Creating A Brand for Your Cannabis Company
What is a brand?
We’ve all heard the term, “brand,” used – but what exactly does it mean? Is it,
a) Your logo
b) Your product or service
c) How people perceive your product or service
d) An identifying mark made on a farmer’s livestock
Technically, the answer is e – all of the above!
A brand includes both tangible elements, such as a logo, product packaging, and promotional materials, and intangible elements, including the perception a customer has of qualities associated with the products or services you offer. The foundation of a great brand is often tangible, as the logo, messaging, and graphics created for your brand will be used to build your company website and promotional materials. However; it is the intangible elements, like the emotional impact your product or service has on a customer, that keeps your brand top-of-mind!
Your cannabis brand is who you are, who you want to be, and who you want your customers to perceive you to be – essentially, a brand is the promise that you are making to your consumers.
Why is a strong brand important?
Almost every marketing activity is impacted by a strong brand. Strong brands have a higher perceived quality, elicit a greater retention of messages, and gain more favourable reactions to price increases or decreases. Strong brands are associated with credibility, quality, and satisfaction – and typically receive increased customer loyalty and profits.
It is without a doubt important for your cannabis company to establish a strong brand; however, it’s important to remember that you cannot, and will not, be all things to all people. People enjoy cannabis for a variety of reasons, some may be looking for medical assistance to help alleviate symptoms of pain, and others are looking for an alternative to alcohol or a social enhancer. Your product or service likely can’t, and shouldn’t, speak to each target audience. Don’t worry – more on this later!
A glance at branding in the cannabis industry
Due to long-standing stigmas, and the changing legal landscape, it should come as no surprise that the cannabis industry faces many branding challenges. Despite being legal in Canada since 2001, medical cannabis has been largely kept out of conversations due to the “stoner” stereotype associated with cannabis; and recreational cannabis has been strongly associated with Bob Marley, the Rastafarian culture, and Cheech and Chong.
In recent history, medical cannabis companies have adopted branding strategies that are trendy (think, “Leafs by Snoop”, from Tweed), natural and outdoorsy (like Mettrum), and medical and scientific (we’re looking at you, Bedrocan).
Times are changing!
It is predicted by Health Canada that over 500,000 people will have medical cannabis prescriptions to help treat a variety of medical conditions including, but not limited to, chronic pain, epilepsy, PTSD, cancer, arthritis, and more, by 2024. Further to this, 18% of Canadians state that they use recreational marijuana regularly – and this number will likely increase once marijuana becomes legal! It will be important for cannabis brands to tackle challenges including stigmas and legalization in a way that sets them apart from their peers. Moving forward, establishing a strong presence in the cannabis industry will require more than a green marijuana leaf. Luckily, we can help you with that!
Branding your cannabis company
Before you define your target audience, or design a logo, you need to pinpoint who you are as a company. Key questions we ask cannabis companies at the start of any branding process are,
• What is your value proposition?
• How do you differ from competitors?
• What do you offer consumers?
• How do you want consumers to feel when they think about your brand?
Your brand should have a unique persona – and you should have a clear picture of who you are, what you offer, and how that positions you amongst your competition.
Are you looking to start a branding process for your cannabis company? Here is an example of a brand we created for Workplace Cannabis Consulting.
Knowing your audience
Customer experience plays a bigger role than ever before, and it is imperative that your cannabis brand represents your customer’s voice, and anticipates and satisfies their desires. It is often your customers perception of your brand that defines your brand, and having a clearly defined audience will help you to decide how you will communicate with consumers, and what platforms you will use to reach them.
Key questions to ask yourself are,
- How much are your target consumers willing to spend? There is a wide price range in Canada for cannabis and cannabis-related products!
- What are the habits of your target audience? Are they arthritis patients, mom-preneurs, stay-at-home dads, CEOs?
A company that produces medical cannabis for people suffering from chronic pain will likely adopt a much different branding strategy than a company looking to sell high-end cannabis pipes. Let’s take the alcohol industry as an example, in particular, let’s compare Corona, and Jameson Irish Whiskey.
Although Corona and Jameson are both liquor companies, they have adopted two very different branding strategies.
Corona prompts consumers to, “find your beach”, and uses a variety of marketing channels to encourage individuals in their mid-twenties to kick back, relax, and enjoy life – on a beach somewhere!
