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5 Innovation Challenges for Cannabis Products

5 Innovation Challenges for Cannabis Products

Anna-Rae Morris

Anna-Rae Morris

September 19, 2018

"To compel apprehensive new users, successful cannabis brands should explore how best to inspire without intimidating."

"Laws around cannabis packaging and language are in flux, and brands must be flexible and creative in meeting these standards."

LinkedIn

By Anna-Rae Morris
Strategist, TRIPTK

September 17, 2018

 

As laws and regulations change regarding the legalization of cannabis in various markets, many businesses are beginning to embark on the journey of creating cannabis-infused products. A rapidly growing, new-to-consumer industry opens up challenges for innovation. Here are the top five challenges that we’ve witnessed facing the cannabis industry today, with a spotlight on alcohol.

Broadening beyond booze

As cannabis moves from black market to supermarket, the appeal of a cannabis high will broaden to new consumers across demographics. As such, it will be tempting for marketers to copy/paste approaches and cues from the world of alcohol, but this would be a narrow-sighted (even misguided) approach. Borrowing from analogous categories that offer a so-called buzz may produce quick wins but it will also lead to short-lived kitschy brands and products. Cannabis offers a unique high, totally distinct from alcohol. In order to build a truly sustainable brand, managers must respect the unique and intrinsic qualities of a THC/CBD-derived sensation and build propositions from the ground up that package those sensations in compelling ways.

Reassuring new users

It’s no surprise that the potential cannabis market far outsizes the current market. Millions of potential users exist. But understandably, new users have reservations about unknown effects and experiences. Across strains, cannabis offers a wide range of experiences at different strengths. To compel apprehensive new users, successful cannabis brands should explore how best to inspire without intimidating. Strain taxonomy and dosage systems will be powerful tools in educating and reassuring neophytes around efficacy and strength.

Audience segmentation

With legalization and decriminalization also comes de-stigmatization of the stereotypical stoner image. New users, from soccer dads to post-grads, will reach for cannabis for myriad reasons. A brand story will be a powerful tool for recruiting new users, but only if businesses understand who they’re designing for. No different from the marketing of alcohol, it will be incumbent on brands to segment consumers around their values, needs, and of course, their in-going attitudes toward cannabis to create clear and compelling cannabis propositions.

Legal restrictions and packaging regulations

In a highly regulated industry, pure innovation can only get you so far. Current and evolving laws around cannabis packaging and language are in flux, and brands must be flexible and creative in meeting these standards. Finding new ways to communicate brand values and identity beyond packaging and traditional marketing will be crucial to ensure that brand story reaches intended audiences.

Canada’s proposed specific pack regulations demonstrate the extent of potential restrictions brands may initially face. Anchoring the product itself in a lifestyle context through both language and innovative marketing techniques will help consumer perception beyond restrictive packaging. Social platforms like Instagram have potential for both brand and user-generated content to create authentic, highly visual brand worlds that can live off the shelf.

Respecting established codes and values

Ensuring that new-to-world cannabis brands thrive in a market means rooting them in authentic cannabis culture. Though not currently fully legalized, the culture of cannabis is long and firmly established, and like any other sub-culture, comes with its own set of values. Consumption and marketing of cannabis operate in many cultural spheres and many groups have integrated it into their lives. Brands hoping to gain cultural traction will need to straddle the line of authentic cannabis culture and welcome a more mainstream audience.

"Laws around cannabis packaging and language are in flux, and brands must be flexible and creative in meeting these standards."

LinkedIn

By Anna-Rae Morris
Strategist, TRIPTK

September 17, 2018

 

As laws and regulations change regarding the legalization of cannabis in various markets, many businesses are beginning to embark on the journey of creating cannabis-infused products. A rapidly growing, new-to-consumer industry opens up challenges for innovation. Here are the top five challenges that we’ve witnessed facing the cannabis industry today, with a spotlight on alcohol.

Broadening beyond booze

As cannabis moves from black market to supermarket, the appeal of a cannabis high will broaden to new consumers across demographics. As such, it will be tempting for marketers to copy/paste approaches and cues from the world of alcohol, but this would be a narrow-sighted (even misguided) approach. Borrowing from analogous categories that offer a so-called buzz may produce quick wins but it will also lead to short-lived kitschy brands and products. Cannabis offers a unique high, totally distinct from alcohol. In order to build a truly sustainable brand, managers must respect the unique and intrinsic qualities of a THC/CBD-derived sensation and build propositions from the ground up that package those sensations in compelling ways.

Reassuring new users

It’s no surprise that the potential cannabis market far outsizes the current market. Millions of potential users exist. But understandably, new users have reservations about unknown effects and experiences. Across strains, cannabis offers a wide range of experiences at different strengths. To compel apprehensive new users, successful cannabis brands should explore how best to inspire without intimidating. Strain taxonomy and dosage systems will be powerful tools in educating and reassuring neophytes around efficacy and strength.

Audience segmentation

With legalization and decriminalization also comes de-stigmatization of the stereotypical stoner image. New users, from soccer dads to post-grads, will reach for cannabis for myriad reasons. A brand story will be a powerful tool for recruiting new users, but only if businesses understand who they’re designing for. No different from the marketing of alcohol, it will be incumbent on brands to segment consumers around their values, needs, and of course, their in-going attitudes toward cannabis to create clear and compelling cannabis propositions.

Legal restrictions and packaging regulations

In a highly regulated industry, pure innovation can only get you so far. Current and evolving laws around cannabis packaging and language are in flux, and brands must be flexible and creative in meeting these standards. Finding new ways to communicate brand values and identity beyond packaging and traditional marketing will be crucial to ensure that brand story reaches intended audiences.

Canada’s proposed specific pack regulations demonstrate the extent of potential restrictions brands may initially face. Anchoring the product itself in a lifestyle context through both language and innovative marketing techniques will help consumer perception beyond restrictive packaging. Social platforms like Instagram have potential for both brand and user-generated content to create authentic, highly visual brand worlds that can live off the shelf.

Respecting established codes and values

Ensuring that new-to-world cannabis brands thrive in a market means rooting them in authentic cannabis culture. Though not currently fully legalized, the culture of cannabis is long and firmly established, and like any other sub-culture, comes with its own set of values. Consumption and marketing of cannabis operate in many cultural spheres and many groups have integrated it into their lives. Brands hoping to gain cultural traction will need to straddle the line of authentic cannabis culture and welcome a more mainstream audience.

Anna-Rae is a founding member and strategist at TRIPTK

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