In our third deep dive into attitudinal segmentations of Americans’ perception of cannabis, we surveyed residents in three specific groups of U.S. states: states where cannabis is not legal in any form, states where it is legal for medicinal purposes, and states where recreational use has been legalized. Through these reports we sought to track and understand what people like about cannabis, how they use it, and how they perceive the marketing efforts of brands in the cannabis industry.
Picture the scene… It is CannaCon, a respectable B2B cannabis industry tradeshow in Denver, Colorado. I am walking and talking with Morgan, at the time President of the MJBA, later Founder and CEO of the Cannabis Women’s Alliance. We were discussing what topics we should discuss on an upcoming panel about the role of women in the cannabis industry we were both participating in that afternoon. All of a sudden, we both stop in our tracks at the sight of a nearly naked, black leather thong and biker jacket clad woman appearing to sit on some heavy machinery.
In two national surveys designed to uncover American attitudes toward cannabis, legalization and development of cannabis brands, we uncovered a unique subculture of Americans who strongly support legalizing recreational-use marijuana, but do not expect to purchase cannabis or engage with cannabis brands.
Except in California, home to a historically bolder and experimental population in which this demographic emerges as a strong potential cannabis consumer base.
During our market research on consumer motivations in cannabis brand attribute preference, we have consistently seen four segments emerge among consumers, who we call “Traditionalists,” “Outsiders,” “Indies” and “Idealists.” Of these four, “Indies” and “Outsiders” are the most likely to patronize cannabis brands on a regular basis.
Today we’re going to take a closer look at the Indies, who have increased by 15% since 2014. They currently make up about 26% of the population, and about 31% in California.
Nearly three years ago we launched our first study. Colorado had a legal Adult-Use market operational for less than 6 months. Our home state of Washington had barely begun legal sales. It seems like such a long time ago now but in the short period since then much has happened. The Green Rush is well underway and in our view the tipping point has been reached. Regardless of the current administration’s position, it is merely a matter of time before cannabis is legal federally. We’re not putting bets on a year but it is coming.
Once upon a time, not really that long ago, commerce was relatively simple: you made a product and, hopefully, people bought it and you made money. Consumers based their purchase on product utility: did they need it and would they use it? They certainly didn’t give much thought about the company in terms of what it stood for, who was running it, what its religious or political beliefs were, or whether it shared the same values they had. They understood that companies were in business to make and sell products, and people either bought it or didn’t.
It was simple, really.
That’s how it was for decades.
Then, along came the Internet and everything changed.
Before all is said and done, and you’re about to layout a roadmap for your canna brand, I believe there are five rules in building a brand you should know and, hopefully, follow. I’ve listed them in order of importance, as follows, and while the rules are relevant for any-size company, I’ve written them from the perspective of the start-up or smaller company, which we meet more often in this new category.
Do You Really Know Who Your Customer Is?
Whenever I hear a client say, generally with great conviction, “I know my customer,” my heart freezes, because, much too often, it’s related to his own less than objective perceptions, anecdotes from his sales people, or what the spouse says. But, you really cannot build your business on hearsay and assumptions. So, I ask one simple question: When is the last time you talked to your customer?
There is a myriad of negative stereotypes many of those in mainstream culture use to describe marijuana consumers. The truth is, there is no one type of person who smokes or eats or vapes marijuana. Marijuana consumers are an extremely diverse group of people, which can make finding the target audience for your particular marijuana product, that much more difficult.
With new recreational marijuana businesses comes the new practice of branding the product itself. Though back-alley sellers have advertised their marijuana for years, the beginning of a legal market opens up the process to the enjoyment, and the scrutiny, of the public at large. So, let’s talk about some of the ways of developing a brand that’s a viable competitor in this brave new world, without cheapening credibility or perpetuating the stoner stereo type.