The Key to Brand Differentiation

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Photo: Sonder

With decreasing stigma and a growing consumer base, demand for cannabis is spiking nationwide. While this is promising news for the industry as a whole, it presents a host of new challenges to brands that now must compete for visibility amid competition. Now more than ever, it is essential for brands to implement strategic, consumer-forward, and versatile marketing campaigns to help their products stand out from the crowd.

There are numerous ways to achieve this, but the most effective and personal approach involves brands returning to their roots. In focusing on their core mission and shared passion for the plant, brands can captivate new audiences through authentic storytelling and naturally draw attention to their products.


Standing out in a sea of competitors comes down to three main factors: the product experience/quality, authenticity, and consistency. To start, brands must relentlessly pursue a superior product quality that extends through to the store experience. Product excellence is not enough. Consumers must feel a commitment to quality the second they walk through dispensary doors. Brands that are able to provide the most welcoming and satisfying experiences remain favorites among consumers even as rivals emerge.

Further, in a market as saturated as today’s, businesses often rely on releasing hyped-up products in order to stay relevant. However, brands that remain true to their vision can demonstrate genuine passion for cannabis by consistently providing the most curated and enjoyable experiences possible. Part of the effect is created by thoughtfully soliciting consumer feedback and constantly refining products based on what consumers need and care about the most.

Finally, enduring brands are built brick by brick through reliable user experiences. Analysts at Deloitte identified trust and quality as the leading purchase drivers among retail consumers. With enough care and attention given to each stage of cultivation and manufacturing, finished products and consumption experiences should be consistent across harvests. Just as consumers know what to expect when they drink a Coca-Cola or drive a Mercedes, cannabis users should be able to trust products to deliver the same experience time after time.

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Strong and clear-cut brand values ultimately nurture products and authentically resonate with target consumers. This requires brands to look inward and understand the “why” behind the existence of their products in the first place. For example, when Miller Lite and Buffalo Wild Wings set out to rebrand, they found the most success not in completely transforming their identities, but rather in returning to what made them popular in the first place. Miller Lite refocused on being a classic pilsner product, and Buffalo Wild Wings leaned into its reputation as a fun, down-to-earth place to bond over sports. In the cannabis space, Cloud Cover set out to refresh its brand with the goal of cementing its market position. With this in mind, the company created a distinct look accented by unique brand elements that both elevated the unboxing experience for customers and made products easily distinguishable on shelves.

Brands also can convey their authenticity by humanizing their company. A common approach involves creating campaigns designed to showcase both products and the passionate team members who live the brand’s values. Campaigns like these can introduce consumers to the individuals behind their favorite products, showing the faces that contribute to all stages of cultivation and production. These strategies allow brands to become more transparent with their audiences by illustrating the dedication, shared passion, and collective commitment invested in each product line. This is a thoughtful, humanizing way to differentiate your brand from the rest.

In the end, excellent products speak for themselves. Their quality, authenticity, and reliability distinguish them from competitors. Research shows companies in the United States alone lose $136.8 billion each year from avoidable consumer brand-switching. Building a consistent brand experience will not only elevate a company’s standing and products, but also encourage customer loyalty and foster brand longevity.

Brand-building with passion and mission in mind will draw people in and allow your brand to stand the test of time.

John-Moyers-VP-Marketing white man with shaved head and glasses wearing blue zip sweater

John Moyers is vice president of marketing at C3 Industries. A seasoned senior marketing executive with more than thirty years of experience, he has led client and agency marketing teams for consumer-packaged-goods brands with The Integer Group, ImageSeller, and TBWA\Chiat\Day. Since transitioning to the cannabis industry in 2019, he has managed high-profile brands including Modern Flower, Harvest, and Cloud Cover, among others.