PR WITH RESULTS


If there’s one thing we’ve learned – it’s OK to be different. We’re not the right fit for everyone, but our differences make your results exceptional. Working with a passionate executive-level PR agency team is exhilarating. If you are in a hyper-growth DTC company, with ambitious goals, you’ve come to the right place.

No matter your objectives, competitive brand awareness, deep customer loyalty, investor attention, or brand awareness, acquisition, direct to consumer public relations is the most effective tool to build trust and awareness with consumers.

Our purpose is to make a meaningful, lasting impact on your business. Our extensive backgrounds give you a distinct advantage-fast.

As a modern PR agency, we use emerging trends, hard data, and emotional intelligence to create compelling PR campaigns for DTC brands.

We’re fiercely protective of your reputation, strategically creative, and tenacious in securing press coverage. Because we specialize in companies at the growth stage, we are solution-oriented and proactive.

We are a small house, a boutique firm. We work with a select number of clients who committed to growth to improve reputations, credibility, and brand trust.

 We go shoulder to shoulder with our clients, we’re all-in on your success. We dig in deep and proactively add value from startup through IPO. We’re a team of digitally forward big thinkers with an eye for detail. By diving straight into your purpose to find the connective tissue your clients or customers respond to, we develop noteworthy brands.

If this sounds like the kind of PR firm partnership you’re looking for, we’d love to talk to you too.

Los Angeles

New York

A SELECTION OF OUR D2C CASE STUDIES

DTC PR INSIGHTS

Google and Consumer PR
Headlines for our PR Clients

We’re just about to round the corner to a key consumer buying season: the fall. And about the only thing that’s certain is consumer uncertainty; but consumers aren’t giving up on conscious consumption. Nothing shows that more than the latest consumer trends from Google Searches. What do Google searches have to do with PR? Consumer media outlets keep a strong eye on consumer trends, and usually respond with seasonal content that matches the customer’s mood. Fitting into that season content is key to earning digitally savvy PR during the fall. There’s another important reason to get it right this fall: you’re likely to have a larger share of voice for any of your marketing efforts as some competitors will pull back, so if you’re not pulling back, or you’re jumping into the market now, it’s great timing because research shows that brands who stay with marketing during economic downturns, get ahead.

What does this mean for consumer brands?

It gives you insight into key themes you can use in your PR and marketing this year. While some of these facts seem contradictory, put these in context with what you’re seeing from your customers.

Searches for “specials this week” is up 60% year over year / Searches for “designer outlet” have grown 90% globally year over year

Keep in mind, that consumer spending remains strong, so this is about the consumer feeling the need to feel like they’re getting a deal. 31% of consumers say they are still rewarding themselves by buying things they want. Consumers haven’t stopped loving name brands, they’re just in need of a discount. They also want to feel their brand choices are premium choices.

Luxury and premium brands with strong brand affinity should lead to smaller, more affordable items for the masses, rather than discount the brand. Premium consumer brands can use this mindset with bonus gifts.

Align your brand with premium publishing outlets by getting an early start on your consumer PR and ad re-targeting. Have your programmatic and PR teams talk before they launch their respective campaigns.

Consumer brands should publish any kind of black Friday promotions well in advance, and use competitor pricing as a benchmark (25% less than a comparable brand), to anchor value.

Now is also the time to focus on loyalty for existing customers. Don’t make your customers search you out. Be there during the key buying triggers for your customers. If your customers tend to buy on Fridays, be there on Thursday with the bonus giveaway or loyalty reward.

Searches for “say no to plastic” have grown globally 200% year over year

Consumers want brands who want what they want. This new purpose-driven alignment applies to all consumer brands. Even if you can’t get around plastic packaging (yet), now is the time to celebrate your sustainability efforts. What’s comforting to consumers right now, more than anything is brands they can trust. So if you’ve been working hard on building consumer trust, now is the time for you to celebrate the efforts in a way that reinforces your consumer’s choices.

