Good branding: A key to success in the 2018 Canadian cannabis market
With the legalization of cannabis just around the corner, 89 licensed producers (and counting) will need to find ways to make their businesses competitive in what is predicted to be one of the most lucrative industries of 2018.
Quantity, (take the 800,000 sq.-ft. “Aurora Sky” facility owned by Aurora Cannabis in Edmonton, for example) quality, and innovation are the primary factors that will affect the economic health of marijuana companies.
But another important element that LPs will have to consider – especially in winning over new, untested demographics – is branding.
The consumer landscape for cannabis thus far has been dominated by two easily- identifiable brands: the pot shop lifestyle, and the white-collar, pharmaceutical alternative.
But there are others out there.
There are women, baby-boomers, and public professionals who indulge or have interest in recreational cannabis, but don’t necessarily feel comfortable walking down to their local dispensary in broad daylight. They need a brand that represents them.
Toronto-based cannabis mentor Modern Leaf plans on turning this issue into an opportunity in the coming months.
Modern Leaf Director Preston Drummond said that his organization puts emphasis on education, touting workshops that feature a 60 minute session followed by a 30-minute Q&A. The aim is to dismantle the stigma surrounding cannabis, and to help these new users to make informed decisions when purchasing cannabis.
“We’re going to be working very hard to bring people the most exciting, free and informative education before we even make a penny on it,” Drummond said.
“It is a calculated risk, but we want to show our customers value, and gain their trust.”
The group is also in the process of acquiring leases to set up schools in Winnipeg, Regina, and Saskatoon.
When cannabis is legalized, and the rules are established in each province, Modern Leaf will have a better idea of which cannabis products they can advertise, promote, and sell on their website.
And the products they do select for ads and distribution will undergo in-house batch testing.
“We won’t put a single product in customers’ hands that hasn’t been tested by us first,” Drummond said.
The strong desire to build trust with the consumer comes from a passion that the core of a business needs to have to be successful, he said.
“A brand needs to convey emotion”.
“There needs to be an immediate sense from the customer that says ‘this brand is right for me,’ and that creates recurring revenue.”
Cannabis Communications co-founder Katie Pringle agrees that passion is a critical ingredient in building a brand and with keeping up with the cannabis movement in Canada.
The communications agency helps LPs create ambassador programs, build powerful campaigns to bolster reputation, and to increase their online presence through influencers, bloggers and social media.
“With legalization, to a lot of consumers, it’s going to look like a light-switch came on in terms of brands flooding the market,” Pringle said.
“So having a strong brand position and understanding their value and what differentiates them is going to be key in competition.”
Katie Pringle, Co-Founder of Cannabis Communications
And unlike most other markets, cannabis has the additional challenges of dealing with advertising restrictions and the laws of each province.
But at the end of the day, Pringle said it’s about aligning company values with those of your desired audience.
“It’s not about everyone, it’s about providing for your core customer, she said.”
Since cannabis is in such a hastened start-up mode, many managing directors of cannabis operations are the investors who are more in touch with business than they are with marketing.
This, Pringle said, is where a communications firm can step in and relieve some pressure.
“Our strength is in relationships,” she said.
“Given how murky the industry around cannabis is, partnerships, and collaborations is really a cornerstone of the industry right now, so as an agency that’s deeply routed, that’s what we’re able to bring to the table.”