Entrepreneurs across the country have jumped into the state-legal cannabis industry in hopes of getting their piece of what appears to be a lucrative pie. But despite cannabis’ popularity, the ‘build it and they will come’ philosophy does not hold true. Cannabis companies need to do what their counterparts in any other industry do, and that includes branding.
Yes, cannabis branding is a thing. It is a thing mainly due to state decriminalization that has given at least some legitimacy to growing, processing, and selling cannabis. State decriminalization has opened the door to licensing businesses. It has opened the door to advertising. Anything an entrepreneur would do in any other industry applies to the cannabis space. So branding is part of the equation for success.
It Used to Be Just Pot
For the record, I have never used cannabis in any form. I have never smoked marijuana, tried hashish, or taken a toke from a friend’s bong. But I knew a lot of kids in high school who used marijuana regularly. A lot of them kept using it through college and beyond. Back then, there were no brands. It used to be just ‘pot’.
There were not any medical cannabis pharmacies or recreational marijuana dispensaries back then, either. If you wanted a little weed for your Friday night party, you talked to a friend who had a friend who sold it on the street. All my pot smoking friends in high school had a favorite dealer. They knew where to find that dealer at a moment’s notice.
Today We Shop for Marijuana
My, how things have changed. In Utah, for example, medical cannabis is legal while recreational marijuana is not. All medical cannabis purchased in the state must be bought at a licensed medical cannabis pharmacy. Beehive Farmacy has two locations in Salt Lake City and Brigham City.
When a patient visits Beehive, they do not walk in with a prescription that is ultimately filled with a drug they have no part in choosing. Instead, they actually go into the pharmacy to shop. They have plenty of choices in terms of delivery method and dosage. They also have brand choices.
One of the brands Beehive Farmacy sells is Cookies. Imagine that! Where my friends from 40 years ago used to hit the street in search of pot, today’s medical cannabis patients can head down to the local pharmacy to shop for Cookies brand cannabis products.
All the Same Principles Apply
If you are tempted to believe that branding in the cannabis space is different compared to other industries, think again. All the same principles apply. The only difference between cannabis and other industries is perception. Cannabis is a controversial plant that garners a variety of opinions based on individual perceptions. Cannabis entrepreneurs need to keep that in mind for branding purposes.
Perceptions aside, the point of branding in cannabis remains the same. Branding is a way to distinguish one company from the next. It is the practice of revealing and promoting what makes a cannabis company different. Branding touches on a company’s values, mission, and purpose.
My take on cannabis branding is somewhat different because of the role my work plays in marketing. I get some of the branding choices made by companies heavily engaged in the recreational marijuana market. But I am puzzled by some of the decisions coming from companies that serve the medical market.
Regardless, cannabis marketing is now a thing. It will remain a thing as long as the states continue to allow medical and recreational marijuana alongside every other legal industry.