Cresco Labs Launches California Advertising Campaign, Marking Its Most Significant Marketing Push To Date

Campaign touting the brand’s high quality and consistency supports new packaging and products in the market as Cresco strives to become one of the leading cannabis brands in the country’s largest recreational state

CALIFORNIA: Cresco Labs, one of the largest vertically integrated multi-state cannabis operators in the United States, today debuted its largest advertising initiative created to bolster consumer awareness in California of its namesake cannabis brand, Cresco. Called “Excellent Everyday Cannabis”, the multi-channel campaign spans cannabis and mainstream media and features break-through branding that highlights the importance of quality and consistency for everyday cannabis consumption—a marketing message that closely aligns with Cresco Labs’ mission to normalize and professionalize cannabis use. The campaign supports the market introduction of updated packaging featuring an elevated look and feel for Cresco’s portfolio of products that include flower, cartridges and solid concentrates.

As Cresco quickly moves to solidify its position as one of the largest cannabis brands in California, this initiative comes at a particularly significant time. Cresco has historically operated in medical markets such as Illinois and Pennsylvania, and the brand is making its first marketing push in a recreational market where cannabis companies can advertise and speak directly to consumers. Cresco aims to set itself apart from other brands with straightforward messaging that demonstrates its quality and consistency.

“We’re focused on delivering the most consistent, high quality products for consumers who use cannabis to complement their daily rituals. Whether it’s to relax, focus or sleep, people are looking for a cannabis brand they can trust,” said Cory Rothschild, SVP of Brand Marketing at Cresco Labs. “At a time when many brands are focused on the most exceptional moments in life – the parties or the unattainable – we’re proud to deliver excellent everyday cannabis that Californians can count on to help enhance their lives. The new campaign will live in many of the channels where you would expect to see traditional CPG products, helping to destigmatize cannabis use at a time when so many people benefit from thoughtful, responsible consumption.”

“Excellent Everyday Cannabis” aims to captivate consumers through straightforward language that favors product attributes over the occasion and a modern approach to content creation and media placement. Cresco Labs worked with Steelworks, a Los Angeles-based studio specializing in Computer Generated Imagery (CGI), to develop high quality, visually stunning imagery that highlights the refined aesthetic of Cresco’s new packaging. Imagery positions Cresco products to pop off bold, colored backgrounds, with straight-forward and straight-on angles that cast a big angular shadow garnering attention. Copy placed behind the product uses striking fonts and repetition to underline the campaign’s primary message, “excellent everyday cannabis,” with other copy variations to reinforce quality, consistency and everyday usability.

The company tapped digital advertising company Centro to implement a programmatic strategy leveraging algorithmic learnings and machine buying to reach target audiences in the right mindset and environment in real-time with precision and efficiency. High-impact digital displays in cannabis websites, such as Leafly and Weedmaps, as well as in best-in-class media partners Penske Media and Condé Nast, enable the company to reach target audiences consuming high quality content in these premium and rich contextual environments. The advertising initiative also includes digital out-of-home ads in elevator and lobby areas throughout Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco; print advertising in daily newspapers, such as the San Francisco Chronicle, and two custom, hand-painted wall murals in Santa Monica by artist Lefty Out There, a celebrated Chicago-based artist known for his intricate pattern work, contemporary aesthetic and attention to detail.

The “Excellent Everyday Cannabis” campaign coincides with a national packaging relaunch and rebrand of Cresco. The new brand launches first in California, with plans for a nationwide expansion in the coming months.

Marketing Thru Marijuana: Differentiate or Die

This is the year that hippie cannabis dies. Woodstock is 50, and has just licensed its name to mega-retailer MedMen.  Hemp is newly de-scheduled and igniting the imaginations of farmers and investors excited about the global opportunity.  Pot Culture has become Pop Culture as legalization has spread coast-to-coast and pushed marijuana into the mainstream.

