Want to Know What It Really Takes to Grow A Brand in the Cannabis Industry?

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 bud 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 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 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 all great romances, not only is it reciprocal, it may even border on obsessive. Just think about your first real crush, how many hours did you spend thinking about:

  • What they liked, or didn’t like;
  • What made them happy, or didn’t;
  • Could you orchestrate a way to talk them again, and when you did, what would you say;
  • What were their hopes, their dreams?

Ok you get the picture, but every relationship is built on trust, so be honest about your purpose and don’t be shy about it sharing it. If you’re not honest about this stuff then your customers are going to find out—maybe not right away, but ultimately, it’s going to happen. And just like dating, if you break your promises, if you try to be something you’re not, if you just aren’t emotionally invested in the relationship, then you’re going to get dumped.

Send the Right Message to the Right Customers

Because it’s not practical to market to every individual, begin by placing your customers into several main groups that encompass your main customer types and then create personas that represent them. The personas should include basic demographic information like age, sex, education, location, and so on. But it should also include factors like:

  • What is a day in their life is like?
  • What are their pain points?
  • What do they value?
  • What’s important to them when selecting a vendor?
  • What are their common objections to buying?
  • Where do they go for information?

Creating these personas allows you to send the right message to the right customers. For example, if middle age professionals are one of your major customer groups, they’ll likely respond differently to an ad that’s targeted at younger people just entering the workforce. By knowing your brand and who you’re trying to reach, you can focus your marketing and advertising efforts appropriately. This saves time and money, something you can’t afford to waste as a business owner.

Conclusion

Growing your brand involves being honest about what you want your brand to represent, learning who your customers are and what they expect from you, and having the guts to tell your message. If you can keep this mantra of honesty and courage in all your marketing efforts, it’ll pay off. Don’t try to be something you’re not and your brand authenticity will show through. As a bonus, you won’t end up selling your soul—just your grow.

If you like what you read, then check out our podcast for more episodes on creative accountability and how to bravely develop a brand in the cannabis industry at creativebrandwarriorpodcast.com.

Lisa Woodford

CEO? More like Commander-in-Chief. Someone’s got to aim our team’s creativity at the right target, and Lisa’s the woman for the job.

Brent Martino

How can so much mystery fit into his earthly frame? Who is the man behind the unicorn mask? Is it a mask? The world may never know.