Andreas Neumann is a director, photographer and Chief Creative Director of Jushi Holdings, a US-based multi-state, high-end cannabis company. In a recent episode of the Professionally Cannabis Podcast, Neumann gives up some behind-the-scenes intel on how to use data, emotion and user experience to build a sustainable brand in cannabis.
“Data is King”
Data can be obtained from retail and e-commerce transactions, but for Neumann the research begins on a personal level, with complete immersion into the products, using what he calls the method-acting approach.
“I really think that when you sell products, you have to use them, you have to feel them, you have to know everything about them; otherwise you cannot really create a vision or emotion.” That vision is an essential preface for constructing a successful brand strategy.
So, how do you learn what cannabis consumers are looking for?
“