Now that the novelty of legal cannabis is wearing off, brands must tell their story more than ever
One key to standing out in a competitive, growing industry is a thoughtful, deliberate approach to marketing and public relations. And nowhere is this more true than in the booming cannabis industry.
Businesses that are the most successful — and able to sustain that success — will often be the ones that are able to tell their story, promote their differentiators and raise awareness of offerings among target audiences. This can be a daunting undertaking for any new company, especially in a relatively new industry.
What have we learned from working with a wide variety of companies in the cannabis space? Whether working with extraction equipment makers, vape distributors, multi-state operators, licensed producers, industry associations or analysis labs, we have found that the core tenets of public relations still reign supreme.
– The novelty era is over; storytelling is essential: As the cannabis industry continues to grow and expand into new areas, the novelty mindset of the legal market has passed. Companies must now rely on clearly conveying their differentiated position, brand and approach in an increasingly crowded market. Powerful and impactful storytelling is of paramount importance.
– Be knowledgeable on guidelines: With any emerging industry, federal, state and local regulations change regularly to address new elements of the business. This includes the marketing of cannabis — especially on social media. Laws, operational structures and terminology vary from state to state due to federal legality. Doing your research in advance means your campaign won’t get derailed before it starts.
– It’s about who you know: Public relations is a relationship business. Thoughtful pitches to the right media that showcase an understanding of recent stories, unique angles and understanding the audience is key to building trust. This trust can result in long-term relationships and garner meaningful media coverage for your company.
– Don’t forget to have fun: Cannabis marketing doesn’t solely have to be about products, health benefits or the newest strain. There’s white space in the industry to create engaging programs that feature brand ambassadors, influencers, contests and creative programs. It’s the key to securing mainstream national coverage, in addition to trade and state-specific media.
But how do you bring all these things together? When we were tasked with earning mainstream media coverage for Mammoth Distribution’s marquee vape brand — Heavy Hitters — we had to do just that. A cult favorite with a loyal following, the company needed to raise awareness among new users and engage existing loyalists. A strategic approach to public relations was the perfect answer.
– Storytelling and fun: To help tell the company’s story, Mammoth launched the Heavy Hitters Originals ambassador program. A California-wide search took place for brand ambassadors to join the Heavy Hitters team to “Travel. Smoke weed. Get paid.” Sounds fun, right? This filled part of that white space we wrote about above — a new program to build engagement. As PR experts, we were tasked with getting the most out of this company-developed ambassador program from an awareness and publicity standpoint.
– Outreach: In addition to putting a press release that covered the program on the wire, we personally sent the news to our closest media contacts in the space to generate stories beyond just press release pickup. After all, as we said above, it’s who you know that can help make the difference.
– Results: News of the Originals campaign exceeded trade publications and reached mainstream media outlets such as Thrillist, Business Insider and more. The campaign garnered more than 80 million media impressions, the articles created a buzz that spilled over onto social sites, and the company received myriad enthusiastic applicants.
This is just one example of how taking a strategic approach to promoting your unique story and your product’s standout features can get you the publicity to rise to the top. A program that highlights the things that matter to your customers and clients can make all the difference between success and failure in the competitive cannabis space.
Judy Campbell is president of Campbell Consulting. She founded the agency in 1996 to provide companies with strategic communications counsel, encompassing PR, digital communications, content creation, media training and social media. The company is dedicated to shining a spotlight on the country’s best brands and thought leaders in cannabis, craft beer, food and beverage, blockchain and software. The agency recently was nominated for the 2019 BOB (Best of Breed) Awards.