For grassroots marketers who have been playing in our fragmented American marketplace — where no two states share identical regulations or standards — things have gotten tough in the last year as legal competition from Big Pharma, Big Alcohol, Big Tobacco, Big Consumer Package Goods and Big Agriculture have transformed the playing field.

“As our nascent industry rockets from grassroots to global, it’s Differentiate or Die time for independent companies hoping to stay relevant in an increasingly noisy landscape.” MJBA Founder and veteran marketer David Rheins told MJNews Network.

“You must be able to stand out from the cacophony.  My advice for the licensed cannabis business and ancillary provider alike, is to focus on defining your brand differentiation.  Find a niche, fill a niche.  Your competition moving forward is Big Industry, which has the money, the technology and the wherewithal to take a product from field or factory to shelf better than the little guy ever will.”

His advice: Build your brand authority.  “Big Industry doesn’t understand emerging markets — who the consumer are, their buying preferences and psychographics,” Rheins said.  “As a small business, you are part of the community. You are making a market — defining the industry and your space in it.  No one understands its needs and attitudes of the new market better than the grassroots marketer.  Build your brand around your values, and the values of your customers and your community.   Establish brand loyalty and authority — with your vendors, and your customers, wether you are b2b or b2c — by lending value.”

Differentiate Or Die

Rheins suggests that the New Year is a good time for all marketers to do a brand review.  As an exercise, he encourages his clients to ask their investors, employees, vendors and customers to answer a couple of questions:

1) Describe our brand value  — what do we stand for — in one sentence.

2) What products/services do we offer.

3) What is our unique selling proposition (USP) — what do we do better than other brands?

“You’d be surprised how much intelligence you’ll gain just by analyzing these questions,” Rheins said.  “It only goes to reinforce that today marketing is not simply an exercise of spending money on paid advertising.  Advertising — particularly targeted placements — can be effective, but savvy marketers today depend on an integrated strategy that includes owned media (your company websites and newsletters) and earned media — social media engagement on public platforms with business communities and groups on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit.

In this dynamic environment, Rheins advises businesses to stay engaged and stay fresh.

Take An Annual Brand Checkup

1) Do A Brand Review: How well do your customers understand your Brand Values and USP? How well do you understand your customer segments?

2) Website Audit: How fresh is your content? Are you SEO optimized? Are you using your website to gather customer feedback?

3) Social Media Audit: How visible is your brand on key social media platforms?  How often do you post content?  How quickly do you respond to queries or brand mentions? Who in your company is responsible for social media?

4) Community Check Up: How engaged is your brand in your community — not just your cannabis community but your local community?  Do you sponsor local events? Do you give to local charities? How well liked is your brand on Main Street?

 

 

The Higher Ground Legal Stash Box, Vol.II! A Highly Curated Cannabis Collection

By Michael A. Stusser

Curated from legal markets across the country, the Higher Ground Legal Stash Box highlights the most amazing products and packaging in the burgeoning cannabis industry. Hand selected by Michael Stusser, host of Higher Ground TV, the items in each anthology represent the gold standard of legal offerings for cannabis connoisseurs!

highergtv logoThe notable selections in this month’s Higher Ground Legal Stash Box include:

Defonce Chocolatier. Combining the world’s most premium chocolate with organic California cannabis, Defonce Chocolatier isn’t only a great edible, it’s gorgeous. Designed by former Apple product manager Eric Eslao, the pot-infused chocolate features three-dimensional designed dividing pyramid-shaped sections into perfect doses. As for the name – “Defonce” is French for stoned.

Firefly Vaporizer. The elegant Firefly uses dynamic convection technology to deliver delicious flavorful vapor draws that are ready in seconds. With Zebra wood detailing and top-notch craftsmanship, it’s the most elegant vaporizer ever made. The intuitive controls allow users to dial in their favorite temperatures, and the Firefly 2 can also vape wax and concentrates.

Swifts Mints. Blending the finest cannabis and green tea and peppermint natural extracts, Swifts Mints energize the taste buds – and give a refreshing buzz. The mints are sugar free, and contain the perfect microdose in each delectable lozenge.

