Brand Fizzle: Is Cannabis Branding Failing?
Our friend Thom Baccus at Cannabis.net points a spotlight at a vexing conundrum for the cannabis industry: consumers are not responding to the $Millions being invested in branding.
Baccus says, "A new survey is out that confirms what every other study has reported in the past about cannabis branding and marketing, it just doesn’t matter to consumers, and they don’t remember what your logo, your colors, or your packaging looks like a few days after buying your product. The three factors they 100% do remember are:
1. How much your product costs,
2. How well did the product work, and
3. Where they got the product."
"Branding is not even in the top 10 results when cannabis consumers listed reasons they purchased a certain product… Over 4 out 5 consumers (82%) said a brand’s reputation did not matter when making a final purchasing decision"
This theory (which is about adult use only, not MMJ, and let's focus on the US market because Canadian cannabis branding is dead by regulation.) suggests that for most people, the decision about which cannabis product to buy is strictly practical. Consumers want to go to their usual spot, don’t overspend, and get reliably high. This is consistent with previous studies:
A 2020 Article suggests that lack of consistent dosing and performance is just plain confusing. It is titled. “The Cannabis Branding Myth - Consumers Don't Know What They Bought or How Much They Took”
THE DEEP DIVE
There are many branding challenges in cannabis:
Cannabis is an Agricultural Commodity. I can think of only 3 Ag Brands: Chiquita Bananas, Dole Pineapples, Green Giant… Those brands spent MILLIONS over decades on mainstream channels - - cannabis can’t do that.
Gaps in Growing Seasons: A brand is a promise that the company will deliver what it promises. If a brand can’t deliver product month after month. Cannabis (flower, anyway) is a fresh product and with gaps between growing seasons - - consumers might forget and buy whatever the budtender*** tells them is "close"
Regional Loyalty: You might be inclined to support products from your state – but in cannabis, all product is in-state. You might be loyal to your region (think about how Trader Joe's shelves their wines... by country, by state...) But how does one choose from all the Humboldt brands … Or all the Sun Grown brands… HOW DO YOU KNOW WHICH IS WHICH? *** We’ll get back to that. ***
Strain Disconnect: Any difference between sativa and indica is now heavily debated. But more importantly, "strains" are NOT completely aligned with companies - - whose White Widow or OG Kush did you buy? Do you care? If you simply like White Widow but don't care who grew it... then your brand loyalty is not with a company.
Product branding is not allowed (fully) on mainstream or social media - - a massive disadvantage
Product branding is all stored inside the case or behind the counter – you can’t interact with product in the store except through a budtender... ***
What should brands do?
TELL A STORY:
FIVE YEARS AGO I read the founder's story about Papa & Barkley (Papa is the founder's father who was ill and used cannabis to feel better; Barkley was Papa's faithful dog)... I read it once AND NEVER FORGOT IT - Papa & Barkley's is a brand with a big heart
I read the story about Lowell Farm’s Jail Billboard years ago and remain loyal to that brand for its courage and commitment to social justice
FOCUS ON *** BUDTENDERS ***
Create events specifically for Budtenders
Have a party for Budtenders (don't you dare charge them for it, and publicize the hell out of it)
Create Training Programs for budtenders
Create or sponsor "Budtender of the Year" awards
Cash ‘em out: Pay the budtenders who sell well. Nothing communicates like $
INNOVATE THE BUSINESS MODEL:
INSTEAD of paying for shelf space, offer to pay for some of your dispensary’s advertising
FOCUS ON DISPENSARIES WITH POPULATION DENSITY:
Work your ass off to get into EVERY dispensary, especially the urban ones where there are the most people