cannabis branding
4 easy steps to get your brand known and grown

The Insiders Guide to Specialty Cannabis Branding

Cannabis has grown gorgeous green buds forever, so why in the world would it need a brand? Between the expanding crafted cannabis market, the legal framework protecting small cannabis business, and the millennium mindset of knowing your producers, the time to brand cannabis has never been more important. Branding agencies will tell you that there are multiple steps you need to take in creating a strong cannabis specialty brand, such as unique positioning, or creating captivating visuals. We have compiled this knowledge for you in our Four Easy Steps Guide that will help you tell your story, elevate your brand, and further your company’s reach while providing real industry examples from successful cannabis specialty brands like the grower members of True Humboldt.

“Branding is how you tell your story. Marketing is compelling people to take part”

– Dustin W. Stout

Cannabis has taken centuries to refine, and it has taken people lifetimes of cultivation to understand, so it makes sense that today’s cannabis branding matches its modern-day use. Consumers everywhere not only seek the year, vineyard and grower of their bottle of wine, but the cows, dairies, and farmers of their cheeses, and this new version of a craft-seeking society welcomes cannabis into their curious mindsets too. Consumers want you to tell them your branded story and help them become a part of your brand’s inner world.

One of the top storytellers of this crafted cannabis model is True Humboldt, the co-op branded organization of the Sun Growers Guild, which is a partnership of cannabis farmers in Humboldt County dedicated to helping their farmer members compete through co-op modeling and specialty branding. Our interview with True Humboldt’s Operations Manager, Chrystal Ortiz, will show you what they are doing to help brand their members products, and what they foresee in the cannabis branding future.

Brand it and they will come

Branding has affected cannabis throughout the ages. From the first mention of cannabis as a medicine in 2737 BCE by Emperor Shen Neng of China, to the 13th century’s 1,001 Arabian Nights describing hashish’s intoxicating and aphrodisiac properties, cannabis branding has spanned thousands of years and has even included the propaganda of the 1936 reefer-madness that still plagues our modern-day society. For certain, cannabis has seen its fair share of messaging for most of recorded history, but this is a pivotal time in man’s documentation of cannabis since our “Millennium marijuana” is being compared to many of the everyday items that the average consumer seeks to buy.

True Humboldt understands telling your story and why it matters in this moment of cannabis history and Chrystal from True Humboldt sheds further light on why specialty branding matters now more than ever…

“The timing is now, through the 80’s and 90’s it was all about getting the prices down and the yields up, and now we have come into the place with the craft movement, with the slow food movement, the co-ops, the craft beer market. What we have right now at this moment in time with cannabis, if we can get support from the regulators, is this opportunity to capitalize on that movement, and that momentum, and build the entire California industry based upon the small farmer, the craft farmer, and the family farm. (For) small farmers to be able to be successful, branding opportunities and niche opportunities, niche manufacturing, and niche marketing, it’s bigger than cannabis, but we have a chance with cannabis, we have this opportunity to set these policies in place for everyone. If you build it, they will come.“

Question for True Humboldt: What is the most important part of specialty branding for small and legacy cannabis businesses?

“The most important part is being able to tell your story. The ability to tell your story, and share what makes your cannabis so special. By allowing our individual farmers and farms the opportunity and the time to develop their own brand identity, their own story, the end goal is that we have a county full of brands and labels just like Napa, or Sonoma or the Champagne region and individual families of producers.”

Chrystal at True Humboldt has let us know that the time for specialty branding is now, but how do you brand it so that they (the consumers) will come? This is where our Four Easy Steps comes into place.

Let us guide you

One way to know how to tell your story is to know where this specialty culture is going. Once again, we turn to True Humboldt’s forward-thinking approach and asked Chrystal a couple of questions to help direct your future branding messages…

1. Know your unique position

Understanding this will help you set up your specialty branding process, so first ask yourself these three questions:

  • What makes your product better than others on the market?
  • How is your cannabis product unique?
  • Is there something about your cannabis that consumers can’t get from any other source?

This is just the start of your specialty branding journey, but knowing your audience will help further your planning and delivery.

