Getting noticed in a market where the landscape is still settling is challenging. And yet, you have no choice but to accept the challenge. To survive in this booming industry, you must stand out from the crowd and establish your cannabis business as a brand to be trusted. To get there, marijuana marketing must become part of building your budding empire.
In an industry with loads of pop culture references, associated symbols, and plenty of overdone canna-tations, you need to decide exactly what you want to be known for. When you’re part of a 12 billion dollar industry, ask how you can connect with those who want what you’ve got.
Once you’ve solidified your brand in your own mind, you need to plant it firmly in the minds of your consumers. Consumers are inundated with endless reels of ads, content, and symbolism telling them where to buy their cannabis products. Your job is to help make the decision easier.
Having a great product isn’t enough to guarantee success in your cannabis business. To experience the highs and avoid the lows, understand what makes branding and marijuana marketing work long-term.
In a relatively young market, even with plentiful regulations, there are many ways to market your brand – you may just need to think outside the box.
According to Philip Kotler, often referred to as the father of American marketing, “The art of marketing is the art of brand building. If you are not a brand, you are a commodity.”
Defining your brand should be your highest priority after your license and facility.
Your brand should represent you – not your idea of what the market wants. The cannabis market is young and still finding itself, and yet it’s already overflowing with pot leaf and mandala logos.
You know you best of all. Think about why you got into this industry. Then come up with a symbol and brand name that represent you and what you stand for, not necessarily the product and industry you’re working with. Being authentic and personifying your brand is the best way to make your mark.
Take time to ponder the future of your business and consider the three most important pillars of branding:
All of this information can be used to breathe life into your brand. Be honest. Customers will hold you accountable.
A logo shouldn’t be an afterthought or a rushed decision. Your logo is your unique brand identifier. Choose one that resonates with you. A logo is something you’ll have to look at and live with for a long time.
Consider where your logo will be seen. In a dispensary, consumers don’t always get the opportunity to browse for their preferred products, so being different and embracing bold colors and design helps your brand stand out.
Be sure to pay attention to regulations in your state governing marijuana marketing and advertising. More than half of the states that have legalized cannabis also have restrictions on digital advertising, like making sure no cartoons are used as they are seen as targeting children.
In the world of branding, there’s a big difference between inspiration and imitation. Steer clear of overused symbols and metaphors and don’t be tempted to follow trends. Pot leaves, mandalas, green crosses, or plays on “canna” have been so widely used that they’ve become generic.
Be wary of restricting your future business with your choice of symbol or brand name. Your business may change over time, particularly if your state’s legislation changes. If you currently operate in a medical-only state, you may want to branch into recreational later, so don’t select a logo that limits your brand.
Microbranding is a trick used by sellers of bean-to-bar chocolate, single-origin coffee, jars of local jam, craft beer, and artisanal cheese – and it’s a smart trick that works.
Microbranding includes giving brands or graphical personalities to different products within your core offerings. For example, New Belgium Brewing’s menu of craft beers include ales with different personalities, charicatures, and logos to match. From Voodoo Ranger to Day Blazer to Old Aggie, New Belgium has used microbranding to personify their products and make each feel uniquely special.
Microbrands are often local or serve niche markets. Craft cannabis farmers are typically committed to doing business locally and on a small scale using sustainable and organic practices.
Whether you’re cultivating, manufacturing, or selling retail, microbranding turns your products into Pokémon – everyone wants to collect them all… and the swag that goes along with each, too.
Understanding who your products are for is an important part of the branding equation. Females consume differently than males, while consumers of different ages show an affinity for different products, too.
Know yourself, your product, and the feeling you want to convey. As marijuana marketing is so tightly regulated, you need to be resourceful to create awareness for your brand.
Take a look at some of the longer-lasting businesses in states that legalized early on. They’ve lasted for a reason – and marketing is a big part of that.
Brand your website, menu, clothing, all printed materials, and packaging. Packaging should be visually and tactilely pleasing. If you are not a vertically integrated business, make sure your brand lives on wherever your products go for manufacturing or sale.
Keep your brand’s essence flowing and on-theme. Incorporate brand colors into your interior spaces, even if subtly.
Decide on your voice. Do you lean counter-culture, or mainstream in your messaging? You’re talking to someone – who is your ideal customer? Make sure everyone you want to reach feels included, not just the people in your local community if you’re trying to build a bigger future.
A consistent tone builds trust and credibility. Educate employees about your brand message and how to represent it when they’re working for you. Employees should know what you stand for and why it matters. Delivering on your brand promise should be as natural as breathing for them, but that behavior starts with you.
Selling is more than just the transaction that happens at a POS. It starts the moment someone hears about you and your brand. Create a runway to sales and business longevity by becoming a presence in the industry.
Become a familiar voice on podcasts. Get yourself booked on a few or create your own. Be willing to educate and establish yourself as a reliable industry resource while building a listening community.
Remember the rules around digital advertising – your marketing can’t sell products, but it can create brand awareness. Use various marketing channels for indirect marijuana marketing.
You can market to budtenders who’ll be selling your product so they’re fully equipped to sell your product and answer customer questions. Send your branded packaging and marketing materials to dispensaries so they can utilize it and pass it on to customers.
Stand out in the minds of your budtenders and reap the rewards. Swag isn’t seen as marketing, so feel free to have some fun with it.
Imagine a map of the U.S. lighting up like a pinball machine when cannabis is legalized in every state. Before every state says “Yes!”, there’s every possibility a tilt will occur that decriminalizes or legalizes cannabis nationally.
If you’ve been paying attention, you know there’s the possibility we could reach that watershed moment sooner rather than later. Politics aside, future marijuana marketing parameters will likely resemble those for alcohol and will start to be sold legally across state lines. Position your brand with the power to expand.
As you look to the future, you may want to expand into new verticals. Don’t over-compartmentalize or lock yourself in by creating a logo that’s tied to a specific location or medical cannabis when you want to eventually get into recreational.
Leverage your brand by keeping its theme a strong, consistent, and recognizable thread throughout each enterprise.
Love your brand. Deliver on your promises. And don’t advertise what you don’t have or can’t do. Marijuana marketing isn’t about smoke and mirrors. It’s about truth and education. Build a brand that best represents you and you will connect with the consumers who want to buy your product.
Higher Yields Consulting knows the challenges of branding and marijuana marketing in an industry still finding its legs. For help defining your brand and building a marketing strategy that works, reach out to us to schedule a free consultation.
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