HGDefonceBox

Lucky 420s. Lucky 420s are fresh, 100% cannabis pre-rolls with a filterless crutch that turn heads, and get you stoned to the Bejesus. The brand also has one of the hippest social media campaigns in cannabis, harkening back to the 1970s with stylish, discreet retro vibe that’s part Charlie’s Angels, part James Bond.

SeaGoat Cannabis. Using only Single Origin Venezuelan fair traded chocolate, SeaGoat edibles are colorful, all organic, and contain no artificial ingredients. Oh, and the delicious coco is infused with only the finest CO2 oils. Yumbuzz!

Freddy’s Fuego Pre-Roll. Freddy’s pre-rolls deliver a crisp, sweet smoke from a grower concentrating on consistency and quality. The weed from Freddy’s also has the highest level of terpenes, giving their strains intense flavors, smooth exhales and a head in the clouds.

Saints Joints. Seattle Green Bud is dedicated to growing only the highest quality cannabis, using only natural ingredients and practices. They also donate a portion of proceeds to arts and community organizations. Their A-Grade flower is hand trimmed, top shelf, high potency, and tasty.

Gold Leaf Gardens. Flower from Gold Leaf reaches back to the botanical roots of the rich Hawaiian islands. Using generations-old cultivation techniques and values, the growers engage in strict organic principles and operate with Clean Green Certification. What it means for those who smoke the flower? Richest flavors, euphoric aromas, and uplifting intoxication.Grown with Aloha!

While the Higher Ground Legal Stash Box is not available for purchase, there are several high end curated delivery boxes for sale, including Club M and Lucky Box Club

Stay tuned to MJ News Network where we will continue to curate the best in legal cannabis, and highlight the most innovative and elegant brands in upcoming Higher Ground Legal Stash Boxes.

3 stash boxes mini


Higher Ground is the World’s first talk show highlighting cannabis culture. Think of it as “The Daily Show” meets “Good Morning America”…but with a giant bong on the desk. For more on Higher Ground and host Michael Stusser, visit www.highergroundtv.com or www.michaelstusser.com

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPUBjbsSVA8&w=560&h=315]

Diego Pellicer Announces New Premium Marijuana Branding And Retail Prototypes

WASHINGTON:  Diego Pellicer Worldwide, Inc. has announced a partnership with architect Michael Rotondi, FAIA, and creative Jill Savini to develop retail prototypes and innovative branding for future store locations.

“We’re staying ahead of the curve by developing industry changing scalable and inviting retail environments that will be built to enhance the customer experience, along with a brand that reflects the premium cannabis products sold by our licensed and branded retail tenants,” said Ron Throgmartin, chief executive officer, Diego Pellicer Worldwide, Inc. “By working with Rotondi and Savini, we’re bringing in retail design and branding experts that will set the bar for premium retail cannabis stores. Rotondi and Savini’s experience and progressive thinking will chart the course for Diego Pellicer to accomplish our goals in this relatively new marketplace.”

According to a company press release, Rotondi and Savini plan to create a cutting-edge branding and architecture system that is adaptable to each market, each footprint and reflects the community in which it operates.

“What fascinates me the most about working with Diego is that while the industry continues to be defined, it’s possible that our work will set a new standard that others will want to emulate,” said Rotondi. “The store concepts that we’re developing will not only make each location look consistent and yet unique, but can be built quickly using current technology and materials.

The Cannabrander: Studio A64 Case Study: The Local Social Dimensions Of Best-Practice Branding

By Ben Weinberg

COLORADO: Studio A64 is a private, members-only cannabis club in Colorado Springs, Colorado that features a large, open space on the main floor as well as an upstairs lounge.  Studio A64 does not provide cannabis, and Ambur Racek who, along with Wanda Stark, owns and operates the club, wouldn’t have it any other way.  “We’re a social space for marijuana users, so we serve coffee and other drinks.  We also have a real soda fountain where we create awesome milkshakes!”