In contrast, Jameson incorporates heritage, with sarcastic humour, to encourage Generation X males to live a legendary life.
Can you imagine if these two companies traded websites? It probably wouldn’t make much sense. Similarly, your cannabis brand strategy should cater to the audience most likely to benefit from your products.
In 2012, Stats Canada broke down the percentage of Canadians who use marijuana (for recreational or medical purposes) by age to reveal the following:
- 20% of individuals age 15-17 use marijuana
- 33.3% of individuals age 18-24 use marijuana
- 15.6% of individuals age 25-44 use marijuana
- 6.7% of individuals age 45-64 use marijuana
- 0.8% of individuals age 65 use marijuana
Further to this, data from Health Canada indicates that as of December 2017, 269,502 individuals were registered to purchase medical cannabis.
This illustrates that the majority of cannabis consumers are under the age of 45, and many are consuming cannabis for medical reasons. Stats Canada also states that males are more likely to use cannabis than females; however, deeper insight and market analysis is required to effectively reach your target audience. One approach we like to use when helping cannabis companies identify their audience is to create target audience personas. A persona is a set of personality traits, attitudes, and values that you attribute to a specific target audience. By developing 3-5 personas for your cannabis company, you can more effectively deliver relevant content to those individuals most likely to purchase your products or services. To do this successfully, things such as age, gender, spending habits, interests, reason for using cannabis, and more should be taken into consideration.
Here is a brief example of a target audience persona that is relevant to the cannabis industry.
Example – Charles, the Cannabis Connoisseur
Charles is 30-45, and in many cases, has a family he is helping to support. He is not new to cannabis, and is not following a trend or fad. He works as a professional, and could be a businessman, realtor, lawyer, or doctor. Charles is willing to spend money on what he believes to be a high-quality product. When it comes to cannabis, Charles will be seeking a premium product that does not impact day-to-day activities. Although the market will soon be recreational, Charles will be looking to purchase products that are classy and somewhat discrete. As a busy professional, Charles will be seeking a website that is easy to navigate with product information that includes the strains and variety of products available to buy through a registered retailer. Products that could be desirable to Charles include cannabis, elegantly designed cannabis storage boxes, and more. Sophisticated and classic branding will appeal to Charles – think Jack Daniels Whiskey.
If your cannabis company has identified your target audience to be medical cannabis users who suffer from arthritis or chronic pain, Charles will not be a good persona for you! Each set of target audience personas should be customized to match your company’s and your product's unique value proposition.
We had the pleasure of creating a unique brand identity for Robinson’s Cannabis. Check it out!
Know your competitors
Simply knowing your audience isn’t enough. It is important to scan the competitive landscape, to see where there are opportunities to penetrate the market that align with the goals of your cannabis organization.
Choose your voice
Once you finalize your brand values, and select your target audience, it is important to determine the voice of your company. Much like a person, a brand should have a consistent voice, or personality, that resonates with its target audiences. If your voice is not consistent, it will lead to confused branding, which in turn, will lead to confused customers!
When discussing branding, Forbes encourages companies to think about a first kiss. Do you remember your first kiss? The answer is probably yes. What about your 3rd? That answer might be, “maybe”. Finally, what about your 10th? We’re going to guess that the answer to that is no. If a competing brand makes consumers feel the same way you hope to, and they entered the market first, it will be hard to make a lasting impression. There is a lot of choice in the cannabis industry, and it is important to identify a brand voice that helps you break through the noise.
Projecting your identity
You’ve defined your brand values, identified your target consumers, and established a voice that will reach those consumers while differentiating your cannabis company from competitors’. Now, it’s time to create your brand identity.
Your tangible brand elements should convey an image of your company, be consistent and easy-to-remember, and create a lasting impression. Your brand identity should reflect both who you are as a company, and how you want your customers or clients to think and feel about who you are as a company. At this stage, a brand logo, packaging, and promotional materials will be designed and created.
Consumers will judge a book by its cover
Although creating a brand identity is exciting, it should never be rushed! A recent study found that 36% of customers selected their purchase based on package design, 64% of new consumers purchased a product because of the package design, and 41% of consumers re-purchased a product because of good package design. Effective package design is a cost-effective way for an emerging brand to stay relevant!
There you have it, cannabis company branding 101!
How effective is your company’s brand? Are you reaching the right audiences? How do you stack up against competitors? Find out with our free brand consultation!