All Posts in Business

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.

 

August 17, 2017 - No Comments!

Maryland is Officially Growing!

Our home state is officially growing...medical cannabis, that is! This past Monday, the Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission approved 8 Growers and 4 Processors for licenses. The awarded licenses come after years of setbacks and delays since medical cannabis became legalized in 2013. Brand Joint celebrates with Maryland's 12,000 registered patients, knowing that quality medicine will soon be available at 102 dispensaries this fall.

The list of licensed medical cannabis firms are listed below:

Licensed Growers

  • Curio Cultivation LLC (Baltimore County)
  • ForwardGro LLC (Anne Arundel County)
  • Freestate Wellness LLC (Howard County)
  • Green Leaf Medical LLC (Frederick County)
  • Harvest of Maryland LLC (Washington County)
  • HMS Health LLC (Frederick County)
  • Holistic Industries Inc. LLC (Prince George’s County)
  • Maryland Compassionate Care and Wellness LLC
    (dba as Grass Roots) (Carroll County)
  • emescal Wellness LLC (Baltimore City)

Licensed Processors

  • Blair Wellness LLC (Worcester County)
  • Curio Wellness LLC (Baltimore County)
  • Holistic Industries, INC. LLC (Prince George’s County)
  • Maryland Compassionate Care and Wellness LLC
    dba as Grass Roots) (Carroll County)

Licensed Dispensaries

  • Wellness Institute of Maryland

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.

May 24, 2017 - No Comments!

Marijuana Business Daily Conference

On May 17th-19th, the Brand Joint team attended the Marijuana Business Spring Conference and Expo at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort and Conference Center. Over a course of three days, cannabis entrepreneurs and business leaders gathered in Washington, D.C. to network and gain industry insight from speakers on a wide variety of topics. It was great to meet up with some of our wonderful business friends and partners that we have been in contact with over the last year!

MJBiz Con continues to be one of the most professional, knowledgable and well-attended conferences in the cannabis industry. As we walked the Expo floor, it was exciting to see the amount of businesses dedicated to this booming industry. With over 500 exhibitors, there was plenty to see and much to learn — everything from lights and soil to products, packaging and consulting firms. We look forward to developing and designing some incredible brands and can't wait to attend the next Marijuana Business Daily Conference and Expo!

 

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 7, 2017 - No Comments!

Women Grow Leadership Summit

Last week, our Chief Creative Jennifer Culpepper attended the Women Grow Leadership Summit in Denver, Colorado. Once a year, cannabis industry women (and men) gather in Denver to network, share insight and inspire one another. Over the course of three days, Jenn attended inspirational lightning talks, social events and educational panels. It was a motivational and inspiring summit, surrounded by so many incredible women that are passionate about their cannabis careers.

On Friday, February 3rd, Jenn led a discussion on the "Parenting in the Cannabis Industry" panel as a follow up to the CBS This Morning interview that aired a few weeks ago. Along with fellow cannabis entrepreneurs Leah Heise (CEO Women Grow), Carrie Kirk (Cannaline) and Chanda Macias (Owner of National Holistic Healing Center), Jenn shared her own experience "coming out" as a cannabis industry professional to family, friends and her whole Facebook world. Each member of the panel shared their stories and unique challenges they face as parents in this industry. In this lively exchange, attendees also discussed how they talked to their children about marijuana. There was discussion about adult-use and how that was addressed with children. Some moms (from states where adult-use is legal) felt it best to model responsible consumption, while others felt more comfortable hiding it from their children. There was general consensus around talking honestly to kids, while keeping it age-appropriate.

Based on the response to the panel, it was clear that parents are looking for a community in which they can share stories, advice and ask questions to other parents in a judgment-free zone. Be on the lookout for a closed group you can join coming soon!

December 14, 2016 - No Comments!

Maryland Dispensaries Announced

On December 9th, The Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC) made the much anticipated announcement of the 92 dispensaries that were awarded Stage One license pre-approvals. Combined with all 10 Grower pre-awardees who were also awarded a dispensary pre-approval, there are a total of 102 dispensaries slated to open in the state of Maryland.

Dr. Paul W. Davies, Chairman for the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission stated, “These qualified entities will be on the front line providing medical cannabis to qualified patients in Maryland."

Maryland regulations require that no more than two dispensaries can be located in each of the 47 state districts. Montgomery County was granted the greatest number of license pre-approvals. The full list of Dispensaries can be found here.

The process of becoming a fully-operational dispensary has only just begun. The "to-do" list for the newly announced dispensaries may seem never-ending, but setting some time (and a budget) aside for developing smart brand strategy and strong design will be crucial for success. We look forward to working with these cannabusinesses and developing new brands in our home state of Maryland. Congrats to all the winners!

November 22, 2016 - No Comments!

Marijuana Business Conference & Expo: Las Vegas

Last week, Jenn represented Brand Joint at the Marijuana Business Conference & Expo (MJBiz Con) in Vegas and was one of 10,000 attendees. On Thursday and Friday, she walked through over 300 booths and exhibitors on the showroom floor to meet with fellow cannabusinesses and entrepreneurs.

It was inspiring to see the wide variety of products and businesses that make up this expanding cannabis industry. With 28 states now implementing medical or adult-use cannabis programs, it's important for cannabis companies to execute smart brand strategy and strong design to set themselves apart from competitors. Pictured below are a few displays we found interesting.

Cannabis Dispenser by Greenvault  Cannabis Dispenser by Greenvault A beautiful booth setup by Kiva Confections A beautiful booth setup by Kiva Confections

Brand Joint's goal is to help cannabis companies take their business to the next level to successfully compete in the growing cannabis industry. We look forward to keeping in touch with new friends we met at MJBiz Con and can't wait to get started on some new branding projects for some amazing companies!

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.