How to overcome the marketing challenges of cannabis brands

Christopher Eichenauer
Christopher Eichenauer
Executive Content Developer at Cannacular

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Marketing Challenges for Cannabis Brands

How to overcome the marketing challenges of cannabis brands

Cannabis Brands You’ve Been Warned

The buzz surrounding cannabis has never been higher. That doesn’t mean there isn’t trouble in paradise. There are unique marketing challenges that face cannabis brands in what is an incredibly volatile and novel market.

As a marketing team that has worked with dozens of clients across the country over the past twelve years we have seen the long arc of the market. No other industry has the challenges that cannabis does. We know just how difficult it is to build a new cannabis brand. And we know how hard it can be to market an established brand. It is a hair pulling experience. Still…

Branding is critical for cannabis, and many companies know it.

Why do we see brands failing? 

There are many reasons why. We designed this blog series to highlight and reflect on six of the key marketing challenges that impact cannabis brands in 2022.

As marketing is our key area of expertise, we want to speak boldly, and directly to the elephant in the room.

#1 Reason why Cannabis Brands Fail

It often boils down to poor effort and actively ignoring the unique marketing challenges in the cannabis industry.

As new states come online with medical and recreational cannabis, the volatility increases and novelty wears off in more mature markets. In our own home state of Colorado, the pioneer state, we have seen dozens of brands from growers to dispensaries falter and disappear. In an ultra-competitive market like California, or Oregon/Washington we have seen similar trends, what seems like a course correction from the tremendous growth. Yet, newer markets are on fire. State after state seems to blaze past sales records at a breakneck pace. 

Why has this happened in more mature markets like Colorado and California?

Cannabis is an ultra-competitive emerging market that has unique marketing challenges. Even in more mature markets like Colorado and California brands have failed to succeed.  Far too many brands relied on novelty to compete in the market.

Why does this occur? 

There are many reasons including market saturation, price wars, regulatory restrictions, gray market incursions, and handcuffed marketing efforts. It is only natural that cannabis brands would struggle to position themselves effectively in the market. Other industries do not have the variety of cultural stigmas, not the red-tape and regulations. Add in the immaturity of the market and you have a ton of resistance in the quest to build a memorable brand.

Cannabis brands often struggle with marketing challenges

Your brand is your most powerful currency with consumers

Branding is your currency in the pursuit of consumers. If there is one critical aspect that is gets overlooked in cannabis, it is branding. There is no question it is exceptionally difficult to tread water in a volatile and emerging market. Who wants to think about branding in the middle of a price war? 

As many have experienced, a failure to raise brand awareness often leads to losing a price war. The brand with more consumer collateral wins the price war. It is a fact, consumers choose based on brand loyalty.

Ignoring this common sense detail can spell mortal disaster for any brand, let alone a cannabis brand. 

You’re a Cannabis Expert, Not a Marketing Expert

A big reason for failure in cannabis is that many brands simply don’t know how to market. This isn’t a dig on cannabis entrepreneurs, it is a simple fact. Marketers know how to market. Cannabis entrepreneurs build companies that grow and distribute cannabis. They are different skill sets. Your skill set is build a cannabis company. Your cannabis company was built on your passion. A passion for growing top-shelf cannabis.

This incredible emerging market has attracted some of the most talented and vibrant communities of entrepreneurs, of that there can be no question. Unfortunately it can come with the short sightedness associated with running a passion project.  This leads to the pitfall of DIY, bootstrapping, and under funded in-house efforts in departments like marketing. It really is understandable, your focus is growing and distributing great cannabis, it’s not how to create a lasting image of your company. 

How a Marketing Team or Agency Helps You Overcome Marketing Challenges

There is no question, cannabis has sizable marketing challenges. A marketing team or agency can be your ally. No one creates a brand on their own, it is always a collective effort. Thinking you can do it all yourself is an idea which can often backfire. We have seen it time and time again. DIY Cannabis brands rely on outdated stereotypes, sales tactics, and ineffective concepts.

Avoid this mistake and bring in a marketing team or agency. Bringing in an experienced marketing team automatically elevates your brand and implant it in the minds of consumers. Why? So that you can do what you are passionate about. You can grow great cannabis.  

