Major global trends tend to originate from a handful of influential regions and cities worldwide. In the case of cannabis, Los Angeles has always been ground zero for the emergence of the first-ever legal, branded products.
I have had the fortunate experience over the past three years of watching the industry grow from a small group of products to an elaborate mix of excellent brands that consumers now get to enjoy. Prior to that, I did extensive work in the influencer marketing field when it was still a nascent industry — much like cannabis is now.
The path to influence is no secret, and I plan on sharing with you some of my insights on building a powerful, far-reaching brand.
Influencing the influencers.
The marketing world has accepted that the voices of influencers can play a powerful role in building the reputation of any new product. So, how are cannabis companies getting more consumers and influencers to come out of the “cannabis closet,” let alone share their excitement online?
We are lucky that our home base of Los Angeles is the epicenter of both cannabis culture and influence. Over the past decade, consumers living on the West Coast have had the luxury of being able to purchase well-branded cannabis products in various forms. Cannabis vape oil cartridges, for example, were first available legally in California and are now popular in other states.
For the rest of the world, it’s still new. That’s why a simple pleasure of a pack of perfectly rolled joints, in their very own beautiful box, is eliciting excitement. The possibility of one day purchasing and consuming cannabis is no longer a novelty — it’s coming closer and closer.
Brands in any industry have a chance to gain exposure by aligning with well-liked influencers. That’s long been the bottom line. However, by dipping beneath the surface, truly educating that individual on the product and making them an evangelist of the brand, a more meaningful and influential relationship is forged. This is how top cannabis brands are gaining a foothold in a rapidly changing environment.
Changing the stigma against cannabis.
California was the first state to embrace medical marijuana in 1996. This year it became the largest of the nine states to legalize adult-use. However, even in legalized states, brands face obstacles to connecting with new customers, and that’s where influencers come in.
A major challenge is the restrictive attitude toward cannabis companies when it comes to promoting ads and content on traditional and digital channels. Both Facebook and Instagram ban cannabis advertising. As a result, innovative brands choose to redirect ad budgets to leverage relationships with cannabis-friendly individuals and influencers with devoted followings.
Changing some of the assumptions about cannabis use is also a must for brands. The modern cannabis consumer doesn’t give in to the negative stigma associated with the plant; they desire a classy aesthetic, and to satisfy that, we use marketing tactics that are artistic, professional and informative.
High-end retailers like MedMen have led the way in this arena, with their destigmatizing ad campaigns, mainstream community activations and allowing for staff be brand evangelists. Eaze, a technology company, enables delivery of cannabis products by providing on-demand convenience and a sleek mobile UI similar to Uber or Postmates. They also have a lucrative referral program that keeps happy customers sharing their positive experiences and love for the brand.
People are comfortable with these brands, and to the latent population of outsiders, they make cannabis look fun, fast and trendy.
Export cannabis? Looking to the future.
In order to expand, it is first essential to be able to export. Although still federally illegal in the United States, Canada has made cannabis legal at the federal level, and allows exportation of medical cannabis to select countries around the world. Adults all over Canada can legally purchase from licensed producers starting this week.
Today, creating partnerships with Canadian firms is one of the few options available for cannabis brands in the states looking to expand abroad. We believe there will soon be more huge opportunities for international growth for cannabis brands today that position themselves early.
It is clear that one day, there will be a “Bacardi of cannabis” that will have global reach, and we are excited to be a part of this growth and look forward to the end of prohibition.