Want a Powerplay Cannabis Brand? Know Your Consumer
September 6th, 2019
App, Exclusive, News, Top News
With recreational or medical marijuana allowed in 33 U.S. states, about 224 million people now have legal access to cannabis. An April Hill-HarrisX poll showed that 84% of Americans now support legalizing marijuana, including 42% of respondents expressing their belief it should be legal for any use.
The growing approval rates for cannabis signal a shift towards understanding the multitude of beneficial uses for the plant and that the “lazy stoner” stigma is starting to finally fade. To cannabis product makers, that means branding is more important than ever to develop consumer loyalty.
Plenty of Opportunity
A burgeoning industry worth about $1 billion more than a decade ago, cannabis is arguably the biggest growth industry today, forecasted by Arcview Market Research to reach $66.3 billion by 2025. With that, long gone are the days of simply sticking a boring, green leaf or cross on a package and hoping for the best.
Today, companies are using thoughtful packaging that matches their brand’s image and the messaging they want to convey, while stirring visions familiar to the consumer. For example, an upscale product may use an elaborate metal or cardboard container similar to that of a fine bourbon that makes it approachable and enticing.
Products today are highly diversified, including topical creams and ointments, edibles, cannabis flower, bath bombs, beverages and many more. Within each product category, there is further compartmentalization into desired effects and, certainly, target demographic. For such a young industry, cannabis has spread out as fast as smoke from a lit pre-roll in a windstorm with more innovative products coming down the pipeline.
Companies have to succinctly dial-in exactly whom they are targeting with their brand. Is it men? Women? Baby boomers? Millennials? When consumers range from a 21-year-old male in the inner city to a wealthy elderly woman in Beverly Hills to a middle-aged farmer in Louisiana, there is a lot to think about when trying to capture share.
Built or Bought Branding?
The opportunity at hand is why dozens of celebrities like Martha Stewart, Joe Montana, Snoop Dogg, Gwyneth Paltrow, Willie Nelson, Mike Tyson and many more have jumped into the cannabis space. Getting a popular brand ambassador is one way to use traditional marketing to build a brand, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee success.
According to Alex Fang, CEO of California-based Sublime Canna, brand identity in the cannabis space is underpinned by user experience. Fang explained at a presentation earlier this year at the Kahner Global Cannabis Private Investment Summit that he believes it is a mistake to shoehorn an identity onto a brand without listening to consumer input.
Sublime Canna specializes in products that are appealing to the masses, yet very difficult to manufacture. For instance, when doing its market research, the company discovered that the orange Tic Tac, was the best-selling hard mint in the U.S., enjoyed from coast to coast by people of all ages. After more than a year of R&D, Sublime has brought a cannabis-infused version of the mint to market under the brand name “Dosies”.
Sublime has done the same thing with its cannabis-infused Ice Pops, inspired by the common shelf-stable freezer bars that you buy in store but freeze at home.
The company also offers vape and pre-roll products, but again separates itself from competition by the R&D legwork and manufacturing process. Sublime’s “Sneaker” is the world’s first chargerless vape pen. Its Fuzzies are the top selling infused pre-roll in California, containing a proprietary blend of ingredients including premium cannabis flower.
“While it’s inevitable that there will be some overlap to a degree in certain categories, we are building the Sublime brand based upon consumer feedback in some cases and where they have already spoken in others,” Fang told CFN Media. “We’re building a strong, durable brand that consumers connect with, not just jumping blindly into the market.”
A New Kind of Shopper
As Fang alluded to, brands today need to be attentive in their marketing and operations to connect with consumers. People today are more discerning with spending their money than ever before. Broadly speaking, the digital world gives people the opportunity to research a product (and a company) before making any decision on buying a product.
Millennials, categorized as people born from 1981-1996 (22-38 years old), have shopping habits that broke the mold from their predecessors. They wield a big wallet – buying power estimated around $200 billion annually – and an even bigger voice with their social media influence, so they must be considered in branding.
Marketing and sales are no longer unidirectional. Companies today need to have an infrastructure and open ecosystem that not only hears customer comments, but is reactive and nurturing to its consumers because it depends upon them.
“We built Sublime from the ground-up to be a consumer-first, diversity-forward company with products that appeal to adults of all ages. That’s what it takes to thrive in any market today, perhaps none more so than in the nascent cannabis space,” commented Fang.
In other words, the savvy 21st century company knows it’s not operating in a vacuum. It is wise to recognize that branding today is far different than it was when medical marijuana first became legal in the late 1990’s. Success depends upon identifying a market, developing a product that consumers can connect with and then adapting where necessary to expand if you want to keep customers coming back. Otherwise, they’ll simply go somewhere else.
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