Crafting a compelling brand strategy
Congratulations, you were awarded a license to compete in the rapidly expanding and competitive world of cannabis. By this time you have already picked a name, designed a logo and picked your colors. Branding done, right? Not so fast, you have only begun… When starting a cannabis business, new entrepreneurs spend so much time building their team, polishing up their application, and finding capital, that brand building is oftentimes seen as a secondary concern.
Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, an effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets. But what exactly does “branding” mean? These days, everyone will Google you before they visit your dispensary, buy your products, or invest capital in your new venture. I always say “perception is reality,” so your brand is that outward-facing perception to your employees and customers, in a nutshell, your brand is who you are and how you want to be perceived.
In order to craft your brand, there are a number of tough questions to determine who you are as a company, and more importantly, who you will be as a brand.
- What are your core principles and values?
- What is your mission statement?
- What makes you or your product unique?
- What is your internal company culture?
- What do your customers and prospects already think of your brand?
- What qualities do you want them to associate with your brand?
- How do you want people to feel when they think of your brand?
These are all questions that need to be answered to start your journey to building a brand. Once you’ve determined your answers to those questions, it’s time to use those answers to craft your brand strategy.
Build a brand strategy
Your brand strategy is how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating and delivering on your brand messages. Think of your brand strategy as the foundation on which other functions such as marketing, sales and product development are built upon. Branding
extends to every aspect of your business–how you answer your phones, what you or your salespeople wear on sales calls, your email signature, everything.
Below are some key elements of your business and more questions you’ll want to take into consideration when creating your brand strategy.
What is your company culture?
Branding not only creates loyal customers, but it also creates loyal employees. A quality brand gives people something to believe in and something to stand behind. It helps employees understand the purpose of the organization they work for. They feel like they’re a part of something significant and not just a cog in a machine.
Where will you advertise?
If you choose to place an ad in a magazine, does that publication have some of the same perceived values and clients you are trying to reach with your brand message or is placing an ad in that publication doing more harm than good for your brand messaging?
What are you communicating visually?
When posting on social media platforms, or in your advertising, merchandise, etc, does the image you put out stay in-line with your brand message? For example, if you have a brand message of “everyone is welcome” but then on social media you post images of young, half naked teenagers partying. Is that image supporting or harming your brand messaging?
What is the voice for your brand?
How do you want to be perceived as a brand? Do you want to be approachable, inviting, casual, corporate, young, progressive? Create a “voice” for your company that represents your brand. This voice should be applied to all written communications, online and off, internal and external. In the same vein as above, are your posts or ads speaking to your brand message or is it contrary to what you want people to perceive?
What about employee and client interactions?
Customer service and the interactions between employees and customers is a large part of your brand. Your employees are brand ambassadors, they are representing your brand messaging in real time. Is this interaction going to leave a lasting impression on the client so they will want to be loyal to your brand?
What is your user experience?
This is often the first impression customers will have with your brand. The user experience is how your customers interact with such things as the website and your physical location. How are they designed, how are they organized and how easy is it for the customer to get the information or product they are looking for? A bad user experience is oftentimes the death of that customer loyalty. Have you ever gone to a website and looked for something specific but it took WAY longer than it should have to find, only to frustrate you? Did you ever go back?
Are you consistent to your brand’s identity throughout the lifetime of the brand?
This last question is especially important because your customers will be looking for a solid, consistent identity. Your brand is what will keep your clients coming back for more, consistent, strategic branding leads to strong brand loyalty.
Reevaluate your brand
You should regularly be reevaluating your brand messaging and adjusting as the brand and market matures. Making sure you are still reaching the goals you set forth in your brand strategy. Customers will be constantly looking for proof that you are who you say you are. Branding provides that consistent perception so consumers know what to expect.
Many people use marketing and branding interchangeably and that’s a common misconception. Branding is at the core of your marketing strategy, so branding must come first. Even if you are a startup, it is essential to clearly define who you are as a brand—before you begin to devise your specific marketing methods and strategies. Branding is about emotions and how your customers and clients feel about you and your products.
Marketing is about numbers. Both are important, but in today’s climate, how you make people feel can make all the difference in your success. The two efforts work together to produce the best results, and neither is fully effective when it is not supported by the other.
When done right, a brand works for you. A recent survey found that 94% of consumers said they would be highly likely to recommend a brand they were emotionally engaged with, 91% say they are more likely to purchase from an authentic brand, and 64% of consumers cite shared values as the primary reason they have a relationship with a brand. Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it separates you from your competitors. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be, and who people perceive you to be.