To be successful in marketing cannabis products, it’s important to be authentic, creative, and honest with your target audience. Marketing is about telling your truth…telling your story.

Cannabis Brands Your Story Matters to Cannabis Consumers

Telling your story with expert style

You know your story the best. A marketing team can help you bring that story to life in the minds of your end-user. That allows you to get back to managing the unique challenges that come with running a cannabis business.

We often identify a specific set of common challenges that cannabis brands face. They include market saturation, price wars, regulatory restrictions, gray market incursions, and handcuffed marketing efforts. In this article, we want to tackle how to combat a handcuffed marketing effort. We know exactly how difficult it can be to navigate the challenges of marketing in cannabis. These are our waters, matey! ARRGHH. What? Pirates?

These challenges can be difficult to overcome. It’s important for cannabis brands to understand the challenges to be successful.

If you’re a cannabis brand looking to improve your marketing efforts, consider these six reasons why cannabis brands often fail in their marketing attempts. By understanding these mistakes, you can avoid making them yourself and set your brand up for success. 

The Six Reasons Why Cannabis Brands Fail their Unique Marketing Challenges

Note Clearly Understanding the Market Challenges of Cannabis

Cannabis is a volatile and novel market with an undefined consumer base. Often companies don’t fully grasp the landscape of their industry. Companies don’t always know who their consumers are. That’s ok.

If you haven’t identified these things you may be dead in the water. This leads to poor marketing strategy, that ends up incurring fines or bans on certain brand channels. This is why having an experienced marketing team is key to building your cannabis brand.

Failing to Identify the Full Audience

In any industry knowing your audience is critical. Why has cannabis struggled? Cannabis struggles because the market has yet to define its full audience. We simply don’t know the breadth of the consumer base and what they desire. Not yet. Do your due diligence. Make sure to identify who you are speaking to. Would you not benefit from an in depth analysis?

We believe there are 10+ cannabis consumer archetypes. Industry wide there are known to be nine consumer archetypes.

Failing to creating a cohesive brand

One of the largest issues any company makes is mistaking the logo for the brand. Cannabis is no exception and many have missed the forest for the trees. Your brand should tell your end users and customers who you are beyond simply growing great cannabis. Cannabis is not toilet paper and it doesn’t sell itself, just ask the brands that failed in mature markets. Your brand is your calling card and its your most valuable asset in marketing.

Lack of innovation in product marketing

Innovation in product marketing is key. The market is as saturated with brands as it is with products. In a saturated market, how does your product stand out? The industry is well beyond clever strain names and you need a package that reflect your brand, the quality of your product, and gives people a reason to buy. Eye catching design is critical in winning over the consumer and creating brand loyalty. Make them feel like they are a part of something special every time they buy.

Ignoring Social Media

Social Media is an ever evolving conundrum for cannabis operations. It is difficult to market effectively on social media. Strict regulations often lead to bans and suspensions.

What can I post without being suspended or banned entirely? We hear this question often.

Why invest the resources to brand and campaign in social if you run the risk of being shut out? It’s a good question.

This is why many companies have ignored social entirely. If they haven’t ignored it they have created half-hearted campaigns. Half-hearted campaigns end up doing more damage than good.

What should you do with these unique social marketing challenges?

Consider a long play and develop a comprehensive campaign that highlights your brand, not sells your cannabis product directly. Leverage exclusivity and make people hunt for the buy, creating a limited view for the consumer can drive your brand on social media. You need to broaden your horizon and adopt outside the box thinking. You may not be able to market your products on social media. Influencers can. Influencers are allies in promoting your brand. They can directly represent your product to their massive audience bases.

Not Educating Consumers and Partners

Education is critical for cannabis operations. Undoubtedly, this is due to a lingering stigma towards cannabis. It is imperative that cannabis brands do their best to promote advocacy and provide educational content to their end users and their sales team to impart on budtenders and sales people in retail dispensaries.

And a secret bonus tip at the end of the series!

Stay tuned as we break each one of these topics down in the posts of this series.

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