To build powerful cannabis brand, creating LEGITIMACY is critical. But how can you do that?
We have 4 suggestions
In our extensive publication entitled, The 8 Crucial Elements You MUST HAVE to Make Your Brand Shine Brighter Than the Rest, we present 8 essential elements that you need to have integrated into your brand as a dispensary owner or producer. In this article, we are going to go more in depth into the #1 Essential Element: Legitimacy.
By "legitimacy", we mean gaining not only widespread acceptance, but normalization to the point that using marijuana causes no more of a knee-jerk reaction than opening a bottle of beer or wine.
Yes, the most recent research clearly indicates that 61% of Americans support legalization. But 24% of this number clarified that they only supported medical use. In addition, only 9 states have legalized recreational use of marijuana, with 30 states having legalized medical marijuana. And let’s not forget that using marijuana in any form is a federal crime, with the current Attorney General Jeff Sessions declaring recently, "We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it's in fact a very real danger."
There is still a very deeply engrained image of marijuana as a stoner’s “drug” (think of the movies Cheech & Chong, Friday and Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle to name just a few). To really drive home the point, most people, even in states where marijuana is legalized, would never, ever, light up a joint, or load a bong, in front of their boss at a company sanctioned event, even if beer or wine is being overly consumed. And there are still many companies forcing drug tests on people, and then firing those who have trace amounts of THC in their system.
So, how do you go about creating legitimacy for not only your particular operation, but for the industry as a whole? The following are four simple tips that anyone can follow in creating legitimacy around their cannabis brand.
1. Reframe the Narrative
What the above demonstrates is that we have a long way to go before marijuana becomes as normalized as the consumption of beer, wine or spirits. And how do we do this? By reframing the narrative, of course. And to do that we need to create entirely new associations with marijuana in our branding and marketing activities.
To create entirely new narratives, one of the first places to start is with your Buyer Personas. Why? Because when you truly get to know what drives people's perceptions of cannabis, as well as how they use it (or what keeps them from doing so), what their stories, hopes, aspirations, fears, goals and backgrounds are, you'll be able to find a plethora of ways around which to create legitimacy simply because you'll better know their mindset. And once you have a better idea of a variety of customer mindsets, you'll be able to ascertain which narratives will be most appealing, and effective. You will then be the driver around reframing the narrative to something far more positive.
One company that we really like is MedMen. In their messaging, they’ve taken up the cause of legitimacy and normalization by portraying different demographics of people who use marijuana, even a sweet little grandma-looking persona!
For a more detailed understanding of what comprises a Customer Persona, click here.
2. Be Mission-driven
As we said at the very beginning of our article The 8 Crucial Elements You MUST HAVE to Make Your Brand Shine Brighter Than the Rest, (click on the image to the right to download your free copy!) the cannabis industry is a movement. At this point in the game, the public wants it to be because cannabis has been such a forbidden topic for far too long. This represents an opportunity to provide for the emotive needs of your target market.
This is an endeavor that needs to be mission-driven, which means it reflects our values, and not just our commercial interests. In other words, we make marijuana completely, totally legitimate. If you are in the marijuana dispensary or production business, this requires a mission-driven attitude to not only your marketing and branding activities, but how you engrain this attitude within the DNA of your organization as a whole.
And guess what? By far, companies that are mission or values-driven are far more compelling than companies that aren’t. They create intrigue and real power behind their communications activities which gives them a strategic advantage in a highly competitive market place. This is precisely the opening that your marijuana dispensary or production business can use to set itself head and shoulders above others. From this position, you not only maximize your narrative potential for your marketing activities, but you maximize your profit potential which allows you to explore additional and additionally profitable value creation (e.g. growth!).
According to a very insightful report by Gallup, only 41% of employees know what their organization stands for. This low number represents an opportunity for your cannabis organization to be super strong in the mission-driven category.
In addition, leaders who align strong mission-driven values with the organization's business strategies, brand culture and performance measures experience much higher performance overall than organizations where this kind of alignment is not present.
3. Be Patient, Take the Higher Road
Yes, people can be real boneheads. We all know this. Especially those who are still pontificating against a plant whose time has come. Two years ago, my Rotary Club admitted a new member who was the owner of a local dispensary. His becoming a member was a hugely divisive subject within a more conservative. In fact, one member made an epic gesture by actually quitting the club because we admitted the dispensary owner as a new member, but not before sending out a long-winded email rant about his reason for leaving in the first place.
What I clearly witnessed was that the new member, the dispensary owner, never let the adversity surrounding his joining the club affect him. He simply continued to be a positive and contributing new member of the club, which, over time, won him a ton of legitimacy in what was previously a hostile environment. His presence is now far more appreciated, and that he is a dispensary owner has become a non-issue.
4. Make 'Giving Back' an Essential Part of Your Legitimacy Strategy
By now, it should be common sense that any for-profit business needs to have a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), or philanthropic element to their business model. It's not only good for business, but simply the right thing to do. And who is going to sweat an organization that provides financial resources for worthy causes that augment the overall health and vibrancy of their communities? After all, money talks and BS walks, right?
If you can make giving back to the community a key aspect to the heart and soul of your organization, with unabashed authenticity, this will go a long way in breaking down barriers that still inhibit an even wider acceptance of cannabis. As these walls break down, and new foundational pillars emerge with your name on them, legitimacy is all but assured.
The cannabis industry is a movement. We have a long way to go before it is normalized within society the same way alcohol and pharmaceuticals are. Because of this, creating Legitimacy should be the #1 focus area for cannabis dispensary owners.
By reframing the narrative, being mission-driven and patient, as well as having a deeply authentic philanthropic element to your overall business strategy, you will make legitimization a far quicker process.
Now, if you’re still with us, check out our #2 Essential Element for creating and leveraging a powerful brand in the cannabis industry: Differentiation.