2. Know your audience

Again ask yourself these key questions:

  • Who wants to buy your cannabis product?
  • What need does your cannabis fulfill for them?
  • What part of your cannabis fits into their lifestyle? (essential for the crafted-cannabis brands to know about their customers)

Knowing your customer’s likes, dislikes, pains and joys, and telling your story around their life choices will help place your cannabis at the forefront of your customers purchasing options. But these beginning steps are not all it takes. You have to tell your story to sell your story.

3. Tell your story

Start with these simple but effective questions…

  • Who are you?
  • Where are you?
  • Why and how did you start your brand?
  • Why do you offer these products?

The more you grow your story throughout your brand, the more you will personalize your brand with consumers, which leads to an emotional connection within the buying decisions they make.

Question for True Humboldt: What is the most important part of specialty cannabis branding for small and legacy businesses?

“I think it’s mostly been driven by consumer awareness and by the impending permits. For farmers to be able to come out of the shadows and get a permit for cultivation. Cultivators have been the last ones to be regulated, so with the potential for regulations and for a real permit process, that is what gives the farmers the opportunity to start to brand. Once that happened, when the farmers wanted to put their picture on something and wanting to tell their story on Instagram, then we got the consumer saying “Hey, I want to know where my cannabis comes from. I don’t want to just get it from a dispensary anymore, I want to know who’s farmed it.” So consumer awareness has been a big a-ha moment.”

Question for True Humboldt: What is coming down the pipeline for the future of cannabis branding?

“California, especially in the emerald triangle and Northern California, has between fifty and eighty years of experience with this plant, and most of these mountain medics have been making medicine and products that most dispensaries didn’t have a market for, and now that is definitely changing. Some of this magic and wisdom that is out in these hills is coming and creating a (specialty) space in the marketplace.

For many people (legacy farmers) the branding is not such a concern, but I think that their gonna be surprised when they find Humboldt is no longer the commodity place anymore and that we are the specialty crop, they are going to want that branding and that power of a brand.”

This leads us to the heart of specialty branding… how do you create something that will tell your story in a way that connects with your consumer and brings them into your brand’s inner world?

One way to know how to tell your story is to know where this specialty culture is going. Once again, we turn to True Humboldt’s forward-thinking approach and asked Chrystal a couple of questions to help direct your future branding messages…

4. Keep them engaged!

stunning visuals – clear communications – regular engagement

A couple of the best ways to keep consumers engaged are also the simplest ways to gain and keep their attention, by providing stunning visualsclear communications, and regular engagement

It’s all about first impressions and your product only has a 2–3 second window on the dispensary shelf to make a first impression, so your product needs to sell itself through stunning visuals. Do not shortcut your branding here! To make your product’s package effective, strategic and attention-getting make sure your visuals and communication is clear, concise and easy to understand. Consumers want your product to inspire them and teach them, to use it, smoke it, eat it, and buy it! But this isn’t just about the logo, oh no, this goes for all your packaging, and your website, your emails, your online and mobile apps, your social media accounts and all your printed materials. There is a lot of information that you will need to share through each channel and each is unique in its own medium and best practices, so be clear, be unique, be yourself and most of all, be consistent.

Once you have those down, or you have hired an agency to brand them consistently for you, the next level of specialty branding is one of the most fun parts of any campaign, keeping the customer engaged. This is where your personal love of Instagram or your newest camera will come into play. Work to keep telling your brand’s #BehindTheScenes story. Regularly offer new items or products, and share new ideas for how to use them, or work with an agency that will help you build it so they will come back again and again. Keep your brand freshly picked in your consumer’s minds and stay on top of this monumental harvest happening in the specialty cannabis market.

To sum things up

Many in the industry already advocate for what is emerging in the specialty branded cannabis environment, such as Troy Dayton, the CEO of The Arcview Group, a research and investment firm focusing on the cannabis market. Troy states, “There’s a brand boom going on right now, particularly in preparation for adult use legalization here.”

We know that our Insiders Guide to Cannabis Branding has provided a simple, yet effective process in getting your own specialty cannabis product known and grown, and our industry insiders have told you that the specialty branding process is happening now. So if you are ready to start your specialty brand and want a partner with decades of successful delivery and one that understands the craft cannabis and specialty branded marketplace, CannaVerse is here to help. Let our knowledge help lead your next great product into the new millennium of finely crafted cannabis brands.

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