The cannabis industry is booming, creating new business opportunities and bringing in increased tax revenues for communities. The boom is largely due to the fact that laws are changing and the benefits of cannabis use for medical purposes are now indisputable. As the industry shifts towards legality, we are looking at the beginnings of a cannabis branding and marketing boom.
There’s been a quantum leap away from small, scale production and sales in dodgy locations. The potential for profit has caught the attention of many entrepreneurs who have seized the new business opportunity with both hands.
When the boom first began, the marketing efforts of entrepreneurs were largely focused on combating bias and dealing with negative stereotypes. As the market becomes more mainstream, businesses find they have to think about more professional branding and marketing to differentiate themselves from competitors.
More differentiation in branding
In developing their branding strategy, businesses are looking at their target audiences and deciding what they want them to think and feel. All marketing elements from signs, logos and business cards to packaging and store interiors go into creating a particular effect.
This strategy still involves reducing bias and making customers feel comfortable and safe but differentiation is beginning to matter more and more as competition increases. Businesses are increasing their efforts to make customers choose their brand over others.
A change in customers and demands
As customers become more knowledgeable, they also become more discerning and demanding. The days of selling a plastic baggie of cannabis with a hand-scribbled label to a stoner are long gone. The customer base now includes tired parents wanting to relax, baby boomers looking for relief from pain, parents whose children suffer from seizures and first-time users who want to try out products for medical reasons. Marketing to these customers is a whole new ball game.
Brands know that customers are more likely to connect with a message that depicts activities they are likely to do themselves. Cannabrand adverts, for instance, use images depicting lifestyles such as young people sitting around campfires or hiking.
Other brands are also opting for lifestyle oriented adverts while others focus on creating a more professional image by showing scientists in labs. Others cater to the ‘green’ market with a more rustic, sustainable living vibe.
Opportunities for growth in design
One of the biggest opportunities for growth, according to marketing experts, is in the design of cannabis dispensaries. The local community forms an important part of the customer base of a dispensary and so owners are designing their stores to appeal to the specific community in which they are based.
The old, often garish color schemes are being replaced. Cool blues, grays and other soothing pastel colors are being used more. Music, colors, and aromas are all being used effectively to create a sensory experience for customers.
The layout of stores is being transformed with showroom areas for consultations and other private, safe areas for quick access and exit. The layout of stores is designed to encourage consultations and browsing in certain areas and allows for customers to enter and exit quickly in other areas. These may be customers who have used an online app to purchase products and just need to drop in quickly to pick them up.
Products are being displayed in unique ways and customers are given the opportunity to browse through an increasing range of quality products.
Businesses are investing large amounts of capital in creating special spaces for their customers. Some offer luxury settings with chandeliers and glass while others may look more like a saloon with leather furniture and bar stools. Some look like luxury spas or yoga studios whilst others have a more homely, rustic appeal. Black steel and glass create a minimalist effect and some stores cater to high tech users, offering them the opportunity to browse through a vast menu of products on iPads.
Better crops and high quality, diverse products
Technology is having its influence on all aspects of the industry, from growing crops to how products are sold. Large indoor farms where the climate can be controlled are being used to produce quality crops.
Different strains are being grown with specific purposes in mind. Technology is being used to replace outdated and inefficient growing methods. More consistency in the growing of crops means consumers are more likely to receive products they can trust.
The range of products being produced is also increasing daily, including numerous edibles, sleek new vaporizers, extracts, oils, capsules, and lotions.
The sophistication in store design is being reflected in packaging. It is being designed to attract discerning customers with great attention being paid to every detail such as shape, size, and texture. Functionality is also important, especially because state laws are often strict when it comes to structural design. The packaging for edibles, for instance, has to be opaque so that kids can’t see what’s inside and be tempted.
More customer incentives and promotions
Businesses are keeping customers coming back for more by offering incentives. In-store promotions offering daily strain on sale and buy one get one free remind one of the promotions found every retail store. Just like a favorite fruit-and-veg store offering daily deals, a local dispensary may SMS daily promotional deals to customers.
Risks and rewards
Entering this highly regulated and volatile industry involves risks and rewards. On the downside responsible, cohesive, regulation does not exist yet. There is a lack of consistency when it comes to potency too and this is necessary for proper branding.
Many people still have prejudices and with disreputable suppliers trying to get their share of the pie, their fears are reinforced. One of the biggest marketing challenges in marketing comes from the fact that cannabis is still illegal at federal level.
However, more research is proving the medical benefits of cannabis all the time and more and more states are changing their laws. With opinions changing as positive evidence accumulates, perhaps we won’t have to wait for too long before the illegal status of cannabis falls away altogether.