By Jared R. Finkenbinder
What Exactly Is a Brand? A brand is a complex combination of several components that come together to build the true picture of your business. A brand is also about how the public reacts and interacts with your company and products and services. Seth Goden, Best Selling Author says, “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” It’s not just your logo, website, marketing strategy, employee handbook, signs, banners or your products. It is about the relationship you build with your customers, your neighbors and your community. A good brand involves your processes, your reputation and what makes you different from the rest of the competition.
Why Is Branding Important in The Cannabis Industry?
In the cannabis industry, careful branding is essential. For years the government, the education system, and the media has painted cannabis in a bad light. The entertainment and media industries didn’t help either, portraying stoned out potheads as a laughing stock and a drain on society. All this negative information means for the industry to be able to succeed, that perception needs to change.
With adults age 37 and up (age 41 and up for medical users) being the largest demographic who are shopping for cannabis, there is a need for the industry to present a thoughtful, mature image as the user base gets older. While it will take some time to change the public perception of cannabis, those in the industry can start by growing up too. Brands that perpetrate the stoner image are on the decline, while sensible brands are on the rise. Carefully branding the cannabis industry as a legitimate business that can help people lead healthier lives is essential, if there is to be significant chance to balance the “hippy stoner” and existing stigma of the product, with a new feeling of acceptability.
Your Brand Should Make You Memorable and Recognizable
“Your ... brand had better be delivering something special, or it’s not going to get the business.” says Warren Buffet, CEO Berkshire Hathaway. Done correctly, your brand can set your business apart from the competition, and it will give you an edge in the marketplace. By establishing your brand, you can position your company (and yourself) as an expert in your field. Since creating a recognizable brand can help you sell your products and services, your brand should be thought of as part of your sales team. Hewlett Packard’s co-founder David Packard said, “Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.”
Your brand should make your business recognizable and memorable. You don’t even need to be told what product the company with two yellow arcs, or Golden Arches, on a red background sells, to know we are speaking of McDonald’s.
What McDonald’s and other successful brands do so well is build an emotional connection with their audience. How did they want their audience to feel about their food? Hungry. Excited. Motivated. McDonald’s brandings sole purpose is to make the public want to come in and buy their food. Over and over again. By serving consistent food at every one of their restaurants, they built trust in their brand. They created consistency by making sure that every employee followed the same recipe and process to cook burgers and fries. They make it easy to obtain their product. There is a McDonald’s restaurant in almost every town in America. You knew that you could drive in to any of their locations and in a just few minutes leave with a familiar meal in the bag on the seat next to you.
Your Brand Should Help You Stand Out from The Competition
An excellent brand can also help you stand out from the competition. What makes your company different from the one down the street? Unlike McDonald’s making the exact same burger and fries no matter what the customer really wanted, another fast food burger restaurant, Burger King, sought to prove that their product was different and special. Their burgers were flame broiled instead of steamed, and they used fresh produce on their Whopper sandwiches. What’s more, to combat the assembly line approach of building hamburgers, they did things differently. Burger King came up with a catchy tune to tell the public what made them different, “Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us!” Their brand differentiator was being able to customize your experience with “tastier” food cooked fresh when you came in for lunch.
Even if one burger joint’s fast food isn’t any better than another across the street, these two companies both succeeded in creating a loyal following in their customers. You can find Burger King loyalists and just as many people who vehemently prefer McDonald’s. This loyalty is due largely to their branding, I mean they’re just hamburgers, right?
You Can Make or Break Your Brand’s Reputation, Depending How You Treat Your Customers
“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon
Reputation and customer service are an often overlooked, but essential part of building a high-quality brand. If your customers aren’t happy, then what is the point of being in business in the first place? Your customer wants to know that you are there to meet their needs. If you don’t give a damn, they will take their business, their money and their friends with them and go somewhere else. Before politics, President Donald Trump as just a business owner said, “Your business, and your brand, must first let people know what you care about, and that you care about them.”
When It Comes to Building a Brand, Words Matter
While designing your brand, take in to account why you launched your business in the first place. This can be done by carefully choosing the words, and later, the images used to describe your business, products and services.
What is the mission, vision and values that your business is built upon? Your mission is what you do for your customers, your vision is why you are in business – why you do what you do. Your company values also describe how you’ll take care of your customers, employees, and vendors.
The mission statement needs to describe what you do for your customers. It should illustrate pride in what you do and what you believe about your business. An Arizona dispensary says their mission is, “To provide high quality alternative care, education, and support in hope of improving the quality of life and relief of pain for those in need.” This clearly states why they are in business.
The vision statement should become the rally cry for your employees every day they come to work. It should be a future oriented description of what you want to accomplish in as you do business. A medical dispensary in Pennsylvania says, “Our vision is to become the largest medical marijuana dispensary store in the whole of Pennsylvania and also amongst the top 5 leading medical marijuana dispensary stores in the United States of America.”
Your value statement can be a list of common themes that drive your business and should bring personality and emotion into your brand. One dispensary simply lists their values as “Be Grateful, be honest, be kind.” This makes it easy to remember how to react throughout the day as they go about their business.
These foundational parts of your marketing plan represent the heart and soul of your business. Your brand’s effectiveness depends on these Mission, Vision and Value statements, they need to be more than just a phrase that sounds good, they need to be genuine. Don’t just write them down and lock them away in a drawer, you need to keep them top of mind, your employees need to follow the principals behind your them as they interact with your customers.
Your Brand Is an Extension of The Reason You Are in Business.
Branding is both how you inspire and attract others to you in the first place, but it’s also how you position your company as experts who can deliver on that promise.
Simply put, branding is what your customer can expect from your business. As you plan your business, your marketing, and the way you position yourself in your community and industry, make sure that your brand is carefully targeted to your customers and their needs.
Jared Finkenbinder, Visibility Architect is the owner of Design328.com in Northern Colorado. Experienced in all aspects of Branding and Marketing - both online and offline; as well as Project Management, Graphic Design and Communication; Jared has been helping businesses be more visible with projects spanning thirty years, by architecting targeted Visibility Strategies that help small business owners Attract more prospects, Connect effortlessly with clients, and Engage in more business. Contact Jared at email@example.com and visit our website http://design328.com. Follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/design328/.