As a business owner in the cannabis industry, you’ve probably heard these words bandied about many times before. But what exactly is brand equity? Forbes Magazine defines it as the attribute that makes customers want to pay more for a certain brand – in short: perceived value.
The article goes on to say that a popular brand of smartphone is three times as expensive as an unknown one. Loyal customers will gladly shell out more money for a familiar product, even if it’s identical to one they’ve never heard of.
Sometimes a brand acquires cachet by accident. A celebrity might be photographed using a particular product, or a YouTube product review might go viral.
But more often, business owners and their marketing teams work hard to achieve their coveted brand equity.
There are many reasons why brand equity is important for generating new business (and maintaining current customers). It can help with:
Building brand equity and awareness is a multifaceted process. Your first step is to establish a strong brand identity. As a cannabis business, you want to think about what distinguishes you from your competition, and how you can communicate this information to your customers.
What do you want to promote about your company? Do you carry high-end products for cannabis users? Who is your target audience?
Look at your business through a customer’s eyes. How do you feel when you enter the store? Are you tempted to make a purchase? What kind of a reaction does your logo create?
Then visit some local cannabis businesses. Do their brand values differ from yours?
After you’ve done this research, sit down and make a list of adjectives that describe your own cannabis business. Don’t edit yourself at first, just write whatever comes to mind.
Now rank the top three words you want to focus on. They will form the basis of your company’s image.
Sometimes when you repaint your living room, you start wanting to replace the lighting fixtures. The same is true for reimagining your brand – one thing leads to another, and before you know it, you realize that it’s time for a total brand makeover.
Entrepreneur writer Emma Johnson gives some examples of how three major companies have had to overhaul their brand identities. While some of these businesses experienced bad press or a decline in sales, Johnson argues that it’s good for any brand to periodically refresh its image, independent of an adverse event.
Analyze your logo at the granular level. Does it scream “let’s party?” in bright colors? Or is your color scheme more subdued? Your logo is often the first thing that a customer notices about you. This simple element is so powerful that large companies often hesitate to overhaul it.
The ideal logo is easy to recognize, visually pleasing, and memorable. It shouldn’t resemble your competitor’s logo; after all. you wouldn’t want to direct your customers to the dispensary across the street.
Logos incorporate different elements such as color schemes, typography, symbols, and even photos. There are several different types of logos, such as:
If you’re using a text-based logo, you might spend hours searching for the perfect font. Depending on what you’re trying to express, you could choose whimsical bubble letters or clean, sans-serif characters.
Some logos incorporate both text and symbols to craft an image that stays in a customer’s brain. Symbol-based logos can be a bit tricky to create, as their message might not be immediately apparent. But if a brand has accumulated enough equity, its logo will immediately resonate with customers.
Think about the Nike “swoosh” or the legendary yellow arches of McDonald’s. You can almost hear squeaky new sneakers or smell salty French fries. The reaction is visceral.
Now think about your own logo. Is its message clear?
If you’ve been happy with your logo for a while but still want to rehaul your brand image, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Experiment with minor changes to your logo, or add a pictorial element to it.
Make sure to update your logo in all of your materials – your business cards, company stationery, brochures for trade shows and other industry events, and signage.
Remember, your logo is supposed to draw customers into your business.
As more U.S. states decriminalize cannabis, dispensaries seem to be popping up everywhere. So, they’re getting more sophisticated to differentiate themselves from the competition.
Some dispensaries focus on the medical benefits of cannabis, targeting demographics concerned with wellness. Others cultivate a retro hippie image, evoking the good vibes of the 1960’s.
If you’re unsure of your brand identity, you might get some inspiration from this recent Jetsetter article about the most beautiful cannabis businesses in the United States. Some look like modern spas or high-end florists, while others resemble quirky speakeasies or museums.
Take a quick look at the photos – what do they say to you? You’ll notice that at least one company prominently places its logo on the wall. (We think this is a great example of a symbol-based logo.)
Which of these brand images appeal to you the most? What kinds of cannabis products do you think these dispensaries might sell?
These physical spaces are certainly inviting. But of course, a company’s digital presence is just as important as its retail stores.
So, when you’re strategizing about your brand identity, don’t forget to incorporate it into your website, social media, mobile app, and any digital communications you send out.
Ideally, your visuals should be uniform – you don’t want to create any customer confusion. Craft an allover strategy, both physical and virtual, to create a positive brand image for your cannabis business.
