Adolfo Gonzalez:

Why it could be harmful to name a product after a feeling

Photo credit: R+R Medicinals via Unsplash

This is the first in a three-part series addressing issues in marketing strategies by Adolfo Gonzalez, an educator, entrepreneur and member of Inside the Jar’s editorial board.

My greatest marketing pet peeve of all time is a branding folly of such magnitude it truly baffles the mind such a practice could be so ubiquitous in our industry.

Cannabis marketing fail #1: Predicting effects for all (or even most) consumers

It makes me sad every time I see a new company launching products branded after the effect they are intended to have on the consumer. Yes, you can make some predictions based on cannabinoid ratios, and this can be valuable information for the buyer. But to imply you have found a scientifically proven theory of how the broad range of biochemical compounds in cannabis work together to produce specified and predictable effects is ballsy. Historically, making these sorts of claims has not played out well for brands.

Calling something ‘reflect’, ‘arouse’, or ‘soothe’ is not actually taking the guesswork out of connecting with the right product, because effects can vary from one individual to the next. Any person with experience retailing cannabis to consumers face-to-face knows this.

Even if a company were to apply this flawed branding approach based on cannabinoid ratios alone, marked differences in individual tolerance and the biphasic nature of these compounds make it tricky to predict specific therapeutic effects—much less abstract feelings like ‘inspiration’ or ‘bliss’. Effects are all dependent on a Cperson’s tolerance and individual preference.

Think about it: selling ‘bliss’ in a bottle is every marketer’s dream. But once you realize a brand has been insulting your intelligence (that day comes quickly for the entry level consumer), and the product was in fact not bliss-inducing, brand loyalty and credibility quickly wane.

When you add the infinitely complex co-modulatory effects of the full range of terpenes, flavonoids, and countless other compounds to the picture, it becomes clear why this absurdly common marketing and content creation error needs to stop.

Any company telling a consumer all limonene-dominant terpene ratios make consumers energetic, while claiming any myrcene dominant ratios will produce couch lock, does not understand how to derive practical meaning from the current state of our scientific publications. These overly simplistic approaches will show their true face in the light of further research and a much-needed cultural change around cannabis product appreciation.

When it comes to cannabis, we have gotten only a small taste of the revelations science can bring. There have unfortunately been many influential voices in the world of academia and business willing to position themselves as authority figures, giving easily digestible explanations without having the data to back up their claims. This type of behaviour hurts everyone connected to the cannabis industry.

Studies indicating some degree of scientific understanding around the pharmacokinetics of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds found in cannabis should not engender the attitude that we fully comprehend how the presence of each potentially occurring compound might modulate the aroma and effect of the next. That type of data will come, but we are certainly not there yet.

Saying whatever we need to say in order to get the sale done is not the way forward. Unfortunately, not many marketers understand that in this nascent field, a combination of insider culture mixed with rigorous scientific thinking will be the foundation as the industry evolves.

So, understanding the issue, now how do we fix the problem? We need to stay humble.

It is time to start building the brands that will endure 100 years from now. One doesn’t do that by contributing to the prohibition-era perception that arguably the most therapeutic plant on this earth is nothing more than snake oil.

Being an experienced marketer from another industry does not mean you understand how to talk to people about cannabis. Likewise, keep in mind that being a long-time grower or consumer does not necessarily give anyone the marketing or scientific prowess needed to understand how to most effectively build a cannabis brand. It is difficult to find one person who can cover all of these bases, so to solve this problem most companies will need collaboration between marketers and those who understand insider culture, and the state of scientific research around the cannabis plant.

Above all, if you want to understand this industry, start by respecting the depth of experience of seasoned consumers, breeders, growers, and product developers, and actually get to know their culture. But don’t stop there.

Learn to read academic publications and develop a critical eye for how peer-reviewed articles are actively being used to prop up products and marketing objectives through unproven claims. This will help you learn to be better while avoiding the mistakes of your competitors.

It is time to start building the brands that will endure 100 years from now. One doesn’t do that by contributing to the prohibition-era perception that arguably the most therapeutic plant on this earth is nothing more than snake oil.

In the end, cannabis is like food: we all have different tastes. In a world full of ‘influencers’ trying to erroneously pigeonhole cultivars, products, and consumers, learning to attract people to your brand with culturally informed and authentic messaging that takes this fundamental fact into consideration will give your content a leg up.