For anyone who works in the increasingly competitive cannabis industry, brand promotion is important for ongoing success. Only through effective brand promotion will your company achieve brand recognition, which, in turn, leads to brand loyalty—and brand loyalty is easier said than done. In the modern cannabis space, customers have an increasing number of choices where they can spend their hard-earned money.
Regardless of what segment of the industry you work in, your company has a brand that requires regular promotion to remain competitive. Brand promotion should be a standard part of daily operations, and most of it doesn’t have to be difficult. There are numerous ways to promote a company brand, so let’s discuss several good ones.
Promoting brand awareness begins with the actual brand. This is an area where there are no shortcuts, nor should there be any compromising when it comes to the expenses involved. Rather than coaxing a friend with marginal graphic design skills to come up with something, spend the money to hire a professional with a track record of successful promotions (and an awesome portfolio) for creating successful brands—someone who is also skilled in effective re-branding.
Fortunately, there are talented marketing and merchandising professionals who have considerable experience with branding; there are even cannabis-specific branding companies that can help you build a great brand. A strong brand can mean the difference between success and failure in a highly competitive market segment that offers so many options for consumers.
An effective brand name should succinctly communicate to the public what a company does, whether it’s product or service oriented. Word economy is important, so the name should include the fewest number of words as possible. As well as word economy, the graphics should be effective and simple. The goal of a brand is not to win an art contest but rather to create a memorable image and name. A good brand name and image should be original and not infringe on protected material from another well-established company. Trademark and copyright provide protection to proprietary intellectual property, so trying to piggyback on the success of an established company would be a grave mistake.
Many good brands reflect the industries they serve, and the cannabis industry is rife with popular words and terminology that lend themselves to clever branding. Those who have been in the cannabis industry since its inception have no doubt seen the use of marijuana leaves used extensively in branding. The image is distinct and quickly brings to mind a plethora of cultural innuendos. The old axiom that “a good idea is rarely original,” holds true with regard to the marijuana leaf image. It was a great idea but has been used so extensively that many companies now shy away from it in an effort to be original and not clichéd. The marijuana leaf has been overdone so much that other brand images may prove more effective and compelling for brand recognition.
Armed with a good graphic image and name (one to three words maximum), and a good brand is essentially complete. All that remains is putting it to good use in a variety of ways to gain market share and recognition.
In the cannabis industry, companies want to promote their brands in a variety of ways, some of them quite different from others. For instance, a cultivation or extraction company may not want to plaster its brand image across all of its agricultural and manufacturing buildings. Even with the American public’s increasing acceptance of cannabis as a viable industry, a minority remains that is staunchly against it. The cultivation and extraction operations will want to remain discreet and promote their brand name in ways that target more refined brand promotions. Growing large quantities of potent flower and creating massive amounts of high-dollar concentrates can lead to security issues and the ongoing threat of theft. For these reasons, a highly visible brand on the brick-and-mortar end of operations is undesirable. A company might as well just put up a sign that says “We grow a lot of great marijuana right here!” Obviously, this isn’t desirable for a cultivation company, and their brand visibility will take place elsewhere.
On the flip side, cannabis dispensaries and adult-use stores will want high brand visibility on their buildings for brand awareness and recognition. These businesses want to attract customers. If the dispensary has multiple locations, it will want to place brand signs wherever local ordinances allow. Certainly, the storefront and sides should carry the brand, as well as curbside branding—if allowed. When a company has an established name and reputation, it will want a recognizable brand to attract its established customer base, regardless of location. What a good dispensary sells in one store, it will sell in the others, so brand recognition will ensure impulse shopping, much like fast-food restaurants like Chipotle, Chick-fil-A and The Cheesecake Factory locations attract diners from an established customer base.
Once brand creation is complete, where is the best place to put it besides brick-and-mortar dispensaries and adult-use stores? Outside of the physical locations for cultivation and extraction facilities, brand placement and promotion should go everywhere possible. Certainly, it should be prominent in all advertising for the business, as well as on email signatures, letterhead, and business cards. It never hurts to display the company brand on shirts or uniforms worn by company employees. Anyone who visits a dispensary should receive a warm, professional greeting, “Welcome to (name of business and brand), how can I help you today?” Likewise, upon exiting the dispensary, every customer should hear, “Thank you for visiting (name of business or brand), we look forward to seeing you again soon.”
Since it’s free advertising, a brand should go on just about any store products sold within. Certainly, it belongs on textiles like shirts, jackets, shorts, caps, and beanies, but branding can go far beyond that. Pint glasses, lighters, bongs, pipes, dab rigs, and product packaging should all have prominent branding. Don’t send customers home with their purchases in a plain bag, use a colored, branded bag. This provides the opportunity to supply a store phone number and address. You never know who the store customer may encounter after the sale, and assuming the products are good, the brand will help promote later sales once the goods have left the premises. Word of mouth goes a long way in the cannabis space. If someone receives inferior products on posts a negative Yelp review, it can hurt a business. However, if the purchase is high-quality and the shopping experience is positive, positive word of mouth will promote increased sales and new customers.
Brand placement and promotion can also extend to special events and sponsorships. Whether it’s a music event or festival sponsorship, providing attendees with special offers and branded promotions will almost guarantee new customers. Don’t forget about the most celebrated day of the year for cannabis businesses. On 4/20 be sure to promote your brand or hold a special event, especially in an area where partygoers can indulge in your company’s products. Good cannabis and concentrates coupled with good times in a festive atmosphere will help take a company brand to the next level.
A good deal of thought should go into any company brand. An attractive, succinct brand that is memorable and communicated the company’s products, services and purpose will lead to brand recognition, which in turn leads to brand loyalty and a solid customer base—and that’s all that necessary for a successful cannabis business.