Branding for the MMJ B2C Market
Branding for the MMJ B2C Market
Outside of the states to have legalized recreational cannabis, the medical customer is the only prospect for cannabis brands (See my earlier post for the 3 cannabis customer categories). But with ballot initiatives on the horizon, and the continued trend toward recreational legalization and federal recognition, brands should be preparing to position themselves to market to medical customers separately from recreational consumers.
While there are many people who have collected MMJ cards for more illicit reasons, as recreational markets continue to open up, the medical customer will truly be the patient. These are people grappling with symptoms like chronic pain, sleeplessness and so much more on a daily basis.
Because they are patients, they will expect to be treated as such. They do not want to be labelled a ‘stoner’ and assume the stigma that comes with that label (right or wrong). These patients are not seeking the latest way to get high – they don’t want to experiment with a new strain, new delivery system or etc. They are looking for consistent results, delivered by the same strain, over and over. In short – they want predictable results, delivered with dignity.
Study after study has shown that cannabis is a natural alternative to some serious synthetic drugs – and in some cases, the only resort when the drugs have failed.
Brands in the medical space should focus on this fact. Brands should present themselves as a natural remedy, a natural approach to overall wellness. The dispensary atmosphere should be clean and professional, with a sense of serenity and calmness to reinforce cannabis’s symptom-relieving properties.
Purity and consistency in strains are important to these customers, so brands should focus on providing a product with independently (and credibly) tested consistent strains. Unfortunately, strain consistency is a big industry challenge right now, which is why it will be necessary for medical brands to find reputable growers and testing labs.
The MMJ market is likely to be the first cannabis market recognized by the federal government – it’s the most widespread, and it focuses on health and wellness vs. recreation. As such, it will also be the first federally regulated one.
Some regulations will be enforced by the FDA – a notoriously burdensome organization to medical brands the world over. Among other things, the FDA will regulate strain potency and purity to ensure standardized measures of THC and CBD delivered to the patient, and enforce that product labeling and packaging claims are verified.
As a medical marketplace, there are many other federal regulations already in place that will likely be tweaked to specifically address the cannabis industry, including protecting patients’ privacy and other HIPPA rights. Despite the recent trend of lower costs and barriers, with federal regulation MMJ cards will become harder to get and will require documentation to substantiate the medical need; which will further remove the incognito recreational customers from the medical market.
As states legalize recreational cannabis markets, illegitimate MMJ card holders will gravitate away from brands who have focused on patient care. But brands who focus on treating MMJ card holders as patients will find themselves strongly positioned to minimize their losses when federal recognition and its corresponding regulation come to pass – and they’ll capture a significant share of the patient care market.