The world of cannabis is growing up. Consumers are savvy and sophisticated, and they want more than just being able to buy products they like. Today’s consumers want brands that align with their lifestyle and with their ideals; brands they can recognize instantly and know what they stand for.
In other words, if you want to develop a successful cannabis company, then you will have to build up your brand equity.
What is brand equity? It’s the commercial value generated by consumer perception of a company’s or product line’s name, irrespective of the specific products or services offered. There are few better examples of a company with strong brand equity than Apple. Although many products the company sells are equal to their competitors’ product in terms of speed, processing power, and features, consumers are willing to pay more for Apple products simply because of the company’s brand name.
The concept is especially important in the cannabis industry. As the market matures, consumers will develop loyalty to companies and their products. Entities that have built up their equity will have a much higher chance of capturing loyal customers and developing a strong consumer base. If you want your company to survive the next ten—or even five—years, you must work to build brand equity.
How does one build brand equity? Step one is to create a strong identity. Who are you and what makes your brand special? Identify your ideal customer, and then imagine the thought processes they go through before purchasing a product or service and how your brand fits into that process. Once you know who you are and know your ideal customer’s profile, you will be able to address the needs of customers, meet them where they are, and build a relationship.
The next step is identifying the meaning and values behind your brand. There are two parts to creating meaning: your products’ performance and their image. Performance refers to how well your wares meet consumers’ expectations. Is your product or service reliable and consistent? Is your product or service effective? Does your brand keep the promises it makes?
Image refers to customers’ perception of how well your company, products, and services address their social values and psychological needs. For example, if your customers value sustainability, are you taking steps to ensure your brand is environmentally friendly? In short: Keep your promises to your customers and champion their values. Consumers constantly judge brands on quality, credibility, responsiveness to their needs, and performance compared to the competition. You want to remain cognizant of their emotional responses and how you respond to those feelings.
Ask yourself how your company can enhance its credibility. What can you do to improve product quality (both real and perceived)? Is your marketing addressing consumers’ needs? Does it resonate with your target market? How well does your brand measure up against competitors? What can you do to enhance consumers’ emotional responses to your brand?
Finally, you want to create a bond with customers that transcends the normal transactional nature of commerce. You want customers to feel almost as though your brand is part of their family. Ask how you can engage customers better or more often. Do they feel a sense of community with your brand? Are they repeat purchasers? Do they recommend your products?
Find ways to build customer loyalty and reward those who are passionate about your products or services. A simple rewards program goes a long way toward building customer loyalty. List all the ways you can resonate with your customers and start developing a plan of action.
In a highly competitive market, brand equity will become increasingly important. By attaching a sense of value and loyalty to your brand’s name, your company will be better able to distinguish itself from its competitors and build a foundation on which it can continue to succeed for years to come.
Jared Mirsky and his award-winning cannabis-focused branding and marketing agency, Wick & Mortar, have helped shape the cannabis industry since 2009. Rebranding cannabis is his mission, and he aims to accomplish the goal by helping to educate the industry about the power of successful branding and the impact it has on the world.