Ask anyone who works in the cannabis industry: it’s different from any other industry. It’s not “just another CPG” product. It’s a highly regulated, heavily watched, extremely volatile industry. Our firm handled the first cannabis product recall in California, and we can tell you it’s not like other product recalls. We’re deeply engaged in the cannabis industry through our NCIA leadership and we proudly spearheaded the Best of 420 Clio Cannabis last year. The cannabis industry, which started in 2012 when Colorado and Washington legalized recreational use, has a history and patchwork of regulations even though it’s an emerging industry. Navigating these waters takes strategy, foresight, and the ability to read the tea leaves, which only comes from experience – that’s why hiring a cannabis PR firm matters.
The Cannabis Industry is Not The Green Rush
The ACTUAL gold rush was famously unregulated; it was a bonanza of rebels who swarmed government lands with impunity. Or the tech industry, whose ground-breaking innovations in media, medicine, and technology happened without major government oversight for decades, giving time for some of the world’s most profitable companies to take root.
The cannabis industry is on fragile ground. Even the most basic of business tools, the bank account, is challenging to secure for plant-touching cannabis brands. Unlike the surge of other emerging industries which merged into hypergrowth businesses, from the very first, the cannabis industry has been highly regulated. No startup industry has managed so many regulations, taxes, and hurdles early in its growth.
Why does this matter when hiring a cannabis PR agency? Because there is a more significant responsibility to consider and more to lose for cannabis brands. Anytime a bad actor lands in the cannabis industry, legislators can point to the irresponsibility of that single company as representative of the entire sector – fair or not. Cannabis brands must take the reputation of the whole cannabis sector seriously. Cannabis owners have the opportunity to be cultural leaders, and that’s a heady but consequential task that a cannabis PR agency knows how to handle.
If the cannabis industry is to change its federal legalization situation, then it must take the reputation of the cannabis industry seriously; that’s why hiring a cannabis PR firm matters.
Building a Brand Matters More in Cannabis
There are only a few ways for cannabis brands to differentiate because of the limitations on cannabis brands. Therefore, cannabis brands must use the marketing and communication tactics that are open to them, strategically.
While a cannabis connoisseur may be able to detect the subtleties of your flower’s terpene profile, the average U.S. consumer is still blissfully unaware of what a terpene is. It’s essential to meet your consumer where they are and celebrate their lives through the articulation of your brand. People are rarely drawn to a brand because it educates them; educational content has its purpose, but as a cannabis brand, you must know its purpose and place more than other consumer brands. And when I say brand, I mean every touch point from cannabis packaging to website. If your website looks amateur, then it doesn’t scream luxury or lifestyle; it screams “cheap, and uncommitted.”
Don’t kid yourself into thinking your digital presence doesn’t matter because traditional e-commerce isn’t available to cannabis brands. The fact is, search is one of the most powerful marketing tools you can leverage, and PR and content are critical to successful cannabis SEO.
It’s more important than ever that brands articulate clearly WHO their customer is. This is true of all consumer brands – but for the cannabis industry, where it’s even more challenging for the consumer to differentiate between brands, it’s even more critical that you tell them. No successful brand is everything to everyone right away. It took decades for Coca-Cola to be a brand that crosses generations and lifestyles, and even with that, Coca-Cola is continuously adding new products and new campaigns to reinforce its connection to segments of its audience. No cannabis brand has the history or the budget to operate the way the world’s biggest brands do – and that’s OK. You can’t be ubiquitous, but you can be niche.
But being a cannabis company doesn’t make you a cannabis brand-a brand you must build. And PR is a vital tool for emerging industries and ambitious brands for a reason.
Today’s cannabis brands have a multitude of strategies for their future. Some want to create generational family businesses, some want to be acquired, and some want nothing less than world domination. All those things are possible when you build a cannabis brand and that’s why hiring a cannabis firm matters.