All Posts in Branding Tips

October 10, 2017 - No Comments!

Designing the Perfect Dispensary Experience: The First Impression

On October 5, Jenn had the pleasure of speaking at the Philadelphia Chapter of Women Grow. Hosted by the law firm Offit Kurman, the event brought together a diverse group of cannabis enthusiasts and entrepreneurs. As Philadelphia's medical marijuana program is ramping up, Jenn's talk focused on designing the perfect brand dispensary experience.

At Brand Joint, we emphasize to our clients that a brand is more than just a catchy name and your logo on the wall. A brand should provide a particular experience that evokes emotion (hopefully positive!) from customers. That's why it's so important for dispensaries to spend time and energy branding and designing their entire patient experience. Before you even step into a dispensary, your customers will likely visit your website or social media pages. Your digital outreach is just one aspect of your branded experience, but we'll save that for another blog!

During her discussion, Jenn explained how dispensary owners should ask themselves, "What experience do I want to provide for my patients? What do I want them to feel the moment they step in the door?" You only get one first impression, so it's important to properly communicate your message. Keep in mind that experiences will be different for states with medical programs versus adult-use dispensaries.

Exterior: The exterior of a dispensary is just as important as the interior. To implement a branded experience for your dispensary, it's best to walk through the entire process through the eyes of your patients. Is your building in an area with lots of walking traffic or is there a parking lot? Depending on your location, having ample parking close to your building might be an important factor, especially for patients with ailments that make it difficult to walk or use stairs.

Photo Credit: Lightshade

As your customer moves toward the doorway, what do they see? In states like Maryland and Pennsylvania, where the medical cannabis program is on the brink of going live, it's likely that patients may feel apprehensive about visiting a dispensary for the first time. Do they feel safe approaching the building? Is the area well lit? Do you have on-site security guard? And if so, will an armed guard make them feel safe and secure or more nervous?

Photo Credit: Silverpeak Apothecary

Entering the Dispensary: As the customer enters the dispensary, they'll typically approach an entrance area or waiting room. While this area is typical used for security purposes, while you check IDs or wait for a dispensary agent to become available, you can use this an opportunity to add value to the patient's experience. While they're waiting, perhaps you have educational materials or videos playing. Maybe you have a lovely retail display?

Think about the sensory experiences: What do they see? Is there someone that opens the door with a friendly greeting? What do they smell? What music is playing, if any? Are the wall colors bright and vivid or natural and calming? There's not a right or wrong answer to designing the sensory experience for your brand, as long as it remains intentional and consistent throughout.

Before you even begin to design a beautiful dispensary experience, you need to know what will make that experience perfect for your customers. Learning what your specific customers value is the key. Do they value a relaxing, spa-like shopping environment? Are they looking for a more guided educational approach? Or are they generally in a hurry and value a quick, tech-supported experience?

Once you determine your target audience, you can consider the various shopping experiences you can create for your customers. Sign up for our newsletter to read Part 2 of Designing the Perfect Dispensary Experience: Different Retail Experiences.

September 28, 2017 - No Comments!

Branding Pennsylvania Dispensaries

Brand Joint is headed to Philly! Our Creative Director, Jennifer Culpepper will be the Featured Speaker at the Women Grow: Philadelphia Networking Event on October 5th. With 52 dispensaries opening in the Keystone State in 2018, having a well-designed dispensary brand is more important than ever. If the industry as a whole makes an effort to become more accessible and approachable to a broader audience, dispensaries will become more easily accepted by their communities. 

A well-branded dispensary experience requires more than putting a logo on the wall, your products and apparel — it's the total sum of all the little details. Design details inside the dispensary like the music playing in the waiting room, the art on the walls, staff uniforms and product packaging must be consistent with the exterior design elements, such as your like website and 
social media presence. Together, these details create an overall brand experience that leaves patients with a positive lasting impression.
 
Jenn will explain how dispensary owners can create a loyal following by finding their key differentiators, determining the proper target audience and designing a memorable retail experience. Don't miss out — get your tickets here

September 1, 2017 - No Comments!

