The first annual Cannabis Business Summit wrapped up today with an overview of how Cannabis companies should shape their brand and marketing strategies. Taylor West, Deputy Director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, led a session with Kali & Bridget from Agent 64.

Culture Movements Are Not Marketing Gimmicks

Bridget believes that Cannabis legalization is a cultural movement, which means you are now a part of the cultural movement.

“Culture movements define an idea on the rise.”

We have a huge responsibility to shape how the public perceives Cannabis going forward. Unlike traditional product marketing, which starts with the product, Bridget encouraged the audience to define their cannabis brand based on the culture movement and not on the product.

Integrated Marketing

I believe in integrated marketing, where every touch point from the front door to the website is shaped by marketing. Bridget spoke about the importance of looking at every single customer touch point and making it consistent no matter where you’re interacting with your customers.

Why Market Responsibly

  1. It’s The Right Thing To Do: We are building a brand new cannabis industry from scratch and we have the opportunity to be the example. Let’s skip the bad marketing to children from industries that came before us (Marlboro’s Joe the Camel).
  2. Don’t Screw This Up For Everyone: This is an industry that is in a very volatile position. Your work in the cannabis industry reflects on the entire industry.
  3. The Medical Credibility of Cannabis Is At Stake: Unless you are in Washington and Colorado, you are marketing a medical product. When you don’t market cannabis responsibility you are hurting the chances of people discovering or having access to the medical benefits of the plant.
  4. You Need New Customers: If you’d like to grow your business, you have to start thinking beyond your current customer base.

“Think about customers not in your traditional demographic.”

Think about marketing to women. Think about senior citizens. Think about health care professionals. At the very least–you need to not actively repeal these groups. At the most–you need to attract these segments to your brand.

Define Your Brand Promise

This is the most important thing you can do. Living and breathing your brand promise from CEO to budtender shapes your entire company.

Build Your Golden Circle: Define why you do it. Then how you do it. Then what you do. Simon Sinek’s TED talk explains exactly why you need to do this.

Marketing Strategies

This is no different than the marketing strategy process for most industries. If you haven’t been through this process before, find someone who has to guide you.

  1. Define your customer segments: Who are you going to talk to and what do they want?
  2. Find the white space: Where is there opportunity in the market that isn’t currently saturated?
  3. Figure out what unique about your brand: What do you stand for that other’s don’t? What is truly important to you?
  4. Define your brand promise: Notice all that research and thought you need to do before you could define this?
  5. Pick your target profile: What is the age, income, gender, location, etc. of your target customer?

Customer Retention

  • Customer surveys: Ask you customers how they heard about you. Why they choose you. Make sure you know what makes you different from your customer’s perspective.
  • Brand design: What does the design of your brand tell customers about you?
  • Customer database management: Do you know who your customers are and what they’re buying? Personalize your marketing to your customers exact needs whenever possible. Many companies wait until they are quite large to setup robust customer analytics, missing years of data that could reveal where and how they should have grown.
  • Online/social media: This is an industry that was used to darker corners. Today you need to take control of social media and your public perception actively. Options for paid social media are limited but that may not last forever. You need to build community now.

Responsible Marketing 101

  • Don’t Market to Children: Perhaps the most important thing to remember.
  • Don’t Market Like Children: Put forth a face that is professional and polished. If you take beer as an analog to cannabis, remember that no one is ever drunk in a beer commercial. Sell your experience. Your experience goes far beyond “getting high”.
  • Don’t Alienate 50% of the Population: You can segment your marketing without actively offending women. Women are actually more likely to have a chronic illness, more likely to try alternative medicines, and more likely to control a family’s medical decisions. Women aren’t decoration for your ads.

Example of Ad Using Women as Decoration instead of Potential Customers by Kandy Pens.

What They See is What You Are

No matter what you think your mission–what your customers see is what they will define you as. This extends to your logo, signage, employees, and more. You need everything that makes up your company to be true to your brand.

What They See is What WE Are

As an industry. All Cannabis companies are affected by the images being put out by the Cannabis industry. From legislation nationally to your home district, the marketing being done in this industry will affect how the Cannabis industry proceeds (or doesn’t). You have the power to shape our collective future so we hope you take it very seriously.

Photo from Barbary Coast MMJ Dispensary, San Francisco