6 Branding Mistakes to Avoid as a Cannabis Company
Published on 8/26/20
Updated Jun 7, 2022
With cannabis legalized for adult use in 19 states and U.S. territories, for medical use in 37 states, and a handful of states poised to end prohibition either this year or via the 2022 midterm ballot, it's safe to say that the American green rush is in full swing. As more states open up legal cannabis markets, long term cannabis users and cannabis newbies are trying to get in on the profits, and serial entrepreneurs are looking to cannabis as the next significant investment. Needless to say that legal cannabis is a bit of a loudly mooing cash cow at the moment. There are billions to be made in the industry, and more and more folks are trying to get their little chunk of it.
However, it's frequently much easier said than done to become a part of the legal industry. Just because you were able to acquire a state license or open a grow house doesn't mean that your business will find a foothold in the burgeoning industry. That's where branding comes into play. While it might seem like slapping a weed leaf and a few marijuana puns on a bag of bud is enough to entice cannabis smokers, the cannabis business is hypercompetitive, and branding is as essential as any other industry.
With so much competition, confusing regulations, and the ever-evolving nature of the legal weed industry, it can be hard to figure out how to set your brand up for success.
Luckily, we've been around the block a few times and picked out 6 of the most common legal marijuana business branding mistakes to avoid when starting - or expanding - your cannabis company. Here are some branding tips to help you set yourself apart from the pack and carve out a space in the overall landscape of the legal cannabis industry.
Avoid Common Cannabis Tropes
One of the biggest mistakes legal cannabis brands make is trying to pigeonhole their consumer base. Yes, cannabis culture is authentic and could be a big draw for a specific subset of cannabis users, but these days, marijuana is going mainstream - and your business should too. Your messaging must be better than the sketchy burnout slinging weed on street corners for ten bucks a pop. You need to convince customers to pay you more for legitimacy, quality standards, and legality.
Recent data suggests that consumers across age, gender, and political affiliation are buying more weed than ever, with women and senior citizens often leading the way. Although some people will undoubtedly want to see tie-dye tapestries and a Grateful Dead soundtrack at their local dispensary, many others would instead not feel like they're stepping into their cousin's basement to buy bud. Weed branding is powerful, but it's no longer the end-all-be-all for the average cannabis user. Putting puns, weed leaves, or heavy stoner slang in your brand is far from original.
Of course, every situation is different, and if you come from generations of Humboldt farmers or toured with Willie Nelson, targeting tried and authentic stoners might be a perfect fit. However, if you want a broad customer base, make a brand that appeals to the general public instead of post-grad potheads.
Find Your Voice
Like any business, selling cannabis or cannabis products is about standing out from the competition. Whether personality is paramount in differentiating your company, social media, packaging, or the product itself, persona cannabis is quickly going from an outlawed narcotic to a regulated product; the marijuana market is inundated with new competition. From rappers and rock stars to career investors and social media entrepreneurs, the weed industry constantly struggles for engagement and attention.
Instead of following the current market leaders, give your brand a unique perspective and voice that will carry over from your web presence and marketing to the product itself. Anyone can produce weed, but originality will sell it.
Ditch Outdated Websites
We live in a hyper-connected world, and a functional website is necessary for outreach, information, and acquisition. If you don't have a functioning, up-to-date, well-designed website, you're doing your brand a significant disservice. More people are connected to the internet now than at any other time in human history. Take advantage of that and give your brand a signal in the digital noise. Coming from the black market cannabis industry, many newly minted legal marijuana brands have eschewed a traditional web presence to focus on social media.
Even though Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok are great ways to entice engagement, having a current and fully updated website with product info, availability, and even engaging content or blog posts will bolster your brand and give you alternate avenues to showcase what makes your company unique.
A good website should be a landing page for your brand and a jumping-off point that pushes consumers to follow further, both for social media and business inquiries.
Quality Cannabis Deserves Quality Visuals
Once you get the website up and running, the next step is to populate it with some interesting and eye-catching content. That's where this step comes into play.
Whether it's on your website, social media, YouTube videos, or in-store displays, selling cannabis is much easier with some visual incentive. If you grow and sell flower, that means gorgeous, detailed shots of buds dripping in trichomes and sprawling photos of greenhouse grow rooms.
If you specialize in concentrates, develop creative ways to showcase the glistening extracts and oils your company produces.
Especially in states where local regulations do not allow customers to open packages before purchase, marketing material featuring professional-grade photos will set your brand apart and leave prospective customers salivating.
Build Your Brand Across Platforms
Once you've identified your brand's point of view and voice, it is integral to make sure that style, substance, and perspective are cohesive across all platforms online and physical platforms, a brand that is easily identifiable from press releases, social media, or website is a surefire way to help acquire and keep loyal customers.
Be it a strong graphic design theme, a focus on specific aspects of the cannabis industry and culture, philanthropy, or social justice, having a complete brand identity tethered to something beyond just flower or vape cartridges is integral to standing out in the crowded marijuana marketplace. When using other platforms like Where's Weed, it's crucial that your customers can pick you out from the competition.
Cut Out the Click Bait
Creating original content like blog posts, YouTube videos, and in-depth social media posts are a great way to attract interest to your company. If you're going to focus on content marketing, though, it is essential to focus on quality over quantity.
In the current era of constant in-your-face advertising and brand exposure, you must make sure that you reach your audience without inundating their emails, social feeds, and inboxes with continuous spam.
After all, nothing turns off loyal customers more than click bait advertising.
The Bottom Line
Making it in the rough world of business isn't for everyone, let alone folks trying to carve out a space in a niche as uber-competitive as legal cannabis. But carving out that niche for yourself is very far from impossible.
As long as you're willing to put in the hard hours, trust smart people aside from yourself to contribute ideas and make decisions, and follow advice on branding and owning your identity in the cut-throat world of legal weed, you'll like do okay for yourself!
Do you have a few other secrets to ensure a marijuana brand thrives in the crowded legal cannabis market? Share your favorite tips in the comments below!