Cannabis has suddenly skyrocketed from an underground activity to North America's drug of choice - and entrepreneurs are seizing on its "haute high" image to sell everything from concentrates to cannabis-flavored condoms, and from cannabis-centric dating services to bud-friendly accommodations. But not all of the new cannabis brands are created equal. Here are three things to keep in mind to set yours apart.
1. Branding is everything.
Whether it's clean, white boxes with eye-popping graphics à la Leafs By Snoop, or the old-school, patent-medicine vibe of Mary's Medicinals, the way the cannabis industry makes products stand out to its target demographic is changing. "People are packaging products similarly to any consumer product you'd see on the shelves at CVS or Walgreens," according to Roy Bingham of BDS Analytics, which gathers data on the emerging cannabis industry. Whereas consumers used to walk into dispensaries and buy no-name flower, "like buying in bulk in a health food store," as Bingham puts it, "There's an increasing trend toward branding. I think we will see people branding flower as being better in different ways: more environmentally-friendly, organic, or what have you. And then of course once it's branded you can do conventional marketing and advertising, which is what we're seeing with ingestibles and concentrates."
2. Know your market
Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of creating a brand that appeals to them, personally, rather than to potential customers. But by targeting a specific age and socioeconomic bracket, you can "determine how your brand should be positioned in the marketplace to target that specific audience," as the Cannabis Business Times points out. "An example of this would be Good Meds Network, a medical marijuana dispensary with two locations in the Denver metro area. Its brand is based on targeting patients with a variety of ailments, and it is able to communicate and attract customers who want the highest-quality medicine available." Pinning down your target market, and figuring out how your product will improve their lives, helps ensure you're not lost in the sea of new cannabis businesses.
3. Expect hurdles
Many amazing, cannabis-related business ideas have fallen down due to misunderstandings about, or ignorance of, local regulations - even in states and counties with legal medical and recreational markets. "Prevent future legal issues by taking the time to understand your local regulations regarding marketing," advises the Cannabis Business Times. From banking, to packaging, to advertising strictures, "each state, and even county, has different marijuana regulations that could obstruct a brand's success if not adhered to properly". Businesses that actually touch the plant - think growers, processors and dispensers - are much more tightly regulated than ancillary products, making it all the most crucial to lawyer up, and do your homework.