Talking Brand with Cannabis Entrepreneurs

Talking Brand with Cannabis Entrepreneurs

In our role as brand consultants, it’s refreshing to get out and talk with companies about their businesses and learn what’s challenging them now and what’s on their horizon. Several of us from Trinity had the opportunity to do just that last week, when we gave a presentation on “Your Brand as a Business Tool” to a group of entrepreneurs and emerging companies at Gateway, in Oakland.

Gateway is an incubator for start-ups in the cannabis industry, providing business mentorship and investment in emerging companies in this new era of legalization. With Trinity’s experience working on brand strategy and package design across a broad spectrum of consumer goods including our work in cannabis with ebbu, a Colorado-based cannabis brand, we brought relevant experience to the table in what turned out to be a fascinating discussion.

Together with my colleagues, Laurie Kreisberg (strategy guru) and Paul Kagiwada (kick butt creative director), we had a strong turnout and a robust conversation during and after the presentation. Here are some highlights.

I, for one, continue to be energized by the thirst for knowledge, optimism and rolling-up-the-sleeves work ethic that’s driving these entrepreneurs. Many have business experience from other industries, some have grown up in cannabis and for others they’re new to all of this. Across the board, they have a deep appreciation for the need for brand and a pretty intuitive sense for what branding is all about.

During the session, our conversations included topics like why branding is important to your business every day and not just when you’re developing a logo; the advancements at retail and the gaps still present in the space; and even points about the details, nomenclature and pricing of what we as a consultancy do.

In cannabis, there’s a brewing conversation and we brought it up during our time together. At Trinity we strongly feel it’s time for cannabis to come out of the shadows and for cannabis brands to go mainstream. But in doing so, the rest of the equation must be kept in mind… Do this while staying true to the positive promise of cannabis, don’t sell out, and maintain your brand’s connection and credibility with current consumers. To a person, this resonated with the assembly’s participants. I’ve been to my share of conferences of late, both cannabis and more traditional consumer packaged goods. I’m impressed with the movement I’m seeing in cannabis towards the mainstream, but I’m also watchful that as that shift happens brands stay true to themselves and the vision of their founders.

In a room full of entrepreneurs, the passion for and belief in ideas is palpable. It’s the driving force. One point we made was that, in the early days, it’s very personal. Much of their brand’s truth will come from who they are and why they are in the business they’re in. The trick will be to leverage that personal foundation to articulate a unique, compelling brand platform that can then drive business.

Special shout-out to Michael Finkbeiner at Gateway for the logistical support getting ready for the session and of course to Ben Larson and Carter Laren, the founders of Gateway, for the opportunity to be a Mentor for the cohort and be involved in other ways.