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The Difficult Race to Differentiate

October 29, 2018

Imagine a pack of long-distance runners at the same starting line. They all look similar. They’re wearing the exact same clothes. The bell sounds, and they’re off to the races.

Imagine spectators a few hundred yards from this group. They’re watching the race: a cluster of identical runners moving together. Then they’re asked to pick a winner.

In a way, this is the state of the cannabis consumer experience today.

Cannabis products looking for buyers have very few tools to differentiate themselves. Most licensed producers and brands are starting in their market at the same place. Unlike other consumables, there are practically no legacy brands that have enjoyed years in the market. Apart from the black market, no one has any brand traditions: there is nothing passed down from Grandma’s kitchen. Until recently, there were few products that came with a friend or family’s recommendations.  There aren’t any magazines or specialty channels that will reveal the best picks. Money can’t buy the media that would pull some brands out of the pack.

Consumers have limited opportunities to educate themselves. Packaging laws make communicating a product’s features and benefits, pretty near impossible. Who can be trusted to be a reliable source of knowledge? There are no certified cannabis practitioners – not yet – who can guide through the choices. Retail locations are limited. Marketers can’t market – in old or new media. Online, consumers click and hope that they made a good choice to sample for themselves. And as for new consumers, they don’t even know how they’re supposed to feel.

It won’t always be this hard. Eventually, some runners will emerge from the pack. And soon there will be more runners behind them. And before long, consumers will figure out what’s going on in the race. Bets will be placed. And there will be some real winners.




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