Recently I heard someone say that in Cannabis we do not yet have brand loyalty. We have strain affinity, product preference, even go-to cannabis retailers, but what about zealous loyalty to one brand? Think about it, we all know the “popular” brands in Cannabis, but is anyone truly making their way to being the Coca-Cola or Budweiser of the cannabis industry?
Pistil Data recently posted that the best-selling brands in California only dominate their local market where the bulk of their customer base lives, meaning if the number one brand in CA is based in LA, they don’t even crack the top 10 brands in San Francisco. However, when we look at strains or using the proper language, cultivars, everyone has a favorite or a go-to. It’s the one that when you’re trying a new brand that becomes your go-to, if they nail this, then I’ll try the rest and remain a loyal customer for life. This is why flower is one of the most important categories for cannabis brands to nail. As of today, if you don’t have flower for sale, it may be hard for you to break through.
Well, first of all, we have to consider the restrictions placed on advertising cannabis products and services. Most of today’s groundbreaking digital channels are not available to the cannabis space, which really limits advertising opportunities. You are certainly not going to be able to run on Google’s search engine or display network to target your customer base online.
Facebook and Instagram are available to Cannabis brands but only if you build your following natively, even then most brands experience forms of Shadow Banning because of the content they post, and others just get completely shut down. Shockingly in the social media world, Microsoft-owned LinkedIn is the best place for Cannabis companies to share their content, however, brands would not be advertising promos or anything of that sort.
If a brand wants to get a competitive advantage, they need to connect directly with a recreational cannabis consumer or patient, they need to give the customer experiences that are memorable and make them feel something. This kind of connection is quite easy for a cultivar to create, you consume it and it instantly gives you a feeling, and you remember this feeling and associate it back to that cultivar…….it’s like a customer retention cheat code. Brands need to replicate this basic principle and get their consumers to associate feeling with the brand and establish loyalty with customers.
Of course, there are exceptions for vertically integrated brands (brands with their own retail space), but for the most part, Cannabis brands operate as a B2B business. Cannabis brands are in a rush to grow and scale, because of the marketing restrictions, shelf space has become its own marketing sub-strategy. If a brand gets itself into more stores, then more exposure in more markets, and ultimately that should lead to more sales. So Cannabis brands have started to look at Dispensaries and Budtenders as their customers…..essentially they have become the gatekeepers to the consumer.
This has made things difficult for cannabis entrepreneurs on the brand side in that with all this focus on pleasing the gatekeeper, some focus on the consumer may slip.
At the end of the day Cannabis is a CPG product, and the true end customers are consumers, not dispensaries. Something brands always have to keep in mind for their marketing strategy: Budtenders will ultimately turn over and cannabis dispensaries will always promote what is in the best interest to their bottom line.
So what tools are available to cannabis marketers and cannabis brands to directly connect with and attract new customers? Brands need to start looking at Cannabis friendly ad networks that allow them to directly connect with consumers and start evoking feelings that will build brand Affinity. Specifically, Ad networks that allow you to target your consumers at the right time and provide reporting that lets you know how effective your ad campaigns are performing.
The only platform that not only allows you to target your consumers in an established communication channel and receive reporting on performance metrics is the springbig Brands platform, the first digital cannabis advertising platform of its kind. For the past 5 years, springbig has been a leader in the loyalty marketing space for dispensaries. Springbig recently opened this network consiting of 30 million members of dispensary loyalty rewards programs to Cannabis brands and for the first time Brands are in control of how their consumers feel about them.
Brands using the springbig network provide their unique creativity to retailers which are then sent via text message directly to the smartphone screen of their consumer loyalty database, aligning the interest of the brand and retailer, and driving customer loyalty for the brand. In fact, we have seen a 20% retention rate of customers acquired during a SpringBig brands campaign. SpringBig even provides you with post-campaign sales reporting that will allow you to understand how many new customers you obtained, the cost to obtain a new customer, and the lifetime value of a new customer, never seen in our industry.
The cannabis industry is starting to reach a tipping point. Which more states legalizing Adult-Use Cannabis consumption, Federal Legalization is on the horizon. How are you preparing to build your brand identity to connect with and evoke feeling out of your existing customers? It’s time we’ve replicated the affinities that cultivars command from consumers and build brand loyalty with our recreational and medical marijuana brands. I am excited to see what this year has to bring in Cannabis.