October 16, 2018 | Graham Kahl

Not Just Stoners: Personas & Journeys for Cannabis Marketing

By Graham Kahl

On the eve of the Cannabis Act coming into force, we’re not unlike every other business in Canada: watching closely to see how this entirely new market will change and shift the established best practices and ideas we’ve had in place, sometimes for decades.

We already know that marketing cannabis has a unique set of rules, a challenge we’re already quite familiar with working with animal health clients. Brands face restrictions around packaging, logos, colours and branding. Promotions of people or events, sponsorships, giveaways, contests and celebrity endorsements are also prohibited, and Facebook doesn’t allow cannabis companies to boost posts on their platform.

So, how can you market your cannabis brand if you can’t depict “glamour, recreation, risk, excitement or daring behaviours, or a positive or negative emotion” in your campaigns? We’re certain the answer lies in developing a strong customer persona and journey.

The Cannabis Customer

1. Get to know your customer

Brand loyalty begins with forming a meaningful relationship with your customer. In order to do that, you need to understand your customer and what path they take on the buying journey, so that you can make sure your brand is always on their radar.

The 2017 Canadian Cannabis survey found that 18– 24-year-olds were twice as likely to report having used recreational cannabis in the previous 12-month period than all other age groups and that they were also more likely to be students. But that’s just one kind of cannabis customer to consider, and they might not be your ideal audience.

Building a customer persona goes beyond knowing that your customer uses, or is interested in using, recreational cannabis. The spectrum of the kinds of people who use cannabis is as varied as the strains available for use, and they’ll have plenty of options to choose from. Through analysis of existing data, social listening and survey research, you can build a persona of the type of person who will choose to buy from you instead of another licensed seller nearby.

2. Build the persona into your brand

Android or iPhone? Nike or Adidas? When it comes to choosing what brands we buy from, our choices can seem almost endless. Brands with a strong identity are the ones that create audiences of loyal followers who identify with the brand. Apple is selling us a lifestyle as much as they’re selling us our next phone or laptop.

Successful cannabis brands will keep this in mind as they shape their brand, logo, identity, and social media presence. The lifestyle of your customer outside of their recreational cannabis use is important.

The persona can also help you better craft a buying experience that leaves your customer feeling satisfied and eager to do business again. Everything from the UX on your website to how your in-store employees greet them when they enter can be part of your brand and based on their preferences.

3. Engage your customer in conversation

With a data-informed customer persona, you now know when, where and how your customer likes to engage with brands they buy from. This means you can target your marketing efforts to the platforms and channels you know they’re using.

But what will drive your customers and potential customers to engage with your brand? Again, consider the lifestyle of your persona outside of their recreational cannabis use. What do they enjoy doing in their downtime? Where will you find them on a Saturday morning? Speaking to the preferences and personalities of your audience in a way they can relate to is a guaranteed win.

Then, keep talking. Establish a constant practice of listening, responding and adjusting your marketing efforts to the needs and challenges your customer is looking to you to help solve. Need help building a customer persona and buyer journey that helps you make informed marketing decisions? We’re always ready to help.

Graham Kahl

Graham Kahl is Executive VP, Insights & Analytics at WS. Gain more of his insights by connecting with him on LinkedIn.