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DIFFERENTIATION is critical to setting your brand apart in competitive landscapes.

Easily said. Right? But how do you do this?

In this article you'll get 5 ways for how to differentiate your brand in a compelling way that wins you customers and creates amazing loyalty for dramatically improved financial performance

Untitled presentation (8)If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably read our publication titled, The 8 Crucial Elements You MUST HAVE to Make Your Brand Shine Brighter Than the Rest, where we present eight essential aspects that you simply must have to create a powerful brand in the cannabis industry. What you're reading now is an expansion on the #2 Essential Element talked about in that article: Differentiation. Here, we will help you create a differentiation strategy that sets your cannabis brand head and shoulders above your industry peers for advanced market positioning. Ready. Set. Go.

The Key Objective

The most important, most key objective in your differentiation strategy for your cannabis business, is ensuring that there is a uniform understanding about what makes you different in the minds of your leadership, your employees and your customers. For example: 

  • As the owner or leader of a cannabis organization, can you describe in brief bullet points, what makes you amazingly different?
  • Would your employees be able state how your cannabis brand is amazingly different the same way that you do? In other words, are you all on the same page about how to describe how you're amazingly different?
  • Would your customers be able to identify how you're amazingly different in almost the same way you and your employees would?

The key take-away to the above bullets is that you not only need to identify how you're different, but there needs to be a coherent understand about what this is at the leadership, management, employee and customer levels.

Keep in Mind...

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One final thing to keep in mind before we proceed to our 5 critical suggestions for your brand differentiation strategy is this: All too many cannabis businesses have absolutely no idea how important differentiation is to their business, much less how to have a structured strategy for brand differentiation techniques in the first place. This gives you a significant strategic advantage over less aware, or less knowledgeable, industry peers. 

Also keep in mind that a sound differentiation strategy adds strength to not only your brand proposition, but enhanced market advantage. These two elements better ensure significantly higher overall financial value to your cannabis enterprise.

Now, let's get to our 5 critical suggestions how to differentiate your cannabis brand:

1. Differentiate based on your strengths

First things first, have you mapped out your organization's strengths? What makes you amazing? Your product? Your people? Your service? Whatever your strengths are, you need to map them out, internalize them and reinforce them consistently over time, either verbally, through imagery, metaphor, stories etc.

2. Practical differentiation

Now that you know what the key objective is in your differentiation strategy, as well as what your organizational strengths are, you’re ready to map out how you’re different in a way that resonates powerfully with your target market.

Let’s remember that human beings are multifaceted creatures with practical, emotional, experiential and often times spiritual needs. In order to truly create a cannabis brand that has a powerful appeal to not only your target customer, but also you employees (since they are ultimately your front-line brand ambassadors), you need to embody messaging that encapsulate all four of these factors. 

Let's start first with Practical differentiation.

In mapping out your differentiation strategy, start first with what makes you different on the practical level. “Practical” is left-brained. It is all about quality, consistency of product and service. You and your staff need to be knowledgeable on many levels about your product. The notions of stability and safety need to be wrapped up in this level of your differentiation strategy. This is what humans need in order to feel a sense of stability with your brand.

As an exercise, come up with a list of descriptive adjectives, metaphors or strings of two to three words that describe how you're different on a practical level. 

Yes, we understand that other cannabis businesses can touch on these exact same aspects, but it is critical that you do so in a more compelling way. And remember, the more you can meet the Practical human need, 6278507184_545786311a_bthe more legitimate you will be in the eyes of your target customers (and employees) when building the next level of your differentiation: the Emotional.

3. Emotional Differentiation

Now, that you’ve defined how you're different on the Practical level, you’re now ready to address what makes you different on the Emotional level. 

Remember, humans are humans. In addition to our Practical needs, we are also emotional creatures. The vast majority of us want to feel inspired, fascinated, loved, happy. fulfilled etc. Because of this we identify closely with other people, or other business who can reflect, authentically, how we want to interface with our own emotions.

Where it concerns differentiating your brand on the Emotional level, the next question you need to ask yourself is, “what makes our cannabis business amazing?”. As soon as you ask this question, you’re already raising the vibrational and aspirational level of your thinking, which is where you open your mind-space for not only aiming higher with your communications, but your business overall. Since associative emotions are super powerful, this is how you can be extremely effective with differentiating your cannabis enterprise overall.

As an exercise, come up with a list of descriptive adjectives, metaphors or strings of two to three words that describe how your cannabis business is different on an emotional level. In other words, what kinds of emotions do you want your target customers (and employees) to associate with your brand? Once you have this list mapped out, add it to your list of Practical needs.

4. Experiential

23442328984_6e170076b0_oGo ahead. Take the time to read the quote to the right from the famous poet Maya Angelou. Take it in and internalize it. People will always remember how you make them feel. Now, how can we use this to the advantage of your cannabis brand?

Remember that people have 5 senses. Some people say that intuition is also a sense. Whatever the case, as humans we experience the world through our senses. We then create associations based on our sensory experiences.

If you want to be remembered, what is your plan for creating sensory experiences for your customers? Whether at your dispensary or production facility, how do you want your customers to feel about their experience with your brand? Map this out. Internalize it. Be it. You'll be remembered more positively, we promise.

5. Spiritual Differentiation

Ok, very quickly we need to spell out that by “spiritual” we do not mean religious. We define “spiritual” as meaning that most people want to leave a lasting legacy, have a life of meaning, serve the greater good, have a worthy cause that makes the world a better place etc. Because of this, we humans closely identify with organizations that reflect these values authentically. 

In case you need some eye-opening statistics, check out the following:

  • 78%of people want companies to address important social justice issues.
  • 71% of Millennials want businesses to lead social and environmental change in the absence of government regulation, compared to 63% of all Americans.
  • 87% of Americans say they would purchase a product because a company supported an issue they care about.
  • 76% would refuse to buy from a company if they learn it supports an issue contrary to their own beliefs. 

New call-to-actionIn order to create spiritual differentiation with your cannabis business, make sure that you stand for something. If you need an idea, kindly refer back to the #1 Essential Element and make Legitimacy your cause for serving the greater good. You can also form alliances with charitable organizations that harmonize well with your business strategies. Just make sure that you stand for something!

If you can legitimately say that you’re using your for-profit cannabis business as a conduit for positive social change, you’ll create hooks that will pull people’s inspired attention to your business, where they’ll want to stay for the long-term.

With the above said, be careful! If you try to BS anyone with feigned spiritual differentiation, you’ll destroy more value than you’ll create. 


Differentiation is mission critical in any business. This of course extends to your brand if you're in the cannabis business. If you have a structured and methodical approach to differentiating your brand, keep a continuous eye on the fact that humans are humans, and communicate to people on the practical, emotional, sensory and spiritual levels, you will have a far greater brand advantage over less knowledgeable and/or aware industry peers.

New call-to-actionHaving a powerfully differentiated brand will also strengthen your overall strategic advantage in a highly competitive and quickly changing industry landscape. This will also add financial value to your cannabis business, which is of course what we, as business owners, are ultimately after. 

If you would like a fantastic resource for how to utilize the above tips in a comprehensive manner in developing the strength of your cannabis brand, check out our eBook, Brand Juggernaut: A How-to Guide for Creating a World-class Brand. Otherwise, you are now ready to check out the #3 Essential Element for building a powerful cannabis brand: Buyer Personas. To access this content, click on the image to the right!


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