The collective market for CBD sales in the United States is expected to surpass $20 billion by 2024, (BDS Analytics). Wall Street’s top cannabis analyst believes that the U.S. sales of cannabis will rise to $80 billion by 2030. We are looking at a mega-billion dollar industry with explosive growth and no signs of slowing down.

Within a few short years, the combined CBD and cannabis markets will be congested with brands looking to reach consumers in an interesting and relevant way. After a while, especially in an immature market, brands tend to start looking alike and it becomes nearly impossible for the consumer to differentiate. In the CPG world, we call it the “sea of sameness.” For that reason alone, brands need to establish their position within the category, as well as the role it plays in a consumer’s life.

The cannabis and hemp industries are highly commoditized, meaning that consumers are buying more so on the functional benefits of a product versus buying on an emotional connection to a brand. This presents an unparalleled opportunity for brands to put a stake in the ground and build consumer loyalty.

Public Relations is vital to your campaign.

Implementing a traditional advertising campaign in the cannabis space can be quite tricky, if not nearly impossible. There are many publications, and certainly broadcast media, where cannabis advertising is strictly prohibited. Many social platforms follow the same stringent rules. This leaves public relations as the clearest path to building authority and elevating your brand’s search ranking.

Sponsored content is king in the cannabis space. PR pros are adept at creating editorial content and videos that are strategically placed to meet a brand’s target audience head-on. Brand messaging and ensuring that you are positioning your brand as authentically as possible is absolutely critical. These messages will be carried across all platforms — sponsored content, videos, social, and earned media opportunities, (interviews with mainstream press). Public relations is the most organic way to build brand awareness in the most reputable places. 

Working with public relations and marketing pros who are deeply experienced in the cannabis and hemp industry will allow a brand to share credible, timely and relevant pieces of content while setting their brand apart from the pack.

Be original and stealth.

Do not do what everyone else is doing. There are several ways to employ age-old marketing tactics in a unique and economical manner. Guerilla marketing is an unconventional way to promote your brand, integrating original thinking and creativity to attract large audiences without disrupting them. This form of marketing can be done in a big, splashy way, like when Bounty set up giant “messes” all over New York City — a spilled coffee cup, a giant melting popsicle — all generating buzz and providing cool photo op’s. 

It can also be done completely for free, like Wendy’s now famous Twitter roasts. They created a “Wendy” persona on Twitter and she is having the time of her life frying her competitors. Her personality is well-defined and unique.

Undercover marketing is another way to set yourself apart from the pack. Guinness has done this successfully by adding a small custom wrap to the tip of pool cues in bars. What a great way to remind players to grab a beer. Sony got hands-on with consumers by sending actors out to blanket target cities around the country. They asked strangers to take photos of them with their “new” phone. They would then engage the stranger in conversation and show them all of the cool features on the device.

Packaging can make or break your brand.

Consumers are often hurried and distracted. Making your brand pop on a crowded shelf can be a complicated process, but is no doubt key. Take into consideration print, design, size and color. Print should be easy to read so that the consumer can make a quick decision. Designs should never be generic and should make a direct connection with the product. If your product is consumable, the package design should evoke a feeling or taste. When marketing your product, tap into color and the association it brings to the consumer. If you can grab the attention of a consumer and draw them in to actually experience the product prior to purchase, you have half the battle won.

Five ways to differentiate and capture mindshare:

  1. Practice discipline. Build your brand’s foundation with a brand equity model, positioning statement and a meaningful value proposition. What is your why?
  2. Create a set of distinctive assets to improve relatability and recall.
  3. Carve out your space. Cannabis brands need to be findable at retail and/or online.
  4. Present consistent and clear messaging.
  5. Don’t just be a brand in a category, be a brand that IS the category. Raise the bar.

Be consistent, creative and clear.

There are many different ways to capture the attention of your target consumer. Some are quite costly while others can be extremely effective and budget friendly. Work to develop an integrated marketing plan that goes beyond paid media, while also leveraging owned and earned media. While the mediums might change, your brand message should always be consistent and on point.

As the cannabis industry continues to grow — and grow up — at an alarming rate, establish your brand now or run the risk of becoming irrelevant and unrelatable.