How to Avoid the Cannabis Social Media Shutdown

Like most other industries, having an active social media following is key to a successful and well-known cannabusiness marketing strategy. Unlike other industries, however, cannabis accounts seem to be getting shut down left and right. We've all heard the horror stories of dispensaries and other cannabis-centric companies suddenly seeing their Facebook pages removed, along with thousands of hard-earned followers. Reading the fine print and following platform guidelines are the first steps to decreasing the odds of your social media nightmare. Don't have time for sifting through all the rules and regulations? Don't worry, we've got you covered:

Instagram

Instagram has yet to clarify what its cannabis policy actually is, leaving cannabis companies frustrated and confused. Just recently, The Lift Cannabis, a review site for medical cannabis strains woke up to find their Instagram account was deactivated, losing 11,000 followers with it. This came days before an event the company was sponsoring — the Lift Cannabis Expo in Vancouver. When pressed for comment on the issue, Instagram responded in regards to their Community Guidelines:

"Offering sexual services, buying or selling firearms and illegal or prescription drugs (even if it's legal in your region) is also not allowed. Remember to always follow the law when offering to sell or buy other regulated goods."

While we don't have fool-proof advice to keep your Instagram account safe, there are some images that would be best to avoid: [smoking, advertising sales/specials… etc…??] Posting images of products or strains your dispensary offers ! could go either way. It’s a toss-up if your account will get reported or deactivated, so until then, make sure the images you post fall in line with your brand. If you claim your product line is high-end, keep it classy and don't post images of "weed babes" or memes of "typical stoner" culture. Social media platforms are an extension of your brand and should be used intentionally.

Twitter

Twitter is increasingly becoming the "go-to" source for instant news updates for any interest and category. For the cannabis industry in particular, the platform enables brands to share valuable data, information regarding the industry, new laws and regulations, etc. When it comes to cannabis-related content, Twitter is quite friendly, though a bit vague. According to their policy,

"We believe that everyone should have the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers. In order to protect the experience and safety of people who use Twitter, there are some limitations on the type of content and behavior that we allow."

When it comes to paid advertising, Twitter will blocks ads for cannabis-smoking products, but allows ads that promote news and information about cannabis. That being said, tweeting about your dispensary products and upcoming events is perfectly fine, just don't pay to promote your tweets or business!

Facebook

Facebook is perhaps the most strict when it comes to sharing cannabis-related content. While news articles and blogs are seemingly appropriate, images of paraphernalia, cannabis plants, flowers and products might get you in trouble. When you share articles on Facebook, changing the thumbnail image to a "less-controversial," yet story-related visual can save you the possibility of a deleted account.

Facebook's user policy also bans content that promotes marijuana sales, even in states where it's legal. The platform does allow marijuana advocacy and education pages, as long as they don't promote sales. So what does that mean for promoting your dispensary's products? Don't pay for ads on Facebook. According to their policy:

"Ads must not promote the sale or use of illegal, prescription or recreational drugs."

If you're promoting a sale on a particular strain or discount for a group of patients, you're technically violating Facebook's policy. Therefore, it's best to announce and specials or promotions via an email newsletter instead of your Facebook business page.

 

 

Be Prepared

With cannabis illegal at the federal level, it's inevitable that some accounts will get taken down. In the event that your cannabusiness social media account does get shut down, it's best to be prepared. Collect email addresses! Make sure to have a newsletter opt-in on your website and ask your followers to sign up. You should also have a way for patients to opt-in for newsletters when they visit the dispensary. In addition to sharing updates about your business, stories relevant to the industry, an email newsletter is the perfect place to advertise sales and specials you may be running. 

As Facebook and Instagram often shut down dispensary accounts without notice, having an email mailing list is crucial to keeping your contacts and audience within reach and rebuilding your accounts when/if they get removed.

 

June 29, 2017 - No Comments!

Brand Joint Featured in MG Magazine

We are excited to announce that Brand Joint was featured in June's issue of MG Magazine! In the article, "Profiles in Marketing: People, Firms, Brands & Stories," our Founder Jennifer Culpepper shared insight to common mistakes cannabis companies make regarding their branding and design. You can find the full article in MG Magazine or read it online!

June 14, 2017 - No Comments!

Patient & Public Education Matters

We recently attended a community discussion about the opening of a dispensary in our home state of Maryland. A panel of business owners and industry experts answered questions from concerned citizens about a medical cannabis dispensary opening up just down the road from their neighborhoods, local businesses, etc. With the disconnect between federal and state legalization efforts, it's not surprising that the reactions from the community were mixed. While many applauded the health benefits for a variety of ailments, others expressed concern for how legal cannabis will effect Maryland's opioid epidemic.

