The Importance of Branding in the Cannabis Industry
September 10th, 2018
News, Top News
Valuations in the cannabis industry have largely been driven to this point by production capacity, with Canadian licensed producers leading the way in the ramp-up to full legalization there. With major markets now legalizing adult use cannabis, much of the investment focus is moving to retail distribution, marketing, and sales. The question has shifted from ‘How much flower can you grow?’ to ‘How are you going to sell your products to vast new markets of cannabis consumers?’ Retail branding is taking over, and investors might be wise to review corporate brand strategies in search of those that can differentiate a company in the fast-growing industry.
Rubicon Organics™, a private company poised to go public in the very near future, believes it has the strategy, brands, distribution, and products in place to be at the forefront of the retail cannabis wave. Certified organic cannabis products are a rarity, while consumer preferences are trending towards organics. That in itself is a differentiator, but there is much more to Rubicon’s brand strategy.
As the industry shifts from a strictly medical focus to one that includes the larger adult use market, the requirements for effective marketing are changing dramatically. Educating a medical patient about the effects of various strains and active ingredients is a very different task than getting your products to stand out on increasingly crowded dispensary shelves. Canadian licensed producers with established medical operations are recognizing this reality, as evidenced by the wave of partnerships with, and investments in, retail-oriented companies.
In a recent Forbes article discussing the present and future of cannabis branding, Olivia Mannix of the Cannabrand agency said (regarding recreational cannabis), “Products that are marketed for the effect or mood have stood out from the crowd. Also using marketing that is lifestyle based has been successful.” John Kagia of the analytics firm New Frontier Data noted, “Brands which have been able to effectively identify specific consumer segments and tailor their branding and marketing strategies to reflect the priorities and preferences of those groups are best positioned to compete as the market matures.
Rubicon Organics’ flagship brand is 1964 Supply Co.™ (the name is a nod to the year in which Dr. Raphael Mechoulam discovered the THC molecule), currently produced, branded, and distributed throughout the state of California. The brand projects a hip, relaxed California beach vibe, an image and lifestyle that has proven eminently exportable in many industries including movies, music, and natural foods.
1964 Supply Co.™ artwork
The brand works with world-renowned artists to create visually engaging artistic packaging inspired by the artist’s experience with a particular strain, differentiating the products and attracting the eyes of curious consumers. 1964 Supply Co.™ was also recently a major sponsor of the 2018 International Surf Festival in the Los Angeles area, a long-running celebration of California beach lifestyle featuring lifeguard relays, beach volleyball, and surfing competitions.
In California, Rubicon has multiple contract supply partners across the production sector who provide high quality greenhouse grown cannabis for their 1964 Artist Collection. Due to the tremendous reception by retailers for 1964, Rubicon is set to expand their portfolio offering this September with the launch of both their mainstream vape pen line-up and their ultra-premium category offering, the Black Box series featuring connoisseur grade, exotic cannabis strains which will be available in limited releases. Rubicon plans to bring the brand to Canada upon its anticipated receipt of of a producer’s license there. By 2020, the company expects to produce 67,000 kg/year of certified organic cannabis out of its hybrid greenhouse facility in Delta, BC.
The certified organic angle is important, and incredibly rare in the cannabis world. Upon licensing, Rubicon would become only the third organic Canadian licensed producer. Recent research by Hill+Knowlton Strategies found that 57% of medical cannabis users and 43% of recreational cannabis users prefer organic cannabis. Considering that only 2 out of 115 currently licensed producers in Canada are certified organic, the opportunity to grab significant market share with organic products is obvious and appealing.
Overall, Rubicon is combining the Southern California beach lifestyle with certified organic products to create a brand of cannabis products to reach far beyond Los Angeles. Already available throughout California and coming soon to Canada, Rubicon plans to spread the 1964 Supply Co.™ brand far beyond those markets. Utilizing Canada’s unique early mover position in the global industry as an exporter of approved products, and capitalizing on the combination of California cool, ‘BC Bud’, and certified organic, Rubicon is planning to become a major cannabis brand. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
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