The first legal cannabis companies in each state have a unique advantage: they offer a service that cannot be found anywhere else. But more states have legalized marijuana and the industry continues to expand at a rapid pace—and as the competition grows, so does the need for solid branding. 

Why? Because even with the best quality products, knowledgeable staff, and great service, success isn’t guaranteed. Establishing a unique identity can separate your business from the rest and help you connect with customers who share your company’s values. Here’s the breakdown on how to get started. 

1. Define who you are.

No, not you personally—your company! It might sound silly, but it works: imagine your business is a person and write down their characteristics. Are they fun and relatable? Knowledgeable and informative? These characteristics can help drive your business’s voice, a vital component of content marketing and communicating with your customers. 

Furthermore, what are the core values of your business? Consider the types of customers you’d like to attract and which qualities matter to them. Some examples might be quick and convenient service, quality products, low prices, a unique experience or a welcoming atmosphere.

Another important factor to consider is your business name. What does your name say to customers? Does it match the characteristics and values you want your business to represent? If you describe your company as fun and relatable, then you could get away with a humorous or silly name. If you chose knowledgeable and informative, then a funny name would be less appropriate.

2. Establish brand guidelines.

The key to a building a successful brand is one word: consistency. Once you define who you are, it’s important to communicate your identity through the images and messages you present to the public. A great way to ensure you’re consistent is by setting brand guidelines for marketing your business (Canny Creative has a super helpful guide for this). 

Some elements of your brand guidelines include your aesthetic—your logo and the design elements, color palette and fonts you will use for your website, ads, signage, and other marketing materials; and text like your mission, slogan and story (why you’re doing what you’re doing, and what makes your company different). Your business’s voice is part of this, too, and will be used throughout your story, mission and any other promotional text.

3. Develop a marketing strategy.

So you have your brand—now what? You’ll need to decide how to share it with the world and promote it to potential customers. This is where a marketing strategy is crucial. If you haven’t already built a website at this point (using your brand guidelines, of course!) now is the time, because the next step will depend on it.

A marketing strategy is basically a plan for reaching your ideal audience and achieving the ultimate goal: turning the members of that audience into customers who purchase your products and/or services or invest in your business. Your strategy will have many detailed elements (Coschedule has an in-depth guide to creating one), such as identifying your business’s strengths and weaknesses, defining your marketing goals and identifying your ideal customer. 

It will also help you decide which channels to utilize in marketing your business—do you want to invest in print advertising or stick with digital platforms? Which social media channels will your company use?—and how to measure the success of each campaign. 

4. Maintain compliance with advertising regulations.

Creating and marketing a brand is already complicated. But it is much more challenging in an industry that is not federally legal. The largest digital platforms don’t allow cannabis advertising, and many states that have legalized cannabis have unique advertising regulations (For a guide on the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) Advertising do’s and don’ts of advertising by state, contact Cannabis Creative.) 

These run the gamut. While some states don’t have any regulations, others prohibit cannabis advertising altogether. Most are somewhere in between, restricting outdoor signage, prohibiting paid advertising and limiting the types of images used in marketing materials. A common theme throughout is language, with a focus on prohibiting any false or misleading claims about marijuana.

All of these factors make marketing tricky and can force you to be creative in marketing your business. And to alleviate some of the burdens, you can always…

5. Consider hiring a cannabis marketing agency.

If you can budget for it—and it feels like the right decision for you—it might be worthwhile to hire a marketing agency that specializes in the cannabis industry (yes, they exist!). Cannabis Creative is a good example of a full-service marketing agency specializing in cannabis and CBD. Establishing and marketing your brand is time-consuming and can be a full-time job on top of day-to-day business operations. 

Hiring a marketing firm, like Cannabis Creative can alleviate some of the burden, but it does not mean you won’t be involved in promoting your business. Any good marketing agency will want your input and involvement throughout the process, allowing them to best represent your company. After all, you are the best expert in your own business, right?