The Biggest Photography Mistake Cannabis Brands Are Making

“In the papers they call people who sell drugs ‘pushers’, you know, like you gotta try really hard to get rid of it. Doesn’t really work like that does it?”

That’s probably my favourite quote from the movie Mr. Nice when Howard Marks exclaims that he is finding it so laughably easy to sell weed that he barely has to try.

Why didn’t he have to try?

The demand was insanely high and supply was incredibly low – and he had the supply.

But we live in a very different world now. Supply of premium quality cannabis in Canada is at an all-time high. Suddenly we have a plethora of options of what and where we can buy.

Demand is increasing too but there will soon be an excess supply, and that means competition is heating up big time!

Increased competition means that it will become harder for individual companies to make consistent profits. Increased competitive advantage will be required to continue gaining new customers but also to retain existing ones.

Many cannabis companies are choosing a differentiation strategy to grow but how is this advantage achieved and indeed sustained as cannabis inches towards commoditization?

The short answer is branding.

And it leads me to the biggest photography mistake I see cannabis companies making:

Your product is not your brand.

Products on their own cannot communicate differentiation because they do not provide enough context to be perceived as better than your competitors.

Product images can of course be part of your content plan but the context in which the product is shown must be unique to your brand.

Let’s check out the example below:

JadeMaple_Blog_LibertyFarmsDistillate (2 of 2)JadeMaple_Blog_LibertyFarmsDistillate (1 of 2)

Both images feature the same product but the second image is communicating so much more:

Quality -inferred by professional lighting on the product
Taste – inferred by honey context in the background

Premium – inferred by the image as a whole, the brand has taken the effort to create something unique and interesting, just like their products

Which image looks more appealing to you?

Humans are very predictable in groups but as individuals we are supremely irrational and our purchases are based largely on emotional biases. Cannabis is no exception.

Have you ever chosen between two brands on a gut feeling?

Humans have an amazing subconscious capacity to fill gaps in knowledge with the sum of our previous experiences. By not providing people with rational and emotional information, you are making it harder for your brand to be selected. What’s worse is that people will subconsciously form an impression of your brand based on brands they perceive similar to you.

So how do you avoid this pitfall and provide people with all the rational and emotional information they need to choose your products over your competitors?

Building a brand starts with a strategic understanding of your target market and the opportunities within it. Research and understand. Be specific as possible. Segment your target market. Build a brand that is razor-focused on its differentiation. Once you have a brand strategy it becomes so much easier to be strategically creative and feel more confident about investing in marketing. Work with your marketing department or reach out to someone with expertise to get you on the right track.

Branding is an established marketing tool with plenty of information that can be easily found:

What Is Brand Strategy? – Definition, Examples & Development

7 Components for a Comprehensive Branding Strategy

How to Develop Your Brand Strategy

Why You Should Launch a Brand, Not a Product

Researching around branding will also uncover other marketing questions you may need to answer; you might discover that you need a better website and marketing channels too.

Building a brand is an investment in perception. You’re putting your money where your mouth is to say, “I believe in these products because XY and Z” and that opens the door to trust.

Next I’ll be jumping into how cannabis brands can drive revenue by being strategically creative.


Featured image courtesy of Ad Week.