An increase in legal medical and recreational cannabis use throughout the U.S. is driving an explosive new industry. According to a recent report by
Grand View Research
, the global legal cannabis market is projected to reach $66.3 billion by 2025, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.9%. The legal cannabis market in the U.S. alone may be growing even faster; worth almost $12 billion in 2018, its projected CAGR through 2025 is 24.1%.
At the same time, the CDC reports that over 20% of American adults are living with chronic pain. New research suggests cannabis can reduce pain caused by inflammation associated with chronic illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis. Research has also uncovered various anti-inflammatory and antiarthritic properties of CBD – a non-psychoactive molecule derived from cannabis – which is sold over-the-counter in a variety of products throughout the country. Consequently, the U.S. CBD market is also experiencing a huge uptick; BDS Analytics forecasted an $18 billion increase from 2018 to 2024, at a CAGR of 49%.
Clearly, there is huge market potential for cannabis brands. But their success hinges on transparent consumer education and quality ingredient sourcing more than many other food products and supplements. Most consumers are new to cannabis. With so many companies claiming to sell the Holy Grail, consumers are searching for a healing salve in what can easily seem like a sea of snake oil. To stay afloat in this competitive market, cannabis brands must not only produce the most consistent, highest-quality products – they must also establish themselves as consumer lifeboats.
Here are a few guiding principles cannabis brands should keep in mind when developing and marketing their products.
Source the best; sell the best.
One of the most important things for brands and consumers to understand about the cannabis market is that not all cannabis is created equal. Exactly how and where a company’s cannabis is grown will become a critical deciding factor for consumers as they become more acquainted with the market. Some companies claim that the purest, most potent cannabis plants are grown under the sun and in rich soil, while other brands promote plants grown with hydroponics and controlled lighting. Whichever side of the fence you’re on, it’s important to understand how each approach affects the quality of the plants you consume, smoke, vape or apply topically.
Consumers will also start to look for brands that source cannabis plants grown with beneficial insects instead of pesticides. Because cannabis products aren’t currently regulated by the FDA, it’s up to brands to independently test their products for contaminants like heavy metals and pesticides, then share the results with consumers. The same applies to potency. While hemp oil brands promote the benefits of CBD products, some of these products have been shown to contain no CBD at all. It’s simply not enough for companies to advertise the purity and potency of their products without evidence to support those claims.
Take care of first-time users.
Too often, when people first try cannabis or CBD products, their experience isn’t guided. Many times, these new cannabis users are already in a vulnerable place, because they’re seeking something that will bring them pain or anxiety relief without the side effects of pharmaceuticals. If they don’t experience the therapeutic effects they’re looking for after their first experience, they’re much less likely to try cannabis products again. For cannabis brands, this means consumer education is vital.
Cannabis companies need to clearly indicate the plant strain, intended use and potential effects of each and every product on its label. Consumers should be informed that finding a cannabis product that works for their individual body chemistry is about going slow and trying different things. Brands that advertise cannabis products as a miracle cure or instant fix are much less likely to achieve customer satisfaction.
Especially when it comes to THC (the psychoactive component of cannabis) and CBD products, packaging that says “Devour this cookie and then go crush that mountain hike” will ultimately generate fewer sales than packaging that says “Take one small dose and see how you feel before taking more.” Cannabis brands should guide the experience like a trusted friend.
Whether a product contains THC, or just CBD, it’s important to provide clear dosing information. Consumers should have as much information to help modulate their experience (and expectations) as possible.
Cater to taste.
Cannabis products need to be effective. But people won’t buy something they don’t enjoy, especially when they have better options. Cannabis and CBD-containing food and beverages simply have to taste good. This requires careful knowledge and application of different preparations. For example, full-spectrum CBD tends to smell a bit more herbaceous, while CBD isolate tends not to smell at all. Which form a company uses depends on their specific product and target demographic.
It’s so important for brands to suspend any assumptions they may have about what consumers want and actually listen to consumers instead. A lot of companies make the mistake of marketing to kids or the “inner children” of adults. But many adults aren’t interested in vaping cookies and cotton candy. Offering a variety of clearly-labeled flavors for every palate gives consumers the chance to experiment and find the best option for them.
Most Americans are conditioned to seek healing outside of themselves. We go to the doctor and swallow pills because that’s what we’re told to do. Many people feel helpless when it comes to their own health and life enjoyment. But cannabis brands have a truly unique opportunity to shift this entire paradigm.
By offering education about a wide variety of high-quality products, brands can now empower consumers to do their own research and become their own healers. At the end of the day, the most successful companies will offer the right blend of safety and autonomy, holding the consumer’s hand when necessary, while giving them space to choose their own adventure.
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