Brand identity can incorporate not only your visual style, but even how you talk to your customers on social media. If you have several people sending out email blasts, are they communicating with the same voice? Does the language on your website match your advertising campaigns?
Of course, if you have several different target audiences, your marketing messaging may vary by campaign. But if you do your own marketing, you should maintain a style guide to pull together your communications.
If you feel overwhelmed by the prospect of honing your digital brand identity, don’t stress. Here at springbig, we’ve partnered with Range Marketing, the premier SEO and website development company in the cannabis industry. We’re working together to optimize marketing strategy for cannabis businesses.
As the leading digital communications company in the cannabis space, we can help you integrate your identity into your loyalty program and mobile app. Our campaign performance reports can show you exactly how effective your new branding is.
Now that you have a better idea of your brand identity, it’s time to start thinking about how to leverage it to create brand equity. In another Forbes article, marketing professor and author Kevin Lane Keller talks about how to shape customer opinion.
Keller maintains that there are four key things that influence customers’ feelings and judgments about you:
Keller maintains that resonance, or a “deep emotional connection,” can be difficult to measure and achieve. It basically comes down to a perceived sense of community.
Are your cannabis consumers actively engaged with your business? Do they share their purchases on social media with their friends? Do they mention your cannabis company even when they’re not in the process of making a purchase?
Customers are anxious to share their finds with friends and neighbors. If you’ve ever spent time on Nextdoor.com, you’ve probably seen posts from people seeking recommendations for housecleaners or painters. (We should mention that all cannabis advertising, including for CBD products, is prohibited on Nextdoor.com.)
These posts receive a ton of engagement from neighbors eager to recommend their preferred services. And people who post on Nextdoor.com don’t receive any kind of reward or compensation for making these recommendations. They just derive a sense of satisfaction from sharing helpful information with others.
Your customers are similar in their desire to share their recommendations. You can further incentivize them with your loyalty rewards program.
Recognizing the power of word-of-mouth marketing, springbig has enabled budz, an effective text-based loyalty program. It turns your customers into influencers.
In a typical interaction, your customer will text a friend about a special you are running. The text will include a personalized link that will enable both parties to receive a reward. When new customers are presented with free products, rewards points and discounts, good will – and brand equity – are generated.
Word of mouth marketing is ideal for cannabis companies because it provides an atmosphere of trust. New customers are more likely to choose your business if they learned about it from someone they know.
The other advantage is that texting between two parties isn’t regulated in the same way as advertising. When cannabis businesses send texts to their customers, there are many rules about what they are allowed to say, since cannabis is still illegal at the federal level.
The Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) maintains what is known as the “SHAFT List,” a list of words which are not allowed in text message advertising. One of the prohibited categories is words that relate to illicit substances.
In the past couple of years, the CTIA added CBD to this list. As you can imagine, the cannabis industry is not happy about this development. But while a coalition of cannabis companies initiated a “Stop Censoring CBD” campaign, to date they’ve had no success.
Fortunately. the enjoyment of cannabis products is often a social pursuit. Your satisfied customers, feeling encouraged to share your brand with others, should become part of your marketing strategy.
Social media sites are an important tool for generating brand equity. As we’ve written previously, Twitter has relaxed its restrictions on cannabis industry advertising. So you can start to focus your attention on that platform to increase awareness of your brand.
With great care, you can also maintain a brand presence on Facebook. However, you have to dance around the issue of cannabis-related keywords – you can’t advertise products for sale or include your address or phone number.
If you search for cannabis companies that have successfully managed to maintain a Facebook presence, you’ll find that they post educational content.
They also refrain from posting any kind of call-to-actions. Some companies even go so far as to include the words “nothing for sale” on every post.
Instagram is similar in its prohibition on cannabis advertising. However. there are definitely plenty of influencers who tout the benefits of cannabis-related products on the site – they just have to be careful.
As you can see, one of the many challenges facing cannabis businesses is the slew of advertising and marketing restrictions placed on them. Because of these issues unique to the industry, brand equity is especially important for cannabis companies.
But you might have to get creative with your cannabis marketing strategy.
We hope you’ve found this brief guide to brand equity helpful. With just a bit of brainstorming, you can reimagine your visual identity and optimize your cannabis marketing communications. And don’t forget the importance of your loyalty rewards program.
A strong brand identity can help customers associate positive qualities with you. Then, they’ll feel compelled to visit you more – and to spread the word about you to others.
springbig specializes in industry-compliant marketing tools that can help you grow your marijuana business. We are always up to date on the latest developments in the cannabis industry. Contact us today, and let’s start building you some brand equity.