Consumers want personal content

87% of consumers said they want personal and relevant content. Keep this in mind with your email marketing and social media. Use your own data to ensure your delivering the right message to the right audience. Consumers want to see themselves in your content – by the way, editors know this trend too, so positioning your brand clearly allows editors to follow this content expectation too.

One of the most notable attributes of “relevant” content is content that is emotionally resonant. Your consumers want to know that you understand them. Note that during previous times of uncertainty, nostalgia and comfort messages surge. Very often, this means consumers would prefer to stay with their favored brands, but that favored brands need to continue to provide the experience customers have come to expect.

More than ever, having digitally savvy and data-informed PR, branding, and advertising will make a difference in your seasonal marketing. Now is the time to dig deep into your customer insights and give your agencies the information they need to supercharge their efforts this fall.

Purpose-driven public relations means the brand proactively builds incorporates values that impact social, cultural, and environmental issues. A true purpose-driven company makes corporate choices within its purpose framework, even when it means purpose over profits.

Truthfully, public relations aren’t purpose-driven, a brand is purpose-driven. Public relations is simply a lever a purpose-driven brand can use to improve the world around them. Building a purpose-driven brand is an inside-out job. They aren’t PR campaigns or PR ideas; they are a cultural way of thinking that’s internalized by everyone in the company.

[3 minute read]

The Importance of Internalizing Purpose

There are lots of ways a brand can support its customers, community, and the globe meaningfully. Cause partnerships, and donation campaigns, are all relevant PR campaigns, but they aren’t purpose-driven. Purpose-driven companies take the long view on purpose and impact.

Internalization distinguishes purpose-driven brands. When everyone from the Board, to the CEO to the janitor walks the talk of purpose, then a brand has authentically implemented a purpose-driven brand. This also means when employees face choices, they incorporate the purpose into their decision-making. This can include employee hiring, employee programs, purchasing, and product decisions. It also means employees feel safe in making a purpose-informed choice because they know they’re acting within the company’s ethos; their choice is supported and even celebrated.

 

Should Purpose-Driven Initiatives Even Have a PR Component?

The deciding factor on this issue is the “why,” behind the initiative. Every day, businesses from Fortune 500 all the way to emerging industries are making decisions that have a social impact, and most of the time, these decisions don’t get the credit they deserve. But it’s not one decision, or one campaign, or one person who makes purpose – it’s people moving in unison making decisions that impact millions.

For example, let’s take eggs. When you go to the grocery, you face a lot of buying choices. Cage-free eggs, organic eggs, local eggs, inexpensive eggs. Many of these egg producers are balancing product, purpose, and price. Even though the organic or cage-free eggs are more expensive, it’s likely the margins on those eggs are considerably less than the mass-produced eggs. It’s also very likely that the producers of the cage-free or organic eggs are making other choices that cost more – maybe they buy the more expensive food, maybe they supplement their electricity with solar power. These are all purpose-driven decisions that are really important, but they won’t make news. What may make the news is the impact or the multiple steps they take for their purpose might make news. The people behind these choices may have interesting stories to tell. There will be PR opportunities, but they require real storytelling. Therefore, it’s important to have experienced purpose-driven PR agencies who can tell ethos and purpose stories.

Brands should have PR at the table when incorporating purpose-driven ethos, but PR should be part of the purpose, not the purpose of the purpose.

 

Are Purpose-Driven Brands Born or Made?

Both and neither. Some brands are founded in purpose, we can all name a few. Other brands grow into purpose. Both are as legitimate as their ability to stick to their ethos. It’s important for both types of purpose-driven brands to be authentic. Just because a brand is founded in purpose doesn’t mean it won’t lose its way. And just because a brand develops purpose doesn’t entirely absolve them from past actions. All brands should be very careful with their initiatives because consumers are getting fantastic at sniffing out disingenuous missions. These disingenuous missions create consumer distrust and may even run afoul of today’s cancel culture. A brand is better off doing nothing than taking on duplicitous or insincere purpose-driven initiatives.

