Now that cannabis is legal in nearly half of the U.S, American cannabis companies are facing something they’ve never had to face before: creating memorable and lasting brand identities. Legalization has created a need for brands for the first time among companies that produce, process, and sell cannabis and the green boom has birthed countless ancillary businesses focused on the cannabis space. As this industry moves forward these tips should help to create powerful, far-reaching, and long-lasting cannabis brands.
1) Identify Your Target Market
The variance in state laws ensures that, for now, companies in different parts of the country will have to target different consumers. For example, dispensaries in Illinois or New York with their highly limited patient lists will be targeting a very different consumer than a dispensary in Los Angeles. Additionally, as legalization spreads and public opinion shifts, businesses have the opportunity to target more demographics than are traditionally associated with cannabis. The customer base is greying as baby boomers increasingly discover (or re-discover) its medicinal properties, and women are increasingly becoming a consumer demographic. Are you consumer-facing or business-to-business? How niche is your product? How cannabis-forward are your ideal customers?
2) Center Your Brand Around an Idea, Attitude, or Persona – Not a Product
There are a lot of companies out there with names like Greenleaf Greenery or similar that seem to be trying to establish themselves as simply The Marijuana Company. This has worked for some so far in such a young industry, but in the long run it’s difficult to succeed and expand as a product brand unless you can actually establish yourself as the Marijuana-est of all the Marijuana Companies. There are hundreds if not thousands of cannabis businesses out there, so you need some other distinguishing feature for your company’s face. Nike makes money from selling shoes, but it sells athleticism and near-obsessive competitive drive. Gillette makes money from razors, but it sells masculinity. Apple makes money from computers and iPhones, but sells creativity and individuality. What are you selling?
3) Live Your Brand Identity
Your brand is more than your name and your logo. Yes, these are very important and should both be memorable and easy to understand, but your brand encompasses every public-facing aspect of your business. The design of your website, the content of your social media, and the look and copy on all of your marketing collateral should all speak in the same voice – whether that be quirky, ironic, professional, or clinical. Consistency is key.
4) Don’t Neglect Personal Contact
The web, social media, and the press are powerful tools to get the words out about your business, but oftentimes personal connections still have the strongest and longest-lasting impact. No matter how sophisticated and successful your marketing, it only takes one bad experience with a sales associate to spoil everything. Conversely, even a business with a limited marketing presence can make huge gains with excellent human outreach. Be seen in your community. Make connections. Create positive, personal impressions.
Competition is only increasing in this industry. Entrepreneurs with new products and new ideas are entering every day. A strong brand can elevate your business above the crowd, and can serve not only to attract new customers but create loyalty among existing ones. The youth of the legal cannabis market, along with its legally enforced regionality, has meant that so far there are no dominant brands. Will you take the opportunity to be the first?