It's easy to roll your eyes at a friend or family member who recites a “fact” about cannabis use that sounds eerily similar to a quote from Reefer Madness. Now, more than ever, cannabis entrepreneurs and enthusiasts must make a conscious effort to educate the public about cannabis use and users.

So, what can we as industry leaders do to properly educate potential patients and citizens who might be misinformed about cannabis? According to Shawnta Hopkins-Green of MyCannx, proactive community outreach is crucial. Hopkins-Green partners with her dispensary clients to hold seminars and set up booths at local events and festivals. In addition to conversing with potential consumers one-on-one, she also advises taking advantage of digital marketing, posting educational snippets on Facebook and Twitter, sending out digital newsletters, or uploading informative video content to your website.

Like Hopkins-Green, we at Brand Joint think it's important to introduce engaging bite-sized educational pieces that are easy to digest. This could be done through videos and blog posts, as well as printed materials and in-store displays. There are a variety of topics to focus on, and many of those topics come from patient and community questions:

  • Where the state laws?
  • How do you become registered as a patient?
  • What is the difference between CBD and THC?
  • What are the different ways to consume cannabis?

Through our internship program at Brand Joint, we focus on creating such content. Our most recent video highlights the differences between indica and sativa strains. This information is helpful for patients new to cannabis in determining which medicine is best for their ailments.

June 1, 2017 - No Comments!

Marketing Mentor Podcast

This week, Brand Joint's Founder, Jennifer Culpepper was featured on The Marketing Mentor Podcast. The Marketing Mentor, Ilise Benun, covers a wide variety of topics. Each episode is a "no-fluff chat about the nuts and bolts of how designers, copywriters, photographers and other creatives are doing to grow their business to get better clients with bigger budgets."

In the latest episode, "Experienced Newbie: Entering the Brand New Cannabis Market," Jenn shares insight to seeking out a niche and helping the cannabis industry find value in strong brand strategy and quality design. You can listen to the full episode here!

May 10, 2017 - No Comments!

Where Should You Open Your Dispensary?

In our home state of Maryland, the Medical Cannabis program is finally rolling out. Patient registration is now open and in just three weeks, nearly 5,000 Marylanders have signed up. To serve these patients, 102 dispensaries were awarded Stage One license pre-approvals this past December.

With several dispensaries opening in a small state, the need to differentiate will be imperative. Those who develop smart strategy and sophisticated design to communicate their brand will have a much-needed competitive edge. A good dispensary doesn’t sell products, but provides a thoughtful patient experience. The location and physical space of the dispensary is a crucial part of the entire branded experience. Aside from adhering to all the necessary zoning requirements and regulations, dispensary owners should consider the following when scoping out potential locations and beginning buildouts for their business:

Is the location convenient for my target audience?

Who are the people potentially visiting my dispensary? You might immediately consider “anyone who consumes cannabis,” but this is a broad audience. With over 100 dispensaries to choose from in the state of Maryland (and at least one other competitor in each district), it’s important to hone in on your specific target audience.

Determining the neighborhood demographic information is always a start, but you must dig deeper than data and statistics. When scoping out your location, think (and act) like a patient. Where do your patients live and work? How do they spend their weekends? Where do they shop? Which restaurants or grocery stores do they frequent? What other brands target them? Empathizing with your customer and imagining a “day in the life” will help you find a location that fits into their daily routine and is most convenient for your customer.

What does the exterior building look like?

The exterior and interior of your dispensary are immediate reflections of your brand and set the stage for the customer experience. Every customer touch point matters, especially the physical surroundings. Your brand identity must be consistent through all aspects of your company, so the best way to ensure this is by starting from the outside in.

Are you laid-back and affordable, or sophisticated and high end? If the latter, your target audience might be confused when they arrive at a strip mall storefront. If possible, make sure your exterior aligns with the brand If you want your dispensary to be known as modern and cutting edge, an industrial building fits in with those descriptors.