 

If your company is considering a purpose-driven plan, please download our guide and call us. We can help you and your team navigate the exciting opportunities – and avoid the pitfalls – for purpose-driven brands.

GLOBAL HYPERGROWTH STARTUP LEVERAGES TECH PR


TO CHANGE THE NARRATIVE WITH TECH CONSUMERS

THE PR CHALLENGE

A creative global AI powered content creation and niche content app seeks to create awareness around product launches and existing properties to increase consumer awareness and increase brand value to enhance investment negotiations. Our nimble team works alongside this hypergrowth technology company to create a lasting impact.

THE PR SOLUTION

We conduct a thorough brand audit to identify key messages, over-arching themes, and storylines for both a consumer PR campaign and an investor PR campaign. We align brand messages with cultural overtones line gender, and equity alongside technology themes like AI, content creation, and global access that strike a chord with journalists.

We create on-brand digital assets and make recommendations to existing assets to support the messaging and develop stakeholder engaging campaigns to launch four product launches within 8 months and pen many thought leadership pieces that appear around the globe on some of the most trusted news outlets in the world.

Our media relations strategy develops general population topics along with pitches for niche interests such as gaming, entertainment, publishing, social media, and technology.

The consumer PR campaign aligns with monthly product launches, each with its own consumer persona and niche interests. We implement the campaigns with an emphasis on technology and entertainment media relations and we implement monthly owned media which aligns with campaigns and product launches.

PRODUCT LAUNCH PR STRATEGY


We develop campaigns with owned and earned media designed to increase awareness for consumers while creating interest with journalists.

TECH MEDIA RELATIONS


Our bespoke campaigns use the cross-over strengths of the brand and its global community to leverage media opportunities. We activate with multiple in-house spokespersons and key influencers.

OMNI CHANNEL STRATEGY


We recommend and implement an owned media strategy that complements business goals. We also review branding assets including the website and social media accounts, to unify the brand, eliminate consumer confusion with unified messaging.

EXECUTIVE THOUGHT LEADERSHIP


We deeply engage with executives and technologists to create a thought leadership campaign that advances key talking points in investor-friendly outlets.

THE KUDOS


“Our experience with Avaans Media was more than we could have asked for. Not only did you blow us away with results, we learned so much from your team of experts. I know we will work together again.” 
-Brand Executive

THE CRUSHING RESULTS

68 pieces of earned media


in global news outlets, not including press releases in 8 months

5.36 Billion 


Global Audience Size

.00003


Cost per person reached 

How to get in fortune magazine
how to get featured on msn.com

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.

DTC PR WITH RESULTS


If there’s one thing we’ve learned – it’s OK to be different. We’re not the right fit for everyone, but our differences make your results exceptional. Working with a passionate executive-level PR agency team is exhilarating. If you are in a hyper-growth DTC company, with ambitious goals, you’ve come to the right place.

No matter your objectives, competitive brand awareness, deep customer loyalty, investor attention, or brand awareness, acquisition, direct to consumer public relations is the most effective tool to build trust and awareness with consumers.

Our purpose is to make a meaningful, lasting impact on your business. Our extensive backgrounds give you a distinct advantage-fast.

As a modern PR agency, we use emerging trends, hard data, and emotional intelligence to create compelling PR campaigns for DTC brands.

We’re fiercely protective of your reputation, strategically creative, and tenacious in securing press coverage. Because we specialize in companies at the growth stage, we are solution-oriented and proactive.

We are a small house, a boutique firm. We work with a select number of clients who committed to growth to improve reputations, credibility, and brand trust.

 We go shoulder to shoulder with our clients, we’re all-in on your success. We dig in deep and proactively add value from startup through IPO. We’re a team of digitally forward big thinkers with an eye for detail. By diving straight into your purpose to find the connective tissue your clients or customers respond to, we develop noteworthy brands.

If this sounds like the kind of PR firm partnership you’re looking for, we’d love to talk to you too.

Los Angeles

New York

A SELECTION OF OUR D2C CASE STUDIES

DTC PR INSIGHTS

Breaking Consumer Product News

[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.