A brand is defined an intangible marketing or business concept that helps people identify a company, product, or individual.
You might think about it as a logo. But think about the Nike swoosh, the BMW medallion, the McDonald's golden arches, Apple silver matte. They're so much more than logos, these symbols represent culture and reputation, they're something familiar or aspirational, but something you understand innately, and immediately when you see their logo.
So what is behind these iconic brands and how can cannabis businesses build brands that consumers want to be a part of? And, how can you apply these lessons to your own business.
Live the Brand: the simplest way to build a brand is to live that brand yourself. I think the best example of this in cannabis is Berner and Cookies. Berner built a brand around his LA, rap-culture lifestyle. He built a following and now he is poised to be the first US cannabis industry mogul to be brand-building outside of North America.
How did he do it? This is obviously oversimplifying, but Berner went big and all in on his brand. His strategy is based on sneaker-culture, and it's genius. He is the face of his brand and the music he and his community love drive the culture that people want to be a part of. People don't just shop at Cookies for weed. They shop at Cookies (and wear Cookies merch) because they identify with the brand. And, at the heart of the brand is the man and the culture.
How can you do it? Ask yourself this question: are you selling products, or are you selling an intangible feeling that people can relate to? If you want to be in the product business, then get into e-commerce and turn and burn until you can sell. If you want to build a brand that customers identify with, recommend and flock to (see #2)
Be the Face of Your Company: No one knows the story better than you do. I see many cannabis founders and CEOs still sitting on the fence about personal use and not sharing their WHYs with the world. Any of us who got into cannabis for money has long since gone broke, so if you're still here you've got a story to tell. I think Rosie Mattio is a great example of showing her cannabis use as a part of her healthy, kick-ass CEO lifestyle. But, let's look to the mainstream for an example. Sara Blakely created Spanx because she wanted to wear white pants without lines and she thought other women would too.
How do they do it? What the cannabis PR mogul Mattio has in common with Sara Blakely is that they show their lives and their connection to the products and their businesses. Rosie shares her cannabis use, she celebrates the culture of the industry and she's not afraid to be 100% authentic even when the chips are down.
How can you do it? Come out from behind the camera. I know this is so scary. But, those who want success will push themselves outside their comfort zones. Talk to the camera, be awkward, tell your cannabis story (as its evolving), share your values, bring your community into your struggles. If you want to be Nike or BMW you'll need millions for advertising, but if you want to be Spanx (Blakely is a billionaire), you'll start making those stupid reels and put your voice out there to represent your brand.
Pick a Target Audience, and Build Loyalty: Gone are the days where "weed sells itself." To become a trillion dollar industry, it's time to put thoughtful marketing behind everything we do. And that starts with choosing your customers. If you think that your product is for "everyone ages 21+," then I would challenge you that it's for no one. Cannabis runs the risk of becoming commoditized unless we communicate its value to new consumers. One brand I think is doing a great job at connecting with a target audience is Miss Grass. Their products are perfectly curated for a millennial woman and their branding is sleek, sophisticated and irreverent. The brand seems like it was created by/for instagram.
How do they do it? They created an ethos before they created a product. Miss Grass started out as a newsletter and then became an information website for women interested in cannabis and wellness. The founders were the target audience and lived that Cali lifestyle along with the influencers and on-trend staff they hired. Finally, they took the brand experience they already created and they put it into the products they sell at dispensaries.
How can you do it? Pick an audience. Might I suggest focusing in on wellness consumers (harder to reach, but much longer ROI). And, don't create anything that's not for that audience. If you turn someone off with your marketing, it will likely be because they are not in your audience. Once you hone in on the people that are obsessed with your brand, and create everything for that audience without worrying about who doesn't like you, you will start to grow a community of support for your business.
Alright, that's all I have for you today folks. I am starting a Business Building community on Hi-Curious where cannabis creators and brands are working together to make better content and break through the barriers that hold them back from building meaningful brands that connect with consumers rather than becoming commodities.