When it comes to branding and marketing, cannabis companies must operate within strict regulatory guidelines. Building a brand and developing marketing strategies that comply with that framework can be difficult, but the effective use of communications and content marketing can help your brand thrive, even in the darkest of markets.
Here, in the second installment of a three-part series, Jenn Larry, president of CBDStrategy Group, a Canadian marketing and communications firm, shares insights on how to use communications and content marketing to connect with and educate your target audience in a way that upholds your brand’s philosophy and maximizes your return on investment (ROI).
1. Communications should consist of a database of factual content that can be redistributed to target audiences.
When considering communications for various audiences—shareholders, partners, customers or the media—businesses should have a large database of factual content that is not promotional with claims and guarantees, but that focuses on the company’s processes and products, Larry says. Communications should first focus on what individual audiences need, and then move back to the center to continue a single, overarching brand conversation.
Communications efforts should be separate from promotion, advertising and marketing—taking an informative, educational and factual approach that helps people navigate the brand and make stronger decisions along their user journey or purchase journey, she adds.
“Particularly when it comes to our health, I think it’s an opportunity for collaborative responsibility to communicate … because we’re consuming this product,” Larry says.
2. Use educational content marketing that is aligned with the philosophy of the brand.
When crafting the company’s brand story, begin with a database of factual content and align it with the philosophy of the brand, but don’t force it, Larry advises.
“Before [businesses] think about brand marketing or content marketing, [they should] strip it back to what content is actually available for them to use without having to over manipulate so it can stay compliant,” she says.
Available content ranges from the origin of seed to information about the facility, to the nutrients that are used in cultivation, to the heart-felt reasons why the company was started, and of course to the people and departments that make the company thrive. However, any content used should have a clear intention, which also aligns with the brand’s philosophy.
While not all of it can be shared, this content doesn’t need manipulated because it is interesting in its raw form, Larry says. Trying to nail down a tagline for a lifestyle campaign is where over manipulation goes wrong, she adds. While anecdotal information is incredibly valuable, when it comes to cannabis, it is prudent to try to use your fact-based data. Minimal manipulation should make it less subjective, which is a win when it comes to regulated communications, Larry says.
3. Content marketing should connect with your audience and have a clear ROI.
It is very expensive to invest in a content marketing strategy and execute it correctly, Larry (pictured left) says. Therefore, all content marketing should establish a connection with the business’s audience and have a clear and measurable ROI.
“I think it’s about finding a way to do it right and within the law, so as to still create some kind of connection and return on investment, [whether that’s] onboarding new patients, new users, new shareholders—whatever that looks like for a brand,” she says.
Content marketing should positively impact the industry as well as a company’s individual brand, she adds. This includes educational content about how people can benefit from cannabis. Valuable content marketing is about context, not just content.
“If a brand is trying to educate people on wellness and betterment, and how to practice integration into their lives—they should stay very true to who they are, and this is that moment where content marketing supports the notion of less is more, as long as less is contextually more significant,” Larry says.
4. Consider expanding the understanding of your target audience.
Patients are becoming shareholders in companies, Larry says, and information that may have once been shared only with a shareholder is now of interest to patients and consumers. In today’s times, the brand’s journey and story is of interest to many different people. While profiling archetypes may help companies discover their target audience needs, in cannabis, we cannot assume that assigning an archetype to a user will be that cut and dry, Larry says. Brand users will exist across both the medical and recreational markets, so taking into consideration deeper needs and market adjacencies will be very beneficial.
“We tend to create archetypes because we want to understand [our customers] and their needs, but we live in a universe where we wake up on any given day with any given idea, we put it into a query box on the internet and we go down a rabbit hole, which means there are infinite numbers of journeys, and how we’re going to create conclusions is by having access to the most amount of information,” Larry says.
Top Image: © Sergey Nivens | Adobe Stock
CBDStrategy Group mark and Jenn Larry headshot courtesy of Jenn Larry