Mission Possible: Cannabis Shopper Marketing is Getting Ready for Prime-time
I’m on a mission. Granted a self-imposed one, but a mission nonetheless.
This mission started roughly a year ago as I contemplated how to impact change in the contested yet incredibly fast-growing cannabis industry.
Specifically, to bring the knowledge I’ve gained over the last 25 years of my career in CPG advertising, retail and shopper marketing in both start-ups and the most widely recognized media brands out there. At the end of the day, the global cannabis industry is the new CPG economy.
Manufacturers of cannabis products are creating an amazing array of products for all types of consumers: Luxury, mainstream, budget, organic etc. More and more are utilizing wonderful packaging and brand imaging to complement their products to resonate their value with intended consumers.
Those packages are currently on the shelves of adult-use retailers and medical dispensaries, aiming to build a connection with consumers to purchase those products. Namely via the packaging, a text or email sent by the retailer highlighting that brand to their customers that are part of a loyalty program, a print/digital/social message or ad (with major limitations). But there are so many more opportunities to build a connection to the consumer waiting to be tapped.
The data associated with these active cannabis consumers is ready to be leveraged in a thoughtful and effective way. The same strategies that persuade you to buy Advil vs Motrin, Degree deodorant vs Dial, Gillette vs Schick are all applicable to the burgeoning legal cannabis market. Add shopper marketing/co-marketing into the equation and the consumer is persuaded to buy these products in Walgreens vs CVS or Vons vs Albertsons.
All of this is ready-made for cannabis brands to act like mainstream CPG marketers, where retailers and dispensaries can embrace these same tried and true marketing strategies that are proven to drive consumer reach and sales lift. Suddenly consumers are asking for products by name, like Wana Brands, Kiva, Stillwater and Canndescent at dispensaries like Medmen, Green Dragon, Treehouse or the thousands of other legal retailers across the country.
Let’s also not forget the value of millions of known cannabis consumers for non-cannabis brands. Hello Lyft and Uber? Pick up riders to avoid impaired drivers on the road. GrubHub and Netflix? Reach those binge watchers while they figure what they’ll order to feed their cravings. Aside from the obvious examples, current cannabis consumers are a diverse set made up of professionals, with desirable income levels, are creative & social individuals that enjoy the outdoors and are parents raising families. All ideal for many other mainstream brands to connect with, as well as cannabis brands and retailers. There’s plenty to go around for everyone.
So I accepted this mission. With myself.
Despite the numerous challenges with its current status in the US, namely that it remains a Federal Schedule 1 drug, legal cannabis sales are continuing to grow at roughly 40% YoY with compounded annual growth rate of over 30% since Colorado and Washington commenced adult-use sales in 2014 after being legalized at the state level in 2012.
While cannabis remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance in the US, claiming no medical benefits, there are now 30 states that have legalized cannabis for……wait for it…. medical use. That’s just the tipping point of the crazy.
A whole host of other challenges exist, including: banking and taxation issues, ass-backwards state mandated QA & testing procedures related to manufacturing and packaging logistics, supply chain issues, advertising & marketing limitations and a general persistent stigma that remains around this amazing plant. Despite all of this, the growth continues. Why? Because over 2/3 of US citizens believe in some form of cannabis legalization. Not to mention, roughly $10B in projected 2018 US sales with a trajectory to increase to ~$24B by 2022. This is in no way surprising as well over 100M Americans have used cannabis in one way or another, representing a large base of viable consumers.
Investment in the cannabis industry also continues to grow at a lighting pace, with roughly $5B in debt and equity investment to date in 2018 (representing a 220% YoY increase) based on the latest Viridian Capital cannabis deal tracker. Industry companies continue to go public on both the Canadian and US stock markets at a blazing pace, with early unicorns like MedMen, Kush Bottles, Canopy and Aurora and many other potentials all seeing skyrocketing market caps. Not to mention well-known brands outside the industry, like Constellation Brands, Molson Coors, Scott’s Miracle Gro and others (even Coca-Cola) are actively investing in or exploring the market at astounding levels within the past year.
Again, all points combined is why I chose to accept this mission.
The paramount element here is to remain purposeful and thoughtful on how that data is harvested, protected, distilled of all personal information, and become a useful tool when packaged and sent to market. No pesticides, mold or spider mites here. Testing applied by 3rd parties to keep everyone honest.
I call on my former ad tech partners to join this mission and more seriously consider ways to sensibly and thoughtfully approach this massive market that hasn’t even reached its real growth stride.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out what I’ve been up to and what’s on tap. Your collective feedback will help shape this game-changing industry and is welcomed.
More to follow!
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