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Developing a Communication Strategy for your Cannabis Brand

In its simplest terms, marketing is the communication bridge between your target audience and your brand. So once you’ve taken the critical first step and nailed down what you stand for as a brand, you then need to determine how you want to engage with your target market. This process of consumer engagement represents your communication strategy, and consists of four key parts: Audience, Message, Creative, and Media.


It’s impossible to have a conversation with anyone if you don’t know who they are, what they’re like, and what they want to talk about, so it’s critical you spend time clearly identifying and learning about your target audience. In truth, you should know this audience as well as you know your own brand. I’ve worked with some marketers who know their audience so well they actually bring them to life as individual segments, complete with photographs, names, lifestyle and demographic descriptions, even the type of neighborhood they live in and car they drive.

Then, for every brand communication they undertake, they ask themselves, is this what ‘Kathy’ or ‘Steve’ will find relevant, truthful and emotionally engaging? You might not go that far – although I think it’s a good idea – but there are important questions about your audience you need to answer right away.

First, of course, is who is your primary target market? Demographics are a start, but what is their mindset about canna and the product or service you offer? What do they need — the product must-haves that you must deliver to even be in the game, and then, what do they want that they may not be currently getting and that gives you a point of difference. Another factor to help in your strategy is to know what competitive products they currently use – how is yours better?

I’ve mentioned in another blog that proprietary research is the best way to answer these questions about your audience so you can make truly informed decisions. But If you can’t fund your own research, look for relevant secondary studies that are available, and definitely spend a lot of time in online search. There is no greater waste of marketing dollars than not knowing your audience. You simply can’t afford to guess.


Now that you’ve identified your primary target and brought them to life in such a way that you can visualize them in the room with you, what will you say to them to get them to consider and try your brand? Every brand has a story to tell, and you need to determine what yours is, and then tell it in a way that makes it interesting, relevant and persuasive to your audience. My suggestion is to write a creative strategy and, although there are many formats, here’s the one I prefer:

Who are we talking toHere, you need to bring the target audience to life. What about their lives do we need to know so we can have an effective and meaningful communication about our brand?

What do we know about them that will help us? What is that one key insight into how our audience thinks or acts about canna that we can leverage in our communication to ensure we get their attention?

What do they currently think/do? What do we want them to think/do? Any brand communication needs to change minds in those who don’t know us, and reinforce brand understanding in those that do. Knowing how they currently think and act in our category, including the canna products they currently use, helps us determine what we need to say, and how we want to say it in terms of tonality, that helps change perceptions. Remember: minds must change before behavior does.

What is the main idea we want to communicateResearch shows that people generally remember one thing from a brand communication, so what is that one key claim that we want them to remember about us? When all is said and done, the ultimate responsibility of the communication is to ensure this one main thought comes through.

Why should they believe us? You can’t make a brand promise or statement without support to your claim. What is it your brand features or your business does to ensure that the one key benefit is delivered each and every time, without fail.


Once you have your message strategy in place, there are virtually unlimited ways to tell it from a creative standpoint. Since it’s  incredibly difficult to bring objectivity to a subjective subject like creativity, the strategy you wrote for the message can be used for creative development by adding a few points:

What is the communication trying to doWhat goal do we have for the communication? Are we introducing our brand? Trying to get people to switch from the current brand they’re using? In other words, what end effect do we want to see with our communication? What should the brand attitude be? People want to do business with brands that match how they see themselves or aspire to be, and your brand should reflect that. Is it about confidence, strength, humor, edgy or traditional? These decisions help establish the emotional role your brand will play in your customers’ lives.

Let me flesh out that last point a bit more: your brand communications should operate on two levels: the rational, expressed by the product features and benefits, and the emotional, which is how you want people to feel about your rand. Remember, it is the strength of the emotional link to your brand that truly establishes long-term viability. Once the strategy is finalized, your creative can take any shape you like, as long as it is on strategy and delivers your approved message. In the end, select the creative direction you feel is most on strategy in telling your brand story in the most interesting and emotionally compelling way.


It’s deceptively simple, really. Your message needs to be wherever your target audience is, as long as you can afford it, and your choice of media is another reflection of how well you need to know your market. What forms of media do they enjoy when they’re relaxing, or when they’re seeking out information in the canna category? Are there blogs or influencers they admire? What terms do they use to search, what radio formats do they listen to, and what TV and print do they watch or read. The more of their media habits you know, the more likely you’ll be seen by your audience when they’re most receptive to your message. And remember, it’s multiple exposures to your message that moves your market through the purchase funnel, from awareness, to familiarity, preference, trial and repeat purchase. 


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