10 Do’s and Don’ts for branding in the cannabis industry

We are absolutely breaking a serious federal law in US, in a very large way, yet by state law the State says nope its fine

The cannabis industry has seen explosive growth like never before in the past few years. While the industry continues its expansive journey, many cannabis companies are searching for ways to efficiently scale over. For companies looking to break into the cannabis market, now is the optimal time to correctly brand your services. 

With changing public perceptions, government restrictions, guidelines, and the added complexity of state vs federal laws, the industry is constantly laden with conflict. Companies trying to enter the cannabis industry face several obstacles, some of which include:

  • Ever-changing rules and regulations – The law remains a big hurdle. In most countries, it is up to the states to legalize cannabis and structure the regulations around it, and most of them have still made no progress.
  • Media portrayal – The stereotypes and negative connotations around cannabis continue to exist due to decades of misguided propaganda and misinformation from the media
  • Competition – The global cannabis market was valued at $20.5 billion in 2020, so there’s definitely a lot of competition coming your way.

Matthew Herrold, a cannabis and health marketer based out of the US, shares some Do’s and Don’ts to follow to successfully brand your company in the cannabis industry. 

Do’s:

  • Understand the law – Rules change among states and localities when it comes to marketing cannabis. Educate yourself on local regulations and be careful to follow those closely so your business doesn’t suffer from penalties. It is especially important to know who you can accept money from in cannabis marketing and what part of your business falls under federal jurisdiction.
  • Research your market and consumers – Before you define your brand, understand your target market. People use cannabis for a wide range of reasons. Spend time brainstorming your “ideal” customer – What is the person like? What activities do they do? Do they like exercising outside or do they go to the gym? Do they have a young family and want to protect them or are we talking about someone who doesn’t have a family and is looking for a partner so wants to feel handsome? It is important for you to focus on these things in order to figure out how you can communicate that our product will help the consumer in building the life that they truly want.
Yummy Karma is an all-female cannabis company which created specific branding to appeal to their female audience. 
Source – okwrite.co
MedMen not only provide what their consumers are looking for but also cleverly target unsuspecting cannabis consumers to appeal to a wider audience and help change what a typical cannabis consumer looks like. 
Source – marketing.sfgate.com
  • Focus on multidimensionality – It is essential to have an impactful logo and story behind the brand so that the consumers can build a deeper connection with you. In this day and age, it also becomes important to establish a strong online presence. Today’s consumers like to find all possible information online before talking to a representative of your business. As with any other business, you should have a professionally designed and updated website and frequently updated social media pages. Social media, in particular, is a great way to increase your brand’s exposure. However, social media can be very tricky to navigate for cannabis brands. As regulations change daily, it’s difficult to know what is okay to post and what might get your account banned. For this reason, cannabis brands are typically encouraged not to run paid ads on social media sites—but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of organic reach. Use platforms like Instagram and Facebook to build your community. For Instagram, it works better to have a personal account than a business account when it comes to cannabis to avoid shadow banning
Oldpal has an Instagram account that is visually appealing and post content relevant to the current situation. This helps increase their organic reach.
Source – greenentreprenuer.com
  • Educate, instead of selling – For cannabis-related businesses, The most important thing to keep in mind is that digital marketing should be used to educate your customers (not to push your product). Deliver valuable relevant content about cannabis, and include as much scientifically backed information to support it as possible. Debunking myths about cannabis will help ease the consumer’s tension over certain preconceived notions.
Weedmaps has a #weedfacts campaign which helped tear down common misconceptions.
Source – okwrite.co
  • Transparency – For emerging cannabis companies, transparency is the key. This means putting yourself out there and having a presence that says you have nothing to hide. Like we discussed in the previous blog post, compliance in cannabis continues to be a hurdle, and not being transparent with all your information leads to more doubt building and works against the progress of the industry. Include information about your owners and investors on the website, along with the address of your office and a phone number. Respond to questions on social media regularly. People want to know that it’s okay to buy from you, and there is no better way to prove that than by being transparent and reachable.
Koi CBD is one of America’s most trusted cannabis brands and their Instagram proves it.
Source – wittykittydigital.com

Don’ts:

  • Don’t misrepresent facts – Be honest, accurate, informative, and interesting. It’s important to provide accurate information to position yourself as a trusted source. Just showcasing the benefits of your services and products will not be enough. In the cannabis industry, it helps to prove your claims with links to relevant studies or content.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of your public image – Until a few years ago, the cannabis industry was a part of the black market. To sustain in this industry, your company must present a professional brand image. It is imperative your customers know that you are a legitimate business, not one that engages in shady practices.
  • Don’t fall behind on ever-changing regulationsGuidelines for cannabis marketing are continually changing, particularly when it comes to social media. As laws change, how you can market your cannabis business will change too, or you can risk getting banned and even losing your business license.
  • Don’t run paid ads – Google and almost all social media channels abide by the federal law. Since companies like Facebook are present on the stock market, they cannot legally accept marketing money from any cannabis company. Running most paid campaigns here will either be a waste of your money since the company will now feature your ads or will take down your accounts.
  • Don’t advertise to children – This one goes without saying, but companies should be very conscious about not include any types of branding that may appeal to children. Using cartoon characters in cannabis images can get your pages banned from social media. Always include a warning message that your content is only meant for people who are 21 and above. 
The packet on the right contains regular candy and the one on left contains THC that led to the poisoning of a two-year old
Source – cbc.ca

Brands looking to get into the cannabis industry have a lot to consider and a new perspective can always help. Let us know about other cannabis businesses that have been successful at branding in the comments below.

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