Now that you have received all the approvals for your cannabis store, have you taken care of all the important branding points you’ll need to move forward?
Since cannabis became legal in Canada in 2018, over 3,450 new cannabis retail stores have cropped up, many in major city centres, so competition is stiff. And now that you’re launching your brand, it is time to fine-tune your branding strategy to ensure your voice is consistent and precise across all the platforms.
Some store owners think that if they build a beautiful store, the customers will come, and they spend all their budget creating a snazzy store and leave no money for marketing. Don’t let branding be an afterthought. Thanks to your efforts to make the store more appealing, you’re halfway there. Here is a quick checklist to get you all the way through.
What Defines a Brand?
What makes a small cannabis business brand resonate with customers? The products are necessarily the same—aren’t they? So, why do people find a connection with some brands while completely overlooking others?
The answers lie in the definition of what a brand is. The American Marketing Association defines a brand as “A name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies seller’s goods and services as distinct from those of other sellers.”
The operative word here is distinct. But where does that uniqueness come from? To understand that you must understand how the elements of a brand come together to create a brand identity. The designers combine these elements in various ways to craft a compelling, engaging brand design. Here are those eight elements to build a brand:
Logo – the primary visual that makes people think of your brand
Typography – the font style adds a unique flare to that logo
Tagline – a one-liner to catch your customer’s attention
Colour scheme – the colour combination to elevate your brand’s visual appeal
Tone – the kind of voice you choose to express your brand’s message. Be balanced in your expression.
Adjectives – words you use to describe your brand
Position – What position do you want to hold in your customer’s mind?
Experience – How will your customer feel when they come to your store or buy the product online?
Creating a Branding Strategy
Cannabis is different from other products. It has just been recently legalized, and even the word cannabis elicits the feeling of getting high, so you might think creating a branding strategy for your store is like low-hanging fruit. It is not, and you won’t make money by doing the bare minimum. Think of a brand as a visual language to communicate a specific message across all channels—from your website to an iOS app to your business card. But before you begin, understand these core elements of a great brand.
Core Elements of Branding
To be distinct, you must focus on five core elements to make your cannabis store stand out from the rest:
The Logo – Cannabis brand logos must be subtle. The visual will remind people of your brand, after all. You need to exude subtleness. The ganja leaf symbology worked in the 70s, but you need something more today.
Feel of the Logo – The logo should be tuned to your buyer’s persona. The look and feel of that logo should exude that. Pick up on the buzzwords that you see in your favorite brands. Is it health-focused? Modern? Luxurious? Organic?
The Name – Want to stay distinct? Stay away from overused clichés. Some stores have been very creative in developing names that are unique. Be sure to match the name to your target demographic as well. “Ganja Garage” won’t be appropriate to attract a high-end clientele of canna-curious consumers.
The Ambiance of the Store – You must make sure that the ambiance of your store is on point. Design creative sections that make people want to come to your store.
Customer Loyalty Rewards and Promotions – Create a customer loyalty rewards program to develop strong and valuable relationships with your customers. Design creative promotional displays that tie in with your brand.
Developing your Brand Story
Now you’re ready to start developing your brand. The first step is to create a brand story. This is the overarching mission of your enterprise, and you must tell it through several mediums, from website content to images to videos. And it must be compelling, because even though it is a legal substance, there is still a lot of stigmas surrounding cannabis.
Make sure to cover everything through your story. Start with the struggles you faced when you first started and gradually paint imagery of why someone should come to your store.
There are two things you need to do before you start writing the brand story:
1. Narrow down your target audience to create a tailored narrative. It will help you position your brand in the most honest way possible.
2. Level up your SEO game. Search for relevant keywords and create content around it. Drill down to the local keywords to make sure your website puts your retail store on the map.
Market the Benefits of the Store – Not the Features
Your store has top-of-the-line products that have been tested for maximum effects and purity. So what? What is the benefit to the customer? Be sure to differentiate your store from the illicit market and highlight the benefits of tested product that is free of pesticides and other harmful ingredients.
Market the ambiance of your store and make it attractive. Make your customers feel that they will feel safe there. People appreciate the unique vibe of a cannabis store, so market that.
Essential Brand Assets
A cannabis store is unique, but its essential brand assets are the same as other stores. These assets are the core of your business; they help your customer make decisions and support you when there is a new market of buyers.
Website – your brand’s digital center, its online point of contact to let customers find you
Business Email – the way your customers communicate with you
Professional Custom Photography – take photographs of unique features of your store and post them on your site. Also highlight you and your staff’s enthusiasm by putting their stories on your site.
Many businesses think these “must-haves” are an obligation, which is wrong to believe. There is an artistic flare to implementing them that shows your love for the brand. If you don’t show some love to your brand, don’t expect the customers to show it.
The next step in developing your brand strategy is to understand the buyer—find out what they are looking for in a cannabis store and learn how they buy. Creating a brand persona after launching the brand is fruitless. But the good news is, the popularity of cannabis makes it easy to pick up on the buyer’s persona.
A company called ColaDigital broke down cannabis consumers into nine archetypes, ranging from infrequent conservatives—old, recreational consumers that consume cannabis only a handful of times a year to functional dependents—consumers who spend at least $100.00 per purchase on cannabis.
Make sure that the vibe of your store meets the archetype that you’re targeting.
When developing a brand strategy, understand your competitors. Find out why busy stores are drawing a heavy crowd. Conduct an in-depth competitor analysis to ensure that your brand is distinct enough so that your customers instantly recognize you. Analyzing your competitors will allow you to spot their strengths and weaknesses; you’ll know what to do and what to prevent to grow your brand and put your store on everyone’s mind.
Photos courtesy of SevenPoint Interiors.