The Cannabrander: Marketing Vs. Branding

By Ben Weinberg

“Build it and they will come,” may sound great as an incorporeal whisper from the far depths of an Iowa corn field, but as a strategy it lacks any obvious utility. You may indeed have built a better mousetrap but, in the absence of any clear branding, how will your potential customers ever find your product and, more importantly, believe that it is the optimal solution?

This is the premiere of my monthly column for MJ News Network on best practices in branding, specifically oriented toward the legal cannabis industry.  If you want a bio it’s HERE, but rather than waste space talking about me let’s get to the subject at hand.

What’s the Difference Between Marketing and Branding?

As described by James Heaton at the Tronvig Group, “…marketing is actively promoting a product or service. It’s a push tactic…Branding should both precede and underlie any marketing effort. Branding is not push, but pull.  Branding is the expression of the essential truth or value of an organization, product, or service.  It is communication of characteristics, values, and attributes that clarify what this particular brand is and is not.”

In this view, “branding is strategic and marketing is tactical.  Marketing may contribute to a brand, but the brand is bigger than any individual marketing effort.  The brand is what remains after the marketing has swept through the room.  It’s what sticks in your mind associated with a product, service, or organization.”

Social Media in Branding

At a recent Cannabis Marketing Association meeting at Cultivated Synergy in Denver, Brett Schklar, CEO and Founder of The Cannabis Creative, said that maximizing the use of social media in a business context hinges on the “Three Cs”: leading your Customers into first becoming Club Members and then graduating to Cult Followers.

Remember Heaton — marketing unearth and activates buyers, but branding is what makes loyal customers, advocates, even evangelists, out of those who buy.  In today’s business world, branding thus inherently involves social media because it is the only way to consistently contact consumers who by affirmative action have shown their affinity for you and your products.

The Best SocMed

During that CMA meeting, Schklar also opined that Facebook and Instagram tend to be the most effective channels for promoting legal cannabis companies, probably because they reach the most people overall, followed by Twitter and Pinterest, which lean heavily toward influencers and a younger demographic.  LinkedIn is good for investor contact but not necessarily general branding and, according to Schklar, everything else lags far behind.  This hierarchy matches my own experience, as well.

Please note that Heaton’s definition of branding (an expression of the essential truth or value of an organization, product, or service) requires valuable content that is constantly being refreshed.  This content can be almost anything: information (including dope on the latest products and services), promoting constant engagement, stirring controversy, starting conversations, and even playing games (i.e., gamification).

The Bottom Line

To build your cannabis-related brand via social media you must know your buyers, constantly produce fresh and valuable content, and choose channels accordingly.

Ben Weinberg, JD, MBA, the President of Ben Weinberg Consultants, has more than 30 years of experience in harnessing his creativity to tell your company’s story, including strategic and tactical marketing, sales, operational, and administrative consulting for small- and medium-size businesses across diverse industries such as law, medicine, wellness, leisure, and hospitality. Ben has written professionally for many international magazines and newspapers, online and in print, including as a contributing editor and Editor-in-Chief, is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and has won multiple awards for creative writing.  Visit his website HERE and sign up for his newsletter.


  1. Richard Freeman says

    This brief article makes a cogent point in regard to distinguishing branding from marketing – a distinction to which I hadn’t given enough thought. Hmm. I”m going to have to ruminate on this insight some more. Thanks for posting!

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