From Building a Brand to Brand Recognition – GPS Retains The Leading Subject Matter Experts on Cannabis Marketing
As a leading global cannabis marketing agency, we find it critical to define cannabis marketing before we begin discussing a cannabis marketing plan with our clients. In order to best manage expectations for success, any cannabis marketing company worth its salt would of course first define its playing field.
Broadly speaking, cannabis marketing is about making the effort to set specific parameters for “Where to Play” and “How to Win” and then using these guide-posts for running your business. In this way, marketing cannabis is no different than “marketing” any other product in that marketing means integrated leadership and strategy over Products, Place, Price, and Promotion.
Further, marketing cannabis, like with other products, means having oversight and stewardship of “the Brand” as far as communicating and reinforcing the overarching brand meaning to the various target audiences of its products. Unlike most large consumer brands, in the cannabis space “Brand” meaning is something that will often require the approval of ownership since many cannabis brands are founder-driven.
No, not the amazing British band. In cannabis marketing, “the Who” is the audience that buys your products and advocates for your brand among its peer group. Before any cannabis marketing agency can successfully build a winning marketing plan, first and foremost is having a detailed understanding of who you want to buy your products.
Is your audience primarily male or female? Are they married with children and pets? Are they younger or older? What are their education and income levels? Where do they live? What do they do for fun? What are they into?
These are all important cannabis marketing questions which will drive downstream decision making within the context of the cannabis marketing plan. Given this, it’s critical to take the time to deliberately research and define your cannabis brand’s target audience. Not taking the time to clearly understand your “who” as compared to that of your competitors is a costly mistake that will continue to cost you throughout the product’s lifecycle.
Are you into ingestibles, inhalables, topicals, or all of the above. If you’re offering ingestibles, do you plan to offer edibles (candies, chocolates), beverages, tinctures, capsules, powders, etc. For inhalables, are you selling vapes, concentrates, flower, etc.? A cannabis marketing company clearly has a lot of options to consider when it comes to product forms to support in its cannabis marketing plan.
More than deciding in which product form to play, one of the most important and often overlooked areas of cannabis marketing is having an articulated value proposition for each of your products. A value proposition, or reason to buy the product, is most advantageous if it can be differentiated in nature either based on product benefits (be a healthier person, feel it faster, etc.) or product features (low sugar, fastest acting, etc.). Pro-tip: Emotional benefits are best!
Some other factors to consider when crafting your cannabis marketing value proposition are new features, competitive comparisons, conveniences offered by the product and product uniqueness (only product that does xyz). Including these sorts of items in your reason to buy your product, increases the likelihood of sales. Once defined (and perhaps tested via marketing research), the product value proposition serves as the foundation for “promotions” pertaining to the product and can last for years.
As an example, Bounty paper towels has positioned itself as “The Quicker Picker Upper” for years and has enjoyed success playing off of this feature-driven, “faster absorption” value proposition. Another, more emotional value proposition that has been around for over 15 years is McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It’ which plays to the enjoyment of the experience of satisfying you and your family’s hunger.
Beyond “Promotion”, the product value proposition also serves as the foundation for the remaining decisions to be made around Place and Price.
Where do you want to sell your cannabis products based on where your target audience will be? For THC products, the answer is generally fairly simple: in the Dispensary. However, other factors such as “which dispensaries” can be very relevant depending on your products and value propositions.
For CBD products, the answer is generally much more complex. Some mass merchandisers and grocers are selling some CBD products, but most are not. Natural and organic stores typically offer an abundance of CBD products, but shelves are generally saturated in many cases so what makes your product unique?
Online sales are a large part of most cannabis marketing plans for CBD brands. While there are many unique challenges that must be navigated in order to successfully sell online, it can be done successfully and is generally a content-driven effort.
Will you be marketing cannabis as a premium brand, middle of the road brand, or value brand? The pricing strategy is critical as it not only must be financially viable, but it must also directly fit with the brand’s image in the mind of the Who.
There is certainly a range in quality and consistency for most cannabis products, and there are many consumers who are willing to pay extra for that quality and a consistent brand experience. That being the case, the economy isn’t in great shape so there are also many value shoppers in the cannabis market.
When pursuing a premium-priced brand strategy, brands should be mindful that brands priced 20% or more above the average category price will face significant challenges.
SWAG! Everyone wants it – and it’s really cool if you have a cool brand, but there is much more to promotion within the context of cannabis marketing.
Some promotional considerations for the cannabis marketing plan: Where and how will you market your cannabis brands? What are the details of the promotions included in your cannabis marketing plan? Are you engaging with a cannabis marketing company to produce events? Do you have a content writer or producer? What unique content does your brand naturally support?
Advertising (aka “promotion”) is heavily constrained for cannabis marketing as THC cannot be advertised and CBD faces many restrictions and bands. Given this, creativity and content are kings when it comes to marketing cannabis and this importance should not be overlooked or undervalued.
Content in the form of events, blogs, educational literature, videos, infographics, unique sponsorship tie-ins, contests, etc. should generally be highly considered when marketing cannabis. In addition to being highly engaging to your target audience, these sorts of programs allow you with consistent content to support organic SEO (search engine optimization).
Since paid search is not an option, cannabis brands should consider immediately working to establish organic SEO leadership via a commitment to investing in website content for SEO purposes. Generally in the form of blogs or videos, strategic SEO content will take 12-24 months to begin significantly paying off, but if you don’t start, you never will realize the important benefits. Better to get started right away.
As a leading global cannabis marketing agency, Gateway Proven Strategies (GPS) has onboard marketing consultants with over 20 years of experience helping some of the world’s largest brands successfully navigate turbulent consumer packaged goods and Rx sales channels; further, the founding CMO of Charlotte’s Web (Ashley Grace) is a member of the GPS consulting network.
Known for our leadership in the global cannabis sector, we are well positioned to help clients create and execute winning cannabis marketing plans and programs. “Where to Play” and “How to Win” are the two most important questions that our cannabis consultants help brands and manufacturers address. We focus on helping craft specific actions pertaining to the target audience (the Who) and to corresponding Product, Place, Price and Promotion plans and decisions.
A primary focus on the cannabis marketing plan should be on crafting a differentiated value proposition for each brand that can serve as the foundation for various promotional efforts. By having a winning value proposition in place, product promotional efforts are automatically more likely to result in a higher ROI for the brand.
The old saying in entertainment that content is king could not be more true than it is for marketing cannabis. Given the limitations and restrictions on THC and CBD, one must be highly creative and have a commitment to content to win in marketing cannabis. In addition to organic SEO, content will help drive social media engagement (likes, shares, comments)
GPS is here as a cannabis marketing agency to help our clients successfully enter the cannabis space. With our deep knowledge of cannabis, CPG, and Rx marketing, we are well suited to help companies who are looking to enter the cannabis space do so successfully. Marketing is often overlooked or undervalued, but by focusing on the basic principles of Product, Place, Price and Promotion, GPS is able to provide winning cannabis marketing guidance.