It’s no secret that your brand experience will determine the long-term success of your dispensary. In this blog post, you will learn why it is essential to create a solid cannabis brand, and you can create an enticing brand experience for your customers.
You mention the name Coca-Cola, and most people will automatically think of a reliable thirst-reliever; a feel-good drink. You talk of the ‘most popular’ chicken in the world, and most people will think of KFC. You want an amazing shopping experience where you can buy anything, and people will bring up Amazon.
Why do people associate the brand Coca-Cola as a thirst quencher? What makes KFC stand out in a crowded fried chicken industry? What makes Amazon stand out as the place to get anything online? Each of these companies have many competitors. So what makes these stand out? It all boils down to the brands they've built and the brand experiences they've established.
The cannabis retail market is no different from the soft drinks, fried chicken or the online shopping markets. Like many other industries, the market for cannabis retail is saturated. In some U.S markets, there are even more dispensaries than there are Starbucks coffee shops. As such, without a reliable brand, you are likely to get lost in the shuffle.
It is also important to note that the cannabis retail market is an emerging industry where 90% of the names and companies present today will not exist five years from now. This is often attributed to the fact that most companies currently entering or eyeing the market either lack robust brand representation in the space, or their current vertical standing is not favored in the industry.
To stand out from the competition, dispensaries should leverage their brand experience. According to Evan Horowitz, Co-Founder, and CEO of WeedClub.com, “Branding will be the difference between success and failure in the emerging legal cannabis business.” But, first things first: what is a brand experience?
What is Brand Experience
According to the Columbia Business School, “Brand experience is conceptualized as sensations, feelings, cognitions, and behavioral responses evoked by brand-related stimuli that are part of a brand's design and identity, packaging, communications, and environments." It’s the feeling that a customer gets after shopping at your dispensary, sampling a product, or even seeing an ad representing your brand. You know you’ve established a great brand experience when customers are fully immersed in every aspect of your business philosophy.
Importance of Branding
Cannabis branding will make the industry more legitimate in they eyes of the consumer, which will also drive brand recognition. As the cannabis industry grows and new differentiating entrants come into the market, the sure way to survive as a dispensary is by building a unique brand experience within your niche.
Once you have established brand recognition, consumers will acknowledge this and share it. This will lead to repeat sales as they trust your product, have heard positive things, and know they will enjoy the experience. For more information about the importance of branding, refer to the recent Baker blog," Top Marketing Insights from Hubspot Inbound."
What Makes Your Retail Store Brand Stand Out?
Brand experience is comprised of four elements – retail store design, packaging design, brand equity, and brand voice. Today, we will focus on the two that are directly related to your cannabis retail store.
Retail Store Design
The cannabis retail experience should be treated just as any retail experience. It should be clean and sleek, helpful but not pushy retail associates, and display a variety of products in a clean and professional way. But, it is important to note that this does not always look the same. This concept is easy to identify in bars and restaurants. A sleek, modern and trendy cocktail bar is sure to be a hit in any city. However, there are plenty folks still love a good dive bar. Knowing your customers and what their interests are will help you determine what kind of retail experience will be most successful in a given market setting.
Another important aspect of store design is our storefront. After all, it is the impression of your store and your brand, and can attract or repel first- time customers. Something as simple as creating a retail space that is inviting from the street can even gain credibility with local government and the local population.
Many dispensaries are now hiring architects and designers to help them achieve all of this.
A cannabis product should have informative labels – labels that inform the consumer of the product's effects and clearly conveys the function of the product in a simple way. The packaging design should avoid the colors and visuals that only speaks to the “traditional” cannabis consumer. Design packaging that will also appeal to newer cannabis consumers too.
To add a little pizazz, consider pairing with local artist for graphics, like binkse chocolates did. This style works for them because many high-end chocolate bars have cool, custom graphics like this.
Another style that works well for many cannabis brands is a clean and simple look. In some cases, this style will have a "medicinal" feel, such as the topical brand, apothecanna. Once the plant is fully legalized, we will expect to see an increase in celebrity endorsements and products branded with celebrity names.
Eventually, we won’t think of the 'stoner culture' as the cannabis industry evolves into being a socially acceptable part of society. When building your retail brand experience, it is always important to clearly identify what your target audience is looking for. Many existing dispensaries target the ‘traditional cannabis consumer,’ but some are branching out to target new types of consumer demographics.
Some of the rising market demographics that dispensaries are starting to tap into are busy mothers, college students, senior citizens and exercise enthusiasts. When marketing to these rising demographics, it’s important to keep in mind that many of them may not be actively looking for cannabis-based solutions – they may not know that cannabis can help, yet.
Of the rising demographics, one group in particular stands out to the cannabis businesses. Women, including busy mothers comprise more than 60% of the market share and use cannabis to help them unwind from their busy days. Other popular demographics include senior citizens, veterans, and young professionals. These different consumers are all looking for different types of information and experiences based on their interests and age. Some things they may be interested in are sustainability, the farming process, quality, and lifestyle. For more information on how to reach new consumers, refer to our blog on new cannabis consumer demographics.
Personalization is Key
Buying cannabis is an extremely personal process. People like certain strains and consumption methods. Beyond the product, they also have unique shopping and communication preferences.
Education and customer service is necessary to provide a personalized and better brand experience for the customer. First, always offer a loyalty program – learn more about customer loyalty here. This builds a brand reputation for consumers that they can rely on this brand to provide them with a personalized experience based on their interests and communication preferences.
No business is the same. Tell your unique story, and it will remain in the minds of your customers for years to come. Customers are interested in the story behind your products and how you build your brand experience. It helps your customersunderstand the purpose of the products and to communicate the benefits of shopping at your dispensary. If you have personally benefited or know people who have enjoyed the medical benefits, highlight this in your story. Your customers will relate with you on a deeper level and become more attached to your product.
Communicate the medical benefits of marijuana in an engaging way. Use words like “superfood,” “nutrition,” and “healing” to describe what it can do for your customers.
In this post, we have explored several tips to help you build your brand experience and watch your cannabis business grow. It’s no secret that your brand experience is a key differentiator among competition. All you need to do is follow the guidance, remain consistent with your product, and you will not have to worry about your competitors. See how Baker can help you build your brand reputation, connect with your customers, and create a personalized shopping experience.