What's 420? A New Generation Of Wellness Consumers Is Calling For New Cannabis Branding

What's 420? A New Generation Of Wellness Consumers Is Calling For New Cannabis Branding

The branding of cannabis is important for, at least, three reasons: first, cannabis branding supports the acceptance of cannabis culture that helps reverse the social stigma that weighs on users and growers. At the same time, branding can support the advancement of social equity brands that advocate social and civil rights agendas for minorities.

Cannabis branding can also act as a proxy for the millions of people with unattended health needs who are interested in finding alternatives to traditional medicines. These could be the folks who have no idea about 420 or what a dab rig is but who have expendable incomes and are ready to embrace the cannabis industry in search of physical and mental wellness.

To find out which formats U.S. cannabis users prefer when focused more on mental wellness, Dig Insights, a tech-enabled insight and strategy consultancy based in Toronto and Upsiide, its proprietary innovation insights platform conducted a consumer survey focused on “wellness cannabis consumers” during the latest Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Chicago this past September.

“There is a lot of room for growth and education surrounding the Wellness Consumer, and Brands need to empathize and understand what are they looking for and what are the implications when targeting them. Thinking about how they're feeling, what they want to know, what they don't know given many are new to the category and remind themselves that there is still a stigma that lies behind any type of cannabis use,” Patricia King, executive VP at Dig Insights told Benzinga in an exclusive interview. “And it’s because of that stigma that is driving the formats they are looking for.”

What Are They Looking For?

Wellness consumers are looking for discretion when it comes to their wellness and health needs. Understanding their social context, and learning to cater to this unacquainted population is the next frontier in cannabis legalization.

“They're looking to be very discreet (...) They're trying to hide it from their children. They don't want people at work knowing that they have anxiety, pain, or able to sleep. And they definitely don’t want them knowing they are using cannabis to manage it”

And even more importantly, in a world overabundant of information, wellness consumers seek transparency," King said.

“They're also looking for education on what's the right amount to take to get a specific benefit they're looking for. What is the range of benefits, what are the outcomes, and what are the right formats to take? So what is it that is going to help them feel better without having to light up a joint at night?” 

Robin Brown, executive VP at Dig Insights said dosage control is a particular need they have.

“Any format that allows them to have a better understanding, and control the dose is going to be appealing. And also formats that don't require smoking, like gummies for example. If any company is innovating and they focus around dosage control and targeting specific benefits, those are things that are going to be very likely to appeal to the consumer,”  Brown said.

“Those consumers who are using the product specifically for wellness, tend to skew older - so a significant proportion of 55, with two-thirds, tending to skew female. And this is an important point for brands as this consumer because they're not necessarily a part of what is commonly seen as cannabis culture. They're looking for pain relief, sleep, and anxiety relief.”

Stoners No More: Wellness Consumers Want To Be In Control

Brown and King explained the Wellness Consumer, as a buyer persona, represents the emergence of a generation of new cannabis consumers who are accustomed to having prescription drugs with a definite outcome. They're just now trying to figure it out. But, what does that mean?

Stoner culture and behavior has changed, added Brown.

“And it is not just the brands that are thinking this way, when we talk to consumers and ask them to tell us who a specific brand or product is targeted towards using personification activities, it is often that young 'stoner' male. So the question is, how do we start branding to females? How do brands start making those wellness consumers comfortable?” Brown said. “It's a brand for them and not a brand for a 22-year-old stoner. I remember one interview a wellness user said: ‘oh, you know, the brand that I'm using, they're sending me happy for 420 messages. And this is just so irrelevant to me. Like the concept of 420 is just irrelevant.’”

Branding As Education

Although consumers need a lot of information, in Canada, branding remains limited. “The regulations that Health Canada has put in place actually inhibit that. They prevent companies from providing much of the information that Wellness consumers are looking for,” Patricia said.

“Licensed producers are not able to say this will help you with your sleep. This will help you with anxiety. They're also not I'm not allowed to give dosage recommendations as well. So that is a real barrier for this segment. And also on the flip side, a lot of medical practitioners are still uncomfortable talking about and prescribing cannabis as an option. So you're kind of caught between, you know, the recreational regulations, and then the reluctance of medical practitioners to offer information leaves a big hole in terms of information available,” King added.

The Role Of Emotions

Brown explained there are many emotions “associated with the cannabis category that can be leveraged when you're communicating and positioning brands.”

“Some of the emotional benefits for the Wellness consumer are control and comfort as well. As an emotion, comfort is very strongly associated with cannabis in the same way that you could associate it with soup,” Brown explained and highlighted that in highly regulated environments it can be difficult to brand cannabis associated with emotions, to better reach cannabis users.

“It's tough to build a brand around those emotions because you've got to cut through a lot of noise in what is kind of a commoditized space. So I think, yeah, there is a lot of opportunity to build some kind of emotion-related brand branding. But at the same time, you know, there's all these other things you've got to account for, like a focus on value, the fact that these brands don't have a long history,” Brown explained. “Branding in Canada is limited to white containers with white and black labels with a yellow stripe on them - which means companies have to get creative.”

Budtenders: The First Line In Branding Cannabis

To understand how people transition between medical and recreational markets, and to their anticipated needs, Upsiide tracks their path.

“One of the things we're seeing is the large influence of the budtender, especially in Canada. Because there's nothing in the store that says ‘this will mitigate your pain’, ‘this will relieve your anxiety,’ this will help you sleep better,’ the customer journey is often highly dependent upon them going in and asking questions to figure out what will work for their needs. They often don't understand the category, the levels of THC vs. CBD, the difference in formats, and definitely not the benefits of one brand over another - so they ask and rely on the budtenders' recommendations,” King concluded.

Image By Shahariar Lenin On Pixabay.

Posted In: Cannabis BrandingDig InsightsPatricia KingpremiumRobin BrownUpsiideCannabisNewsRetail SalesEconomicsExclusivesMarketsInterview

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