When struggling to find your place in the wild, wild, west…in the lawless town of Cannabis Gulch… and if you dare even try to survive the ongoing street fights, shifty card sharks, and competitor after dirty competitor, all taking direct aim at you then stealing your customers when you’re boots are off…try this instead; stop selling weed. Stop selling edibles. Stop selling cannabis in any form. Just plain stop.
“Say what? Um, that’s the business I’m in,” you say. “That’s how I make money.”
Exactly. Cannabis is how you make money. It is NOT, however, the business you are in. Like wheat or corn, cannabis is a simple commodity. And yet, the majority of cannabis brands still continue to hock weed, weed, and more weed. That’s about as lazy and boring and stupid as you can possibly get because it has absolutely nothing to do with your “real” business. Your real business is the business you should be laser-focused on building and hint; it has absolutely nothing to do with cannabis…from a brand perspective anyway. Let me explain.
Brand guru Simon Sinek preaches that people don’t buy “what” you sell, they buy “why” you sell it. He is all about the why and, in a clever, round-about way, he is not incorrect. The “why” behind your company is important after all. But before we get too deep and squishy with our quasi-psychology here, it is a gross representation to say people don’t’ buy “what” you sell. The hell they don’t. The key is for you to CLEARLY understand and define the “what” of what you are really selling. You must move beyond the product itself and drill down into the very core of your product’s benefit and true offering. The proverbial sizzle, not the steak. That’s what your true brand is all about. That’s what your customer really wants to buy. And that’s exactly how you boldly differentiate yourself from those ignorant outlaw competitors who are still just out there selling weed.
Let me give you an example from another industry; beer. It’s both medicinal and recreational, so it serves as a nice way to better understand. Beer too is a commodity. The old suds market is overflowing (pun intended) with vicious competition. Good ol’ Budweiser and Coors pretty much smashed some of the older brands in the market, Hamm’s, Olympia, and the like, and dominated the beer world until silly old California decided it was time to brew real beer smack out of their garages. The big boys merely laughed at these fools the way the airline industry once laughed at Southwest. “Who do these little mosquitos think they are, challenging us to a duel?” But then their market began to slip away, customer after loyal customer choosing another brand over theirs. Laugh no more. This is serious. So along comes Corona, this wandering fool, right over the Mexican border. No real threat, right? Wrong.
From the start, Corona knew they weren’t in the beer business. It’s how they made all their money, yes, but they never once tried to sell us beer. From day one, Corona was smart enough to sell us “chill,” the ancient and forgotten art of doing nothing. Corona tells us “life is a beach,” and it doesn’t matter if you are in the city, high in the mountains, anywhere and everywhere there is a “beach” so grab a Corona and go “find your beach.” Brilliant, yet so very simple. In terms of a brand archetype, Corona places themselves in what is referred to as the “Innocent” category, meaning…the sky is blue, the birds are singing, life is sweet and I don’t have a care in the world. Nice. You start selling that…I want to buy it. As a result, Corona, beyond all the other incredible, high-quality and delicious craft beers, absolutely destroyed the big beer brands and knocked them off their feet like David did Goliath.
As with the wine industry, then the beer industry, and now the cannabis industry…it is time to stop selling the product on face value alone. It’s a cutthroat, competitive world out there now and it’s time to grow up. It’s time to clearly understand what a real brand is, how to build one, and how to stay alive in the mean streets, wielding it like fully loaded Colt 45.
DAVID M. FLANAGAN
Author of #1 International Best-Selling book; RUDDER – Strategic Brand Clarity
and the upcoming CULT BRAND – Creating a Fanatical Following, David is the founder of California brand agency - Misfit.
firstname.lastname@example.org / FlanaganSpeaks.com
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