“We show movies,” says Stark, “have live music and comedy, play bingo, and curate all sorts of other social activities.  We even do ladies nights!”  With close to 2,000 registered members and continued strong membership growth, Studio A64 is a cannabis-focused business that understands the local social dimensions of best-practice branding.

Social vs. Social Media

Social media acts at a distance and can be very effective in raising a company’s profile.  But turning a prospect into a long-term customer generally requires more than just active Facebook and Twitter accounts.  Humans have evolved as social animals, which is why social media works, but our genetics use online activity as a mere proxy for face-to-face interaction, which is why in-person contact is so impactful.

Many of the social cues we normally consider (particularly smells and pheromones) are absent from social media, and thus interaction at a distance is not generally superior to the real thing.  How can a business owner capitalize on the natural dominance of local-area communication to promote her brand?

Being Friendly

Obviously, being social is easiest when there is a physical place of business.  But having a storefront isn’t marketing, and Colorado’s restrictions on legal cannabis mean that Studio A64 can’t advertise through regular channels.  So Racek and Stark have relied on both word of mouth and social media to promote their club.

A big part of Studio A64’s brand involves being picky about the type of person to whom they offer membership.  “We don’t allow just anyone in,” explains Racek, who has a background in the local restaurant scene.  “No large bags or pets, and we don’t show a lot of security but what’s there is always friendly.”

The user’s overall experience while onsite is another basis of the brand, a lesson the owners learned from the original owner, K.C. Stark.  “He really was the captain of the ship,” says Racek.  “K.C. was a pioneer who helped change history by campaigning to end marijuana prohibition once and for all.  UX was very important to him, and we’re just following in his footsteps.”

Stark (no relation) also credits the importance of a welcoming, professional vibe in bringing out targeted blocks of consumers who otherwise wouldn’t go to a cannabis club.  “We have a large contingent of female entrepreneurs, probably in part because they feel so safe here.”  Membership is evenly divided between locals and tourists, with most of the latter category coming specifically because they’ve previously heard about Studio A64 and not just because they’re on vacation in a legal cannabis state.

Franchising plans are already in the works, including to other parts of Colorado, California, Oregon, and Florida.  While navigating multiple jurisdictions in a quickly evolving legal space can be challenging, Stark believes that threading the needle on constantly changing laws requires a cannabis brand to continually branch out into new areas of expertise.  “We’re already almost five years old and the local government keeps trying to shut us down.  But as regulations become more lenient over time, the industry’s transition from medical to retail to social will also trace the evolution of our brand as a safe, social place for our members to consume legal cannabis.”

Being Social in a Virtual World

By partnering with a legal, physical space, a virtual company can add the benefits of one-on-one, in-person interaction to those already inherent in a lean, otherwise online-only operation.  In fact, locations such as Studio A64 are often eager to partner with outside vendors because the synergies are so obvious.

Conclusion

Studio A64, the United States first brick and mortar cannabis club, proudly sets a national standard for the future of the marijuana industry by incorporating the social element of branding into its products and services.  It’s a lesson that other cannabis companies, especially those with access to a physical storefront or other premises, should take very seriously.


About Ben Weinberg

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 and sign up for his newsletter.

Good Articles Aid Cannabis Startups

By Janet Vasquez

As more states legalize cannabis on some level, the number of new cannabis start-ups is growing.  So how does your start-up standout from the others? Investors looking for their next play or consumers searching for a cannabis product or service often can only differentiate one start-up from another by the articles it finds. Particularly in a new legal industry such as cannabis, an investor or consumer relies on the credibility of a media outlet as an endorsement of a source as serious and qualified

In the cannabis business, startups need to communicate they are reliable, dedicated to quality, and adhere to the other attributes of serious commerce. It’s even more important given the long history of the pot culture and the stigmas attached to it.

One of the most effective actions a cannabis company can take to prove itself to the market as a well-run business is through a thoughtful, well planned and executed public relations campaign. The power of the third-party endorsement that comes from being an expert source in media articles is a powerful tool.

