​For top cannabis brands the key to market success is trust

Experts agree that building trust among consumers is the surest route for cannabis companies to grow their share of the market. This is especially true for an industry that will have many first time users


Cannabis is a new industry in a unique position: there's already a pre-existing consumer base made up of people who used marijuana recreationally prior to its legalization. As a result, there's a great opportunity for brands to scoop up eager customers. But there's also a chance that they will fall flat on their face. What makes the difference between success and failure in cannabis? Building customer trust.

Customer trust is key in any industry. It's achieved through transparency, a backstory that is authentic to the company, uniformity throughout all customer facing interactions and consistency in the quality of the product. The effect is something that should be a direct expression of what the company already is rather than a fabrication. Too much inconsistency may make customers wary and, ultimately, drive them away.

As Peter McDonough, one of the world's leading consumer brand and marketing experts, explained to Cannabis Business Times: "I think it's critical for a brand to create a foundation of trusted quality and safety assurance. This is particularly true within the cannabis and CBD market sector." He added, "I think it's critical for the brand to make an emotional connection with its consumer target and provide the consumer with social currency. But that is secondary to the importance of the brand proposition being delivered in a safe and reliable way."

Communication, then, is key. One track to take to building trust is through simplicity. As explained in Cannabis Industry Journal, "clean, simple design is reassuring and inspires trust. That's because simple design makes it easy for customers to find what they need or want to know. It's easy to miss information in a cluttered design – and people know this."

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Take, for example, White Label Liquid Inc. (OTCMKTS:WLAB). Their website is elegant in its flow, with text, images, and video being holistically presented as visitors scroll downward. The language of the copy is simple, communicating effectively that within 14 days, White Label can provide customers with whatever custom flavors, labels, or products they want.

White Label touts that it has the "manufacturing, logistics and market expertise to provide cutting edge solutions for CBD and e-liquid manufacturing and private labeling". The images of technicians in lab coats, computer displays with market data, and close ups of equipment communicate the same message.

Cohesion is key. Cannabis Industry Journal drives this point home: "Design must align with your brand. When consumers sense a disconnect between the brand identity they've come to identify with your business and the packaging design for your products, it creates discomfort. But packaging that is in line with (or expands upon) the brand identity consumers have come to know will create comfort and trust."

Similarly, Bloom Farm's, a manufacturer of vaporizer pens, was able to successfully make use of these principles to set their product apart from the competition. To achieve their goals, Bloom Farms brought in Pavement, a Bay Area-based design and creative studio. In an interview with Graphic Design USA, Michael Hester, founder and executive creative director at Pavement stated: "The Bloom Farms vision is to communicate professionalism and trustworthiness for a product that has a stigma attached.

"The customer base for medical marijuana often includes first-time buyers. Our aim was to design package that presented the product with confidence and pride," he added. An air of luxury was achieved through the use of black foil stamping and an elegant font in slight deboss, which gave the final product the feel of legitimacy and authenticity.

Trust is also important because word of mouth is one of the most common routes for building a customer base. As McDonough explained to Cannabis Business Times, "consumers consistently cite that the most important influence in their decision to try a new brand is when it's stimulated by the recommendation of trusted friend. A good product, that is safe and reliable, and which satisfies consumer expectations after trial, will eventually create broad consumer advocacy and gain market momentum."

It should come as no surprise that McDonough believes that a brand's failure is rooted in its inability to generate trust. "I think the simplest answer is that failed brands most often involve some aspect of failing to build consumer interest and trust. If you make a relevant promise to consumers and your product is compromised by either inconsistent quality or lacking performing versus your brand promise, the brand will never be successful in building a sustained consumer franchise."

McDonough's words aren't just good advice for businesses, they're good advice for people as well. The fact that "just be yourself," is a cliché is evidence in and of itself of the power of both trust and word of mouth. After all it's a sentiment that's been repeated throughout time by virtue of its truth value alone. It's no wonder, then, that it's the end all be all advice for brands.

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