So you’re looking to start a cannabis-related company? Congrats! You’re about to enter a rapidly growing arena, where competition is fierce and guidelines are blurry. You’re also not special… yet.
We say that with all due respect. But you’re looking for real, applicable advice. Since the legal cannabis industry has opened up, countless individuals and groups have thrown their hat in the ring — and a lot have failed. Even as the cannabis industry appears to be a powder keg waiting to explode with business opportunities and revenue, it remains a difficult market to survive within.
Federal law still classifies it as a Schedule I drug. State laws are cloudy and complicated. Consumers are faced with numerous buying options. The list of hurdles goes on and on…
However, you can succeed in this industry — but it hinges on several critical points, one being branding. If your brand isn’t connecting with customers, your bank account isn’t growing.
“Company branding is the first step toward turning a faceless individual into a pleased customer. When significant time and effort are invested in laying the groundwork for branding, businesses become better equipped to handle the competitive intensity seen in the consumer market.”
- Zach Shaw, Venta Marketing Content Creation Specialist
So before you ink your name to that building lease, or launch your website, let’s reel it back a few steps and run through the five most important items to consider when creating your cannabis brand.
1. Identity of Industry Niche and Target Audience
Every business is guilty of this, not just cannabis-related companies. It seems simple in theory, “my business works in XYZ industry, and my audience is ABC.” While that seems right on the surface level, below the waterline, it gets more complicated.
Industries are divided into many subgroups, with varying needs and behaviors. Additionally, these subgroups may feature completely differing audiences.
How do you interact with the cannabis industry? Are you involved in the cultivation process? Retailor? Auxiliary business? Taking a deep dive into these questions helps facilitate a better company identity and your place within an industry niche.
As for your target audience, you need to do some in-depth research. Analyze your direct competitors, what does their audience look like? How much engagement do they receive? What does your ideal customer look like? Who is researching related topics to your cannabis-related product or service?
This needs to be your starting point before you even think about colors, taglines, and the likes.
2. Know Regulations and Restrictions
What a loaded topic of discussion. The cannabis industry has so many hoops to jump through that doing your research is going to be a never-ending process. We’ve written several articles outlining those day-to-day regulations companies should be aware of. These rules often vary between states and are different in substance between physical advertising and online advertising.
Ultimately, before deciding anything regarding your branding standards and ideas, you must know what is legal and what isn’t. It’s always best to know before invested money becomes wasted money.
3. Be Original and Inventive
There is a quote by 1800s author and abolitionist Thomas Higginson that states, “originality is simply a pair of fresh eyes.” You’re at an advantage at this stage — you are able to see what everyone else in the market is doing. Examine it under a microscope, dissect it, and then be original.
Now that doesn’t mean you don’t use tactics that work or ideas that show promise among consumers, but you don’t want to fall in line and become cookie cutter. Competition is healthy, but imitation is insane. Not only are you going to fail to develop your own customer base, but you’re also failing to be true to yourself.
Today’s consumer buys because they see a direct benefit to them, but maybe more importantly, they like the company in some fashion. Maybe it’s the company’s messaging or their core values. Whatever your differentiators are, they need to shine through in your branding.
Originals get attention, copies get forgotten.
4. Avoid the Stigma
Stigmas promote inaccuracies and delay progress. Cannabis is steeped in a long history of negative propaganda. Along the way, specific stigmas became attached to the drug, such as the “stoner” and “pothead” mentality. This type of messaging and imagery has slowed the legalization of cannabis and helped mass majorities buy into falsehoods.
When creating your cannabis brand you must set standards that do not fuel nor pay any value to these stigmas — regardless of your place in the industry. Cannabis must be realigned in a positive light in order to see continued substantial growth. As a professional business, your messaging and imagery should depict cannabis as a responsible lifestyle choice, not a reckless low-lying drug activity.
5. Consistency Matters
This list concludes with consistency in strategy. Successful brands, regardless of industry, see audience growth because their developed brand remains consistent in messaging, mission, and momentum.
Developing a brand requires using multiple mediums that have a variety of digital environments. This translates to businesses needing to thoroughly plan out their brand strategy.
- How are you going to communicate on Facebook versus Instagram?
- How often will I publish content?
- What type of call to actions align with my company, but also convert?
- Which words do I want to consistently use?
- What imagery will I use?
Having clear guidelines to these types of questions will allow your business to build a consistent brand. In doing so, it is also important to keep in mind your company’s bandwidth capabilities.
Developing a successful brand requires dedicated time and effort, before launching, ensure that brand development isn’t an overlooked aspect of the company. While your service/product development might be the most important pillar, actions toward developing brand awareness can’t be left behind.
Need Help Building Your Cannabis Brand?
Elevato Marketing is a full-service digital agency specializing in cannabis advertising. With a team of experienced professionals, we are ready to help connect your products and services with the right clients. Contact us to see how together we can benefit your business!