An article in a local or national newspaper, or an interview on radio or TV drives investors and consumers to your product or company.  It begins the process of steering them your way by introducing you and having them want more information. You have the opportunity to tell your story, through a journalist.  It’s important to have your messages, talking points and quotes you’d like to see in a story ahead of time to get the best possible outcome.  Despite the constant political news climate, there is still real media traction covering the sector, including cannabis trades and mainstream consumer news media. Public relations coupled within a marketing/advertising program makes sense. A well-rounded media campaign should also news stories still capture the news and evolution of products and services in the cannabis industry.

Consider three different companies of similar size in the exact same market niche. One has no media exposure; the second has bought an ad in the town’s newspaper; the CEO of the third appears as the subject of a profile in the same paper. Who do you think is going to look best to a potential investor or customer?

Often a small, locally focused business, doesn’t need national exposure and a local news story does the trick.  With the Internet, even “local” stories have global significance in searches.  While an article in USA Today is great promotion and a boost to an ego, being profiled in a cannabis trade or recognized as a source in a local business journal also reaches your target audience.

So, the next time you’re wondering how you can reach new customers or gain more investors, remember where it is you go for information about options and reading through news articles when making decisions.  Those stories can include you next time with a quote, a picture or maybe even a profile.


 

Janet Vasquez is founder of JV Public Relations NY, a boutique healthcare PR firm working with medical cannabis companies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cannabrander: Canopy Case Study: The Branding Advantage of Thought Leadership

By Ben Weinberg

CanopyBoulder is a seed-stage business accelerator, operated under the Canopy parasol in Boulder, Colorado, where it focuses on the legal cannabis space.  It provides capital, a 16-week mentor-driven boot camp, and critical industry knowledge in return for a 6-9.5 percent equity stake in each hand-picked member of every incoming class.  After a three-month program, in which members are groomed to successfully access venture capital, the top three companies in each class also have access to a convertible note to aid in continued growth.

There are now 67 companies in CanopyBoulder’s portfolio, and classes for new entrants start twice each year, in the spring and fall.  In fact, the concept has been so successful that the Canopy accelerator model has expanded its reach to California, which necessitated a change in branding strategy from ‘CanopyBoulder’ to just ‘Canopy.’  “We use the CanopyBoulder and Canopy San Diego designations for the accelerators in those locations,” says Patrick Rea, Canopy’s Founder and CEO, “which allows the Canopy name to be an umbrella for our current and future programs, as well as other organizational branches that we hope to roll out in the future.”

Clearly the company is onto something big, and being a thought leader is a huge part of its up-and-coming brand.

The Front of the House

Rea has a background in natural foods and venture capitalism but moved to legal cannabis in 2013.  “I found a gap between those who wanted to start cannabis-related companies and those who brought lean startup best-practices and financing to the table.  There was clearly a need for a business accelerator specifically designed for this space.”

According to Program Director Mason Levy, the company is dedicated to building outstanding, professional businesses that help move the cannabis industry forward.  “We work with adult-use and medicinally focused firms, and are always looking to add tech plays, data analytics, market research, sales, advertising, and consumption devices to our portfolio.”

The Secret Sauce

Levy, who has a degree in Mechanical Engineering, an MBA, and a blackbelt certification in Lean 6 Sigma methodologies, admits that a portion of CanopyBoulder’s success is due to the Boulder-Denver metro area being the business nexus of and a model for the U.S. cannabis industry.  Business Insider has also named Boulder to its list of the 20 Most Innovative Cities, Atlantic Cities online named it one of the top 15 cities nationwide in attracting venture capital, and over the past five years it has garnered about 33 percent of all venture capital investment in Colorado companies.  Boulder boasts unparalleled scenic beauty, favorable cost of living, a highly educated workforce, a diverse mix of large and small businesses, and a world class university.

But a large part of Canopy’s program is based on process, not locational perks, and to Levy that means being a thought leader in consumer and agricultural technology.  “We focus on what each part of the whole is best at to achieve a greater goal.  What will the cannabis industry look like in 30 years?  That’s where we want to be.”

