4 Effective Ways to Build a Standout Cannabis Brand
As the retail cannabis market becomes more crowded, it is more critical than ever for your brand to stand out from the competition. While the quality of a product is important, quality branding can be the difference between making it big or drowning in the noise. Here are some key factors to consider to take your cannabis brand to the next level:
1. Focus on health benefits.
Take a page out of the Whole Foods playbook. The myriad products sold there have garnered the attention of consumers through health-conscious marketing, and cannabis companies would be wise to tap into this trend. Cannabis products provide consumers with a natural plant-based experience, which is, in many ways, healthier than beer or other alcohol-based products. For example, most cannabis products have fewer (if any) calories compared to their alcoholic counterparts, and the psychoactive compounds in cannabis have been shown to be non-toxic while alcohol is a proven neurotoxin. In addition, cannabis has proven medicinal benefits and has never been medically linked to disease or death.
2. Be educational, but not condescending.
Although cannabis is becoming more widely consumed, there are still many potential consumers who are fearful of cannabis because of past stigmas, stereotypes and misinformation campaigns. Educating this audience on the growing body of science that is dispelling these myths can give consumers the confidence that cannabis-based products largely formulated using natural terpenes and nutrients are not the boogeyman they were once made out to be. The key is educating them in a fun and non-condescending way that doesn’t feel forced or inauthentic. Doing so can help brands grab the attention of new consumers who consider themselves part of the “mainstream” crowd and haven’t yet adopted cannabis as part of their lives.
3. Embrace vibrant packaging and trend-forward design.
When cannabis first started to become legal, most cannabis companies marketed their products using stereotypical stoner culture design elements -- marijuana leaves, smoke traces and psychedelic colors. However, over time as the medical marijuana market matured, cannabis companies have evolved to embrace the Apple approach to product design; overly simple, clean, and sterile -- as if their products belonged in a hospital. Often companies' branding gets lost in between the two extremes.
To find your sweet spot, don’t be afraid to experiment with a style that speaks to the community your brand is intended for, rather than a style that tries to emulate the look and feel of the 1960’s stoner culture or the medical marijuana movement of the early 2000's. Focus on what’s hot in the mainstream brand design now but be willing to evolve with the times. Smart cannabis companies should approach branding more akin to modern adaptable brands such as Lululemon, Adidas or Pharrell Williams.
4. Have an authentic mission.
Today’s consumers, particularly millennials and younger generations, care almost as much, if not more, about what a brand stands for or what its social mission is rather than the product itself. Tom's Shoes, REI, Honest Tea and other mission-based brands appeal to this socially conscious audience not because these companies say that they are doing good in the world, but because their purpose-driven missions are truly authentic and evident in every touchpoint with the brand. Cannabis companies can tap into this same type of brand ethos by picking a cause that is aligned with the brand promise, ensuring that any business decision takes into consideration how it might impact the authenticity of the company’s social mission. Doing so will help the brand build a loyal following, while also working to make our world a better place.
Today’s cannabis consumers are faced with choices, so the vibe your brand portrays is of paramount importance. Be sure to connect with them and touch on all points above to ensure you are sticking out from the crowd and gaining a competitive advantage over fellow brands and products on the shelves.