There Are Simply Too Many Similar Cannabis Brands

Jānis Lanka
4 min readAug 30, 2020

Media coverage on cannabis has decreased; stock performance is just not what it used to be. We do see conversation topics broadening beyond “getting high”, which is slowly shifting the narrative. It’s also interesting to see that many conversations still discuss the potential of a gold rush; and everyone wants in! So, what are the questions you need to ask about your brand in order to stand apart when competition is still growing rapidly?

It is legal-ish, but still a taboo

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Not long ago cannabis was in a categorization class similar to heroin. With the recent decriminalization of cannabis, the industry will need to demonstrate how it is more than a cheap, dirty, smelly drug.

How do we support a change in the perception of the Cannabis Industry?

It is strands, not brands

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Most of the conversation is being driven by cannabis’ attributes — Indica, Sativa, Pineapple Express, CBD, scents. Brands have not yet made their claim, changing the conversation from interchangeable commodities to well-distinguished enablers of lifestyle or specialty.

What idea/purpose/lifestyle will resonate with your customer?
What’s the best brand position to claim?

It is the activity, not surrounded by activity

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Cigarette versus cigar. Shots versus sipping. The latter provide a much richer experience! There is a need for weed to graduate from being a functional activity to a craft-experience. And it needs to go beyond dinner parties with tasting menus.

How could cannabis become a “social lubricant”?

What we do we know about customers?

The mystery weed

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“What strain is it? — Who knows, my friend gave it to me.” The “brick weed” has shaped the consumer’s understanding simply because nobody ever knew what they were getting. In addition, there is no good quality control or education that would improve one’s experience based on their needs, weight, etc.

Monotony is boring

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We don’t want to continually attend the same restaurant, because variety is the new norm — it enriches our experience. Not everyone wants to smoke either, which has created opportunities for diverse applications in recreational category.

Massive pent up-demand

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The cultural shift in perception will massively increase demand — lots of people will be looking to try, but won’t know where to start.

Brands haven’t established themselves yet in customer minds

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In the crowd of commodity brands it is hard to stand out. To be Top Of Mind, it’s about being unique and making an emotional connection in customer’s minds. Digital is scalable engagement channel with a broad reach that helps new brands become household names.

What areas we should focus on?

Focus on premium market with more disposable income

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While most consumption is happening at the bottom of the market, it is saturated with cheap products. Positioning your brand within premium market allows for more focused marketing effort and diverse opportunities for differentiation.

Develop a strong narrative around growing

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It’s easy to spot the lack of taste in the greenhouse produce. Soil matters. Sun makes all the difference in taste. It’s not only a feel-good add-on, it’s what quality-conscious customers will demand. “Green” and “Organic” have graduated from a differentiator to a quality standard.

Establish independent review system and set the quality standard

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Michelin Guide started from need of of boosting tire sales. Think wine reviews. Think safety labs. This type of material also is allowed to be advertised as it fits under strictly regulated category of advocacy for public interest.

Use marketing dollars to provide value to customer, not more advertising

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Classical methods of Above The Line marketing will not carry much punch in this market. Seek out the pains and needs of your audience, and solve them. It’s about putting a startup “hat” on and thinking outside the box.

Who is doing it … better? Defonce with their chocolates. Tokyo Smoke with their brand and products. Monk with their drinks. These cannabis brands have done well in developing products and positioning themselves in the premium market. But it’s still early…and that’s my point…you can still shape your brand and its products to stand apart from others.



Jānis Lanka

Building a better internet, one digital brick at a time.