The company is built around the idea that cannabis is one of the first industries to come to maturity during the information revolution.  While Levy is passionate about empowering individuals in the new economy, at the same time he recognizes that traditional best-practices in branding, marketing, and the like are all still extremely relevant.  “Treating cannabis as a completely different animal means you’re trying too hard, but it’s easy to be excited about the fastest growing industry in the world!”

Rea believes that the core values of a modern economic methodology (transparency, shared profit, and impact investing) are crucial to his company’s brand.  An important consequence is that the decision-making processes of cannabis thought leaders should always be filtered through caring and empathy.  “Technology now exists for consumers to care as much as they want about anything and everything.  That’s why each mentor we connect to our members brings invaluable perspective on starting and growing a business, plus an extensive professional network.  Above all, these relationships are committed to Canopy’s companies, with everyone giving generously of their time and leveraging their experiences for ultimate success.”

Thought Leadership; A Final Word

Canopy focuses on thought leadership as a part of their core methodology.  I would also argue that thought leadership in general is an excellent place to start a brand, particularly in a space that is coming to maturity in the information age


 

About Ben Weinberg

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.

The Cannabrander: CBD + Co. A First Product Case Study

By Ben Weinberg 

CBD + Co. produces pharmaceutical grade cannabidiol (CBD) in a well-equipped laboratory northeast of Boulder, Colorado.  “Our chief innovation is a water-soluble isolate that can be ingested sublingually,” relates Founder Stephen Bernard, a mechanical engineer who has spent more than a decade in the cannabis industry.  This means it continues to release active ingredients in a biocompatible way even after being swallowed.  It’s a major step, and given his company’s focus it makes no sense to follow the branding practices of stoner subculture, “not if we want to reach serious people while providing legitimacy to the business of cannabis.”

Bernard and Alex Cullota, the company’s Cofounder, first looked at other available CBDs, which are most popular as tinctures (alcoholic extracts that don’t fit everyone’s taste).  They then incorporated their water-soluble isolate into honey, a natural product with positive health connotations.  Another critical decision was to package Honey Drops in blue glass, representative of laboratory packaging, instead of subculture-standard colors and materials.

According to Cullota, a veteran consultant in chemicals, oil, gas, and construction, such tactics build on CBD + Co.’s reputation for bringing the science of cannabis front-and-center.  “We cater to ‘Productive Potheads’, people who use cannabis to do creative things, and our branding proposition reflects this.”

The Hard Part

Of course, there have been stumbles along the way.  Facebook shut down Bernard’s personal page, and early on there were misunderstandings about online marketing.  “We originally built big,” explains Douglas Wilson, a former military man who now consults for CBD + Co. in IT and cybersecurity, “with an expensive website that wasn’t exactly turnkey.  But we had no effective content management and we weren’t sure if we could actually sell something about which we couldn’t openly converse.”

Wilson bursts through this paradigm via the clever use of pictures and videos depicting bright, sunny places where consumers engage in productive activities such as yoga, gaming, and athletics.  “We’re changing the image of the cannabis user by showing off the science behind a healthy lifestyle that includes our products.”

Cullota believes that the closest space in this regard is Big Pharma, and that many branding problems can be solved by looking there.  “Drug companies sell their most controversial products by socially engineering their target markets.  This usually involves aligning the general perception of their drugs with productive lifestyle choices.”

Wilson also believes that simply pointing out the government’s acceptance of CBD and other compounds via U.S. patent can help people accept life empowering solutions.  To quote the patent abstract, “Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties… This newfound property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of a wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune…”  Spreading awareness via the major actors in CBD-manageable illnesses, primarily chronic pain issues such as fibromyalgia and arthritis, and neurodegenerative quirks like cerebral palsy and epilepsy, also make intuitive sense.