Considering your target audience, you’ll want to think about other aspects of convenience, such as an area with lots of walking traffic or parking lots. Do you plan to cater to city millennial used to walking or biking, or suburbanites that are used to having ample parking spaces when they run their errands? Depending on your chosen location, the amount of parking close to your building might be an important factor, especially for patients with ailments that make it difficult to walk or use stairs.

Does the interior décor match the brand?

For many dispensary owners, the interior design plans gets put on the back burner, especially if you’ve gone over budget with prior projects. As you develop your brand strategy, it’s wise to include anyone who plays a part in designing your brand: graphic designer, architects, interior designers, etc. These important professionals will help to efficiently and effectively portray your brand.

If you portray your dispensary as lively and innovative, then your dispensary space must exude that personality, whether it is through the furniture style, paint colors, artwork or lighting fixtures. Apple is a great example of a company that incorporates their brand essence into their physical space. We all know their phones and computers are sleek, clean, minimal and have the distinctive white, silver and black finishes. When you walk into the Apple store, all of the brand's design elements are immediately recognizable in the physical space. Anyone that owns an Apple product would be able to realize they were standing in an Apple store, even without signs or logos.

“Location, location, location.” You’ve probably heard a realtor mutter the phrase once or twice. Simply put, you can buy a perfect home or business in the wrong location — no matter how much you spend on remodeling or decorating, it can’t be moved to another area. Only after you pinpoint the perfect location for your dispensary can you start to implement your brand identity into the physical space and interior.

February 2, 2017 - No Comments!

Women Grow Panel: Parenting in the Cannabis Industry

Hello, from Denver!

This week I'm attending the Women Grow Leadership Conference. In just under 24 hours I've met some incredible women and men that are truly passionate about their careers. As I'm surrounded by so many like-minded entrepreneurs, I feel inspired and thankful to do what I love — help cannabis companies compete (and grow) in this competitive market by developing unique brand strategy and smart design necessary for success.

Tomorrow, February 3rd, I will be leading the discussion for the "Parenting in the Cannabis Industry" panel with my fellow cannabis entrepreneurs Leah Heise (CEO Women Grow), Carrie Kirk (Cannaline) and Chanda Macias (Owner of National Holistic Healing Center). Last week we were interviewed by CBS This Morning on the unique challenges we face as parents in this cannabis industry.

When I showed the CBS This Morning segment to my children, I was surprised they didn’t have any questions. I was hoping that this would have been an opportunity to start a conversation about marijuana and my role in the industry. As it turns out, they were more concerned with how many times I mentioned them in the interview! I didn't want to press a conversation they weren't interested in having, so for now, they remain blissfully unaware. However, I do feel the pressure of a timeline as they grow up and get closer to middle school. I know that I need to educate my children about cannabis and explain why it's still controversial.

I don't know just want to say exactly, but I often reach out to other industry moms (and dads) to share thoughts, opinions and strategies on how to frame the conversation. What do you think is the best way to talk to kids about marijuana? How do you explain that cannabis is both a medicine that can be very beneficial, but is also used recreationally (both legally and illegally, depending on where you live)? Do you consume cannabis openly, modeling responsible use (as with alcohol) or do you hide it from your children? How do you discourage children from experimenting with marijuana while simultaneously explaining that it's not that dangerous?

Tomorrow's panel will be the start of a much needed discussion in this industry. With your help, we can ensure our children are well-educated and informed about cannabis use, its purposes, and why its legality creates a debate in the United States.

Do you have any advice you'd like to offer? Questions for the panel? Sound off in the comment section! Your feedback is appreciated!

-Jenn

January 18, 2017 - No Comments!

Cannabis Branding: Differentiating Your Dispensary

This past December, the Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC) finally announced the names of the 102 dispensaries that received a license pre-approval for our home state of Maryland. Unlike the neighboring Washington, D.C., program, registered patients do not have to commit to one particular dispensary and can visit any or all dispensaries of their choice. Maryland, as you may know is not a very large state. So, with multiple dispensaries within a short driving distance, how can you differentiate your dispensary from competitors? How do you convince patients that your dispensary is worth visiting?

When you walk into various dispensaries in Colorado, Oregon or California, you'll notice that not all dispensaries look and feel identical. That's because each business has developed their own unique branded experience. One dispensary may look similar to a yoga studio, while another might feel more clinical like a pharmacy or doctor's office. Dispensaries have one thing in common — cannabis — and they provide products that are valuable to patients of different ages and demographics. However, not all experiences resonate with everyone...and that's okay! If you try to cater to the masses, your brand and your messaging get watered down to the lowest common denominator.

