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What Is Cannabis 3.0? CBD As Trojan Horse? Industry Experts Discuss The Future Landscape of Cannabis Brands

12:16 am ET October 20, 2021 (Benzinga) Print

Speaking at last week’s  Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in New York City, Mary Ellen Schrock, brand evangelist at Vibe Growth told her colleagues on a panel called “The Trends Dictating the Future Landscape of Cannabis Brands” that it was time for the next generation of cannabis branding.

Other guests on the panel included Madison Fiore, head of growth at Hawke MediaPeter Barsoom, CEO & co-founder at 1906 and Jamie L. Pearson, CEO & president at Bhang Inc.(CSE: BHNG) (OTCQB: BHNGF).  Jon Purow, who specializes in cannabis regulatory and transactional matters at Zuber Lawler, moderated the panel.  

Without a brand’s uniqueness, companies need to focus on the retail side of the operation, said Schrock who explained that there are two factors to consider when building a successful cannabis brand in highly competitive markets, such as California: 1) ensuring quality, and 2) building consumer’s trust. This can be achieved through the process of vertical integration or taking a “holistic approach.”

What Is Cannabis 3.0? 

“There has been very little evolution in how we smoke flower,” Barsoom pointed out, detailing that most of the changes that have occurred over the years were actually a part of an agricultural evolution – achieving higher yield and higher potency. On the other hand, the act of smoking weed hasn’t changed much.

When it comes to Cannabis 2.0, that’s really “flavored weed,” said Barsoom, adding there are all different kinds of gummies and chocolates. So, “Cannabis 3.0 is what we think of as really functional cannabis.”

Cannabis 3.0 is mostly focused on people who are not looking just to get high; it’s not just about smoking, it’s about finding alternatives to alcohol and pharmaceuticals that most people consume and use to handle the everyday challenges.

According to the experts on the panel, this is where more and more innovation and functionality come in, whether through new fast-acting technologies, different types of administration techniques or the introduction of minor cannabinoids. The industry is trying to obtain a deeper understanding of the consumer, and not just to capture the existing behavior.

Product Selection – CBD As Trojan Horse 

One of the most important things to realize when creating a product is that sometimes “you can’t innovate based on what consumers want, you have to know what’s possible,” Pearson pointed out. One of the reasons cannabis companies are still functioning in prohibition is the lack of research. “We don’t know what the effects of these products are.” That’s why Bhang is very careful about doing effect-based marketing until there’s better research internationally, explained Pearson.

“We’re going to stick to what we do best and that’s making delicious products.” At the end of the day what people want is consistency, she stressed, noting that Bhang has been in the CBD business for 10 years and that all this time people have been requesting consistency. “So, part of the product selection process has to do with navigating rules. Our strategy was to use CBD as a Trojan horse.”

Marketing And Intellectual Property 

The cannabis industry struggles with a lack of marketing, mostly because of the nature of the industry and related restrictions.

Most of the top brands don’t place that much time and effort into content creations and are not nurturing their community because they are unable to participate in e-commerce, Fiore explained. That’s why many brands are building out CBD products, as there are fewer limitations than in the THC space.

According to Barsoom, the best form of intellectual property protection is consumer adoption, "if you want to avoid a roster of lawyers and tons of lawsuits." The best form of protection is consumers who want to buy your products because of how it performs and because it delivers on the promise.

Even though the absence of intellectual property protections in the cannabis sphere is evident, the real issue for Barsoom is actually very little product or brand differentiation. Most of what we see is just a logo on a package, he added.

For 1906, Barsoom continued, it’s always been about what are we delivering to consumers, the promise that we’re making, such as, fast-acting and delivering a specific effect. This is achieved via other plant medicines that have a lot of clinical research behind them.

Pearson stressed that intellectual property protection in this industry is very important, noting that Bhang saw it happening when people tried to take the brand from them.

“You have to protect your brand. I think it’s a moral imperative for your shareholders if you are public,” she pointed out.

Consistency Challenge 

With different states having different soil and growing conditions, the same strains can end up having a completely different THC content. So, how do brands keep the consistency of the brand across the country?

“It’s easy, I control the supply chain,” Pearson said. She explained that their formulas work with everything and if they control the entire supply chain, they end up with the exact same product in every state.

The Significance Of Budtender’s Role 

There are two buckets of cannabis customers, Pearson continued,

cannabis users and the canna-curious. 

While cannabis users know exactly what they want, canna-curious will ask what is good, placing a lot of power in the hands of that budtender.

“So as a brand, you have to do marketing in two ways - one is to the consumer and the other is to the budtender,” Pearson noted.

At the end of the day, cannabis is a consumer packaged goods product, therefore brands need to market their products to the budtenders in a creative way. For example, a $2,000 Airbnb competition for whoever sells the most product.

Fiore agreed that the role of the budtender was essential.

“So any way that you can, bestow love on budtenders.” 


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