The Future

The company continues to innovate as a major part of its value proposition.  “We’re currently isolating tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and THCA,” says Bernard, “and we’re working on THCV, cannabigerol (CBG), and cannabinol (CBN).”  It’s taken CBD + Co. three years to get to this point, and the plan is to continue to improve incrementally while creating qualitative differences versus the competition.  A long-term goal is to eventually sell to Big Pharma and anyone else who needs high quality, cannabis derived compounds.

The Bottom Line

Branding a cannabis related product, particularly a company’s first foray into the marketplace, can be a distinct challenge.  One way to cut through the chaff of subculture is to focus on pictures and especially video as a form of social engineering that leans toward the customers who represent the best of your targeted market.

 


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.

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.

The Wink In Weed: Woodstock Nation Goes to Pot

By David Rheins

It’s early for a Saturday in Seattle, but I’m German and so I am the first to arrive. Entering the swanky lobby of the downtown boutique hotel, the vibe is New York City chic, appropriate enough for my introduction to New Yorker Michael Lang – the once and still cherubic face behind Woodstock.

Michael is making the rounds of the cannabis business community, looking for partners for Woodstock-branded weed, and a mutual friend has arranged for us to have coffee.  It is our first meeting, and I’m happy to speak with a generational icon.  What I notice first is his smile – still boyish despite 72 years as a celebrity rock promoter – followed quickly by his still impressive head of hair.  I am reminded of the famous photos, Lang on stage, or riding his BSA Victor motorcycle.

Michael on his BSA

While I’m too young to have partied in the mud at Max Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York, the album, the Warner Brothers concert film, and the iconic photographs of the event were deeply influential to me growing up, and I tell him so.  There is no brand that resonates more solidly with baby boomers than Woodstock.

Unlike the appeal of Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson and Tommy Chong – the Holy Trinity of stoner celebrity cannabis brands –Woodstock’s cache transcends mere pot celebrity. Not just an historical festival featuring all the hippie heavyweights, Woodstock was the first gathering of the rainbow nation. An “Aquarian Exposition,” a happening, and a coming-out party for America’s disenfranchised long hairs, who came together from all corners of the country to let their freak flags fly during 3 days of peace, music & pot smoke.

Woodstock branded weed is a no brainer – it is hard to imagine a brand with a more canna-friendly image, and initial consumer demand is likely to be high, particularly with the hoopla surrounding the planned 50th anniversary concert in 2019.

I was part of the 1994 Woodstock II celebration.  Spin magazine, where I served as associate publisher, was media sponsor, and we rented a large house next to the festival grounds.  We used our sponsorship as an occasion to demonstrate to our advertising partners the power of music and youth culture.  Woodstock was nostalgic even in 1994, and its mystique had less to do with the music of Jimi Hendrix and Country Joe than it did with the power of community. That experience transcends generations.  The masses of Generation X celebrants, covered in mud, crowd surfing and smoking pot to Metallica we felt the same spirit of tribal communion as the 1969 crowd did, and the photographs of both are almost indistinguishable.

woodstock1994

The Woodstock Nation is now in its 70s, and the quaint marijuana of the 1960s has grown up into a sophisticated consumer marketplace. Today’s cannabis comes in all shapes and sizes, flavors and forms.  Competing with a super market full of canna brands for shelf space and consumer mind share won’t be easy – even for an iconic brand.

Woodstock will likely feature old school strains, and Lang is leaning toward classic 60s strains like Panama Red and Acapulco Gold.  His task now is to find local farmers in each market whose product can live up to expectations for such a legendary brand. To succeed he must create consistent experience worthy of such a pedigreed name, a challenge made more difficult as each state will have its own growers, who’ll operate under unique rules and standards.

Uneven production can quickly diminish the value of an entire franchise.  Other licensees have seen that when you rely on third party producers, product quality and potency can be inconsistent from crop to crop, batch to batch, and certainly state to state.

Now more than ever, the key to success for cannabis producers and processors lies in brand differentiation, a topic I’ll be discussing at CannaCon on Friday, February 17th at 10am. We’ll be examining Marijuana Marketing, and how pot culture is quickly becoming pop culture.