We’ll give you a hint, it rhymes with calls. Cannabis branding, you know it’s a “real” thing when Adweek starts writing about it. Snarky sarcasm aside, there is something to be said when one of the most influential publishing platforms in advertising starts posting articles on best practices to brand your bud. And while this type of recognition is also vindication at the highest level (no pun intended), the legitimization of cannabis as an industry, while long overdue, is certainly not going to make building your cannabis brand easier. Cannabis is a billion-dollar industry; to think Fortune 500 companies and big pharma with their million-dollar marketing budgets aren’t going to be jumping on the Pineapple Express soon is not just short-sighted, but fatalistic.
Smart growers in the cannabis community know that once the federal government opens the commercial flood gates, their priority—in addition to growing healthy plants—will be nurturing brands that can thrive in an emerging market.
As seasoned advertising professionals (code for we’ve been at this a long time), both my co-author Brent and I have worked with clients from a wide range of industries from legacy brands to start-ups. And regardless of size, product, or service, we’ve discovered that the one constant across all good advertising is this: great cannabis brands don’t just know what makes them different, they celebrate it!
Federal regulations notwithstanding, should cannabis marketing be any different? We don’t believe so if your goal is to present an honest face to your consumers. It takes courage and a few calculated risks, but when cannabis brands are fearlessly authentic and creatively accountable, the risks are undeniably worth the rewards—just ask True Humboldt.
Of course, many of you reading this article have spent your days (years) developing your grow-craft, not managing national marketing campaigns. But that’s good, because while making a profit is important in any business, the passion you have for the product is what’s going to help you grow your brand without having to sell your soul in the process.
So, if you’re interested in developing a cannabis brand that can stand out among the competition, you may want to consider the following before you get started:
Be Really Clear About Your Purpose
Many people mistakenly believe a brand is a product or a logo, but that’s not the case. A brand is a collection of immutable characteristics that together represent a promise about:
- What your company does, creates, or offers that makes it awesome;
- Why everyone at your company wants to do, create, or offer this awesome thing; and
- Whether your company really cares if this awesome thing matters to its customers.
A clearly articulated, authentic purpose makes it easier for customers to understand what they can expect from a brand, especially when it’s unapologetically and proudly reflected in the logo, website, packaging, content, and throughout the retail space. But when digital and physical experiences aren’t consistent with what a brand promises or is so weakly executed that the brand message isn’t shining through, then it becomes harder for consumers to trust you.
Get to Know and Love Your Customers
Strong brands don’t just have relationships with their customers, they have love affairs. And like any great romance, brands that genuinely love their customers spend a lot time learning what really matters to them, information like:
- What does a day in their life look like?
- What are their pain points?
- What do they value?
- How do they decide if something is worth buying?
- Where do find the information they need to make decisions?
This may seem like a lot of effort, and it is, but when you know what matters to your customers it’s easier to understand how to live up to their expectations – which leads us to our last suggestion:
Big Picture, Personal Message
Once you start learning about your audience, you will inevitably discover that not every customer wants, nor needs the same thing at the same time. But you will also find enough similarities to begin segmenting these customers into major groups. Start with basic demographic information like age, sex, education and location, then blend in the personal information you’ve captured to create a big picture idea of your primary buyer personas.
From here you can focus your marketing and advertising efforts appropriately. Begin to develop personalized content that speaks to them, not at them, and deliver in ways they want to receive it – email, social media – heck, use carrier pigeons or drop flyers from a hot air balloon if that will delight them – which you would know if you did a good job building your buyer personas.
If really want to grow your cannabis brand so that it can thrive in an emerging and highly competitive market:
- Be honest about what your cannabis brand represents,
- Learn who your customers are and what they expect from you, and
- Have the courage to tell your message with unapologetic authenticity.
It’s that simple and that hard, and if you can manage that then you won’t end up selling your soul—just your grow.
If you enjoyed this article, then catch our podcast for more episodes on creative accountability, brand development and marketing in today’s cannabis industry at creativewarriorpodcast.com.