Cannabis Branding During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Cannabis businesses have been deemed essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a time of responsibility and opportunity for those in the industry to highlight their commitment to their communities by continuing to serve them while implementing safe operating procedures. Cannabis brands who do the right thing and stay the course will be rewarded for their dedication to responsibility and hard work after the virus is gone. The cannabis industry will be called on again to help micro and macro economies recover from the financial and economic damage of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Most of us didn’t envision a time when cannabis dispensaries would be on the shortlist of businesses (alongside grocery stores and pharmacies) to remain open during a viral pandemic. Cue 2020 and dispensaries in all cannabis-legal states are operating in some format.
Thankfully, people who use medicinal cannabis are able to get the products they need. Likewise, recreational users continue to have access in states where adult-use is legal. As our health crisis continues, states are taking a financial body blow. Ongoing tax revenue from cannabis — and the jobs it provides — are a significant boon.
There’s an opportunity to be a good steward in your community — not only by keeping the supply of cannabis flowing safely — but by helping in other ways. Regardless of your place in the industry, pitching in can make you feel good while giving your brand a chance to show up as one of the good guys in a bad time.
There are several phases that brands and consumers are likely to experience as we navigate this difficult time and adjust to a new normal. Here’s a look at the landscape, what to expect, and how to think about cannabis branding today and moving forward.
COVID-19 Cannabis Branding in 3 Phases
The COVID-19 pandemic touches everyone. Millions have lost jobs, and many small businesses are unlikely to recover. Worse, thousands have lost loved ones or have themselves become ill. Life has been upended as we adapt to everything from social distancing to homeschooling and DIY haircuts.
The measures for dealing with this crisis are different from state to state. Patience and emotional bandwidth are being stretched as some struggle to adapt to policies and recommendations that can be hard to keep up with on a day-to-day basis.
Through every phase of COVID-19, cannabis branding needs to embody one indispensable quality: empathy. Your brand must tune in to the concerns of your customers and extended community and find ways to constructively address them.
Phase 1: The Adjustment
Currently, parts of the population are still in the COVID-19 adjustment phase. Some people are trying to come to terms with what’s happening. What can your brand do to help consumers and communities when it comes to adjusting to our new landscape?
First, let consumers know you’re open. Place an announcement on your website and signage at your storefront. Reassure customers that you and your supply chain are implementing the most hygienic practices for their safety and that of your employees.
Elevate your brand’s image by setting a good example. Implement (and make consumers aware of) delivery, drive-through, and curbside pickup options as allowed by your state or city.
Phase 2: The Peak
In areas of the country entering the peak phase of the pandemic, many people are trying to figure out how to balance work — or lack of employment — and home life with no real sense of when this will end. How can your brand physically and mentally help?
As people increasingly live life online, there’s a chance to connect with them through social media. One cannabis company, Papa & Barkley, is offering wellness support through its “Well-Connected” Instagram series.
Many customers, including medical patients, find themselves both financially strapped and hesitant to venture out too frequently. If you own a dispensary, consider offering bulk discounts, within the legal limits of course. Such incentives allow consumers to stock up in a single purchase so they can stay home and stay safe. Your brand can also offer special hours for medical patients only, many brands do this outside of the industry. Special hours for the more vulnerable population should be a no-brainer for brands offering medical product.
COVID-19 is also creating high anxiety including concerns about whether there are adequate resources to deal with the virus. Some cannabis enterprises are helping in ways that include making and distributing sanitizers, providing PPE, and of course adding a positive economic impact that helps allow many communities to still be solvent. Many communities rely on sales taxes for their budgets.
Phase 3: The Recovery
Eventually, we will get to the recovery phase. However, there isn’t going to be a single day or week when we declare victory over COVID-19. We’ll likely be asking ourselves “Are we there yet?” as we test the water one toe at a time. With this in mind, how will you create a collective sigh of relief with customers?
Think ahead about how to redesign or improve health and safety practices in your dispensaries and other operations. Consider how an all-cash business might be made more sanitary or even “no-touch.”
Remember that we’re talking about human behavior and emotions alongside economics. Empathy will remain your most reliable guide.
Being There for Your Community
Although mainstream acceptance of cannabis is growing, some continue to look askance at the industry. Now that your business is considered “essential,” you have been gifted a special opportunity to show up as a leader and an engaged member of your community, mobilizing to solve problems.
Cannabis branding in the time of COVID-19 doesn’t have to do with how cool your packaging is or what your logo looks like. Become an indelible brand by earning a reputation as a company ready to roll its sleeves to help out. You don’t have to do something grand — even small acts of thoughtfulness will be appreciated.
Overall, the cannabis industry is in the enviable position of doing well during this time. By all appearances, the industry appears poised to survive and thrive.
Still, it’s important to remember that everybody does well when everybody does well. Ask yourself what you can do today as well as after the virus has run its course. Can you help with jobs? How can you contribute to the economic and social landscape long-term? Remember that when you have someone’s back, they’re likely to have yours too.
What We’re Doing Now
Here at Higher Yields Consulting, we provide education on standard operating procedures (SOPs) for use by dispensaries and cultivation facilities to keep employees and consumers safe. Our design-build team is outfitted with masks and has access to worksite sanitation. To minimize contact, team members work in alternating shifts.
Taking each day as it comes, we continue to be transparent with our clients. We are dedicated to informing clients of how the evolving COVID-19 situation affects specific areas of the industry, including cannabis branding in the best and worst of times.
Do you have questions or concerns about your cannabis business during these uncertain times? We’re here to help. Feel free to reach out to us to schedule a free consultation.