When branding any company, cannabis-related or not, understanding your point of differentiation is key to creating the most successful and authentic experience for your customers. At Brand Joint, we start every project with Brand Discovery. Together, we learn as much as possible about your business and brand. Before we begin designing your logo, website, packaging or interior space, we must understand what your brand stands for. What is your mission and vision? Who are your patients? Why should they choose your dispensary over others in the area? What makes your brand unique?

A good dispensary does not just providing a product, but an entire patient experience. To help you understand and visualize your intended experience and narrow in on the smallest of details, it’s best to view every touch point through the eyes of your patient or consumer. What do they feel, hear and see the moment they walk through the doors? Does your website provide a similar experience? How does your staff dress? Does your interior design match your brand? How are your products displayed? Does your dispensary provide the largest selection products, cheapest prices, or do you specialize in high-end strains?

There really is no right answer. Developing your brand strategy and intentionally designing the patient experience from the very beginning will strengthen the value of your brand. By finding your key differentiators as a dispensary owner and having a well thought out patient experience, you’ll be a giant step ahead in this growing competitive market and create a loyal consumer base.

November 17, 2016 - No Comments!

The Rise of Craft Cannabis

Just like gourmet food, beer and wine aficionados, many cannabis connoisseurs have sophisticated tastes and enjoy high-quality products. Paying more for particular strains and potency is becoming increasingly normal. As the rise of medical marijuana programs and legalization spreads across the country (now 28 states), the way in which consumers think about their bud is changing.

When speaking about cannabis products and businesses, we often make the noticeable comparison to the world of craft beer. There was a time when the big guys — Budweiser, Coors, and Miller made up the bulk of options in your local liquor store. When microbreweries and craft breweries started popping up and hitting shelves, consumers realized there was a whole new world of beer — they had choices.

Much like smaller batch beers are hand-crafted, creative and often created with higher quality ingredients from local farms, craft cannabis is carefully grown in small batches with specific aromas, tastes and experiences in mind — an organic and more pure approach than mass-produced marijuana. Operating on a smaller scale enables cultivators to pay more attention to each individual plant and therefore have better quality control.

Ryan Moloney of Alef Agriculture offers his insight on the rise of the craft cannabis movement. Moloney notices a large farm-to-table, organic and locally grown movement on the West Coast — an area with some of the most forward thinking brands in the industry,

"While I strongly feel California will play a pivotal roll in the mass cannabis market, I firmly believe the Pacific North West and maybe Northern California will be the driving forces behind the craft segment of the market."

Edible companies in particular are increasingly advertising the use of high-quality ingredients that are organic, gluten-free, vegan, or Paleo friendly. Julie's Natural Edibles, for example sells infused granolas, nuts and seeds mixes, and granola bars. All of their products are "gluten free (produced in a gluten-free kitchen), free of refined sugar, pesticide-free and non-GMO." In other words, if their products weren't infused, you might find them in Whole Foods.

Moloney cautions however, that products claiming to be all-natural and organic may be cutting corners. As of now, there is no nation wide organization certifying organic growsMoloney, however, believes the "no-till" technique, certifies organically grown cannabis. The "no-till" technique uses soil that is amended prior to the plant being placed. Only water is used for this process, instead of water and fertilizer.

"If the fertilizer comes from a bottle or is salt-based it is not organic. In my opinion, true organic cannabis is produced using a technique called "no-till" with only organic forms of nutrients to fortify the soil. It can be grown in greenhouses or outside and will never have any synthetic pesticides used on it."

Regardless of technique, it's apparent that consumers are investing in high-quality cannabis and cannabis-infused products. Why? In one word — quality. Moloney compares the difference to beer. Once you transition from a carefully-crafted small-batch exclusive IPA, for example, to a mass-produced big-batch brew, you lose quality. "Think Budweiser vs. Dogfish Head," he says.

And that's not to say high-end cannabis is the right cannabis for all consumers. Cannabis enthusiasts have different needs and expectations for their product of choice. It's okay to enjoy a Bud Light, but it's nice to have the option of a 60 Minute IPA.