I have spent my career looking for ways to entertain audiences. Ever wonder why something becomes a hit? Whether it is films, television, or digital content, on a fundamental level, content creators discover an underserved audience, deliver a great content experience that addresses the need state, and are rewarded with viewership and engagement.
When I first looked at the cannabis industry in 2018, I discovered numerous underserved audiences with many need states, especially new or curious consumers in the space. How would this formula in media apply to this new world?
Driving a Cultural Conversation
Although cannabis has been used for thousands of years, its role in modern culture is still relatively new. It is still in its early stages as a mainstream industry, with the conversation only beginning and gaining momentum in recent years. Despite facing numerous obstacles, such as banking and regulatory issues, the industry is growing, albeit slower than initially anticipated just three years ago.
However, the cannabis industry has struggled to connect with consumers beyond those already familiar with cannabis. Using loaded language, such as “budtender” and “dispensary,” has solidified the industry’s image in specific ways. Currently, the retail cannabis experience is similar to the experience of buying liquor a generation ago, where customers were not allowed to touch or see the products and were required to show identification at a gated entrance.
As a result, I believe this has limited the industry’s growth, making it unsustainable and preventing it from becoming a significant part of the cultural conversation.
When companies are asked why they aren’t trying to improve this situation, the standard response is often, “We are not allowed to do any marketing” or “Our social media accounts have been shut down.” However, these companies may have had their accounts shut down due to inappropriate published content versus content appealing to a broader audience.
Confusion to Discovery
The past few years have brought about significant changes in consumer needs and values, leading to a shift toward natural alternatives that support their lifestyles. These changes have prompted a deeper exploration of our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual selves, placing greater emphasis on our health, homes and communities. More consumers are now empowered to make choices that align with their values and reinforce their self-identity, positively impacting the world around them. As CEO of a marketplace dedicated to helping consumers wade through the confusion, I see firsthand how this consumer market relies on well-presented information to help make informed decisions about their cannabis use.
A new category has emerged with the rise of cannabis, appealing to a diverse range of consumers who require assistance navigating the confusion surrounding it. Emotion plays a significant role in the interest in cannabis and CBD, with individuals searching for solutions to alleviate their or their loved ones’ discomfort. Once they discover a product that provides relief, they are likely to reward the brand or store with newfound social currency, sharing it with their communities.
The key to engaging these consumers is addressing their need state. That’s where a media-first approach comes in. Instead of offering discounts on products that consumers don’t fully comprehend or creating content for those who already understand cannabis, create an experience to which the consumers can relate. For example, a video testimonial of a woman who found relief from menopause symptoms after discovering a CBD product or a millennial who wants to avoid the calories and headaches alcohol brings but still wants to unwind, which she found in an edible. Highlighting authentic personal stories creates engagement and conversion with new audiences. And, yes, you can market a personal story.
It’s crucial to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Utilize your loyalty program to learn about your consumers and create content specific to various audience segments to educate and inspire them to try new products. Doing so benefits your business and helps grow your consumer base, contributing significantly to making the cannabis industry sustainable.
Do you still think your coupon code alone is building loyalty? If gas is ten cents cheaper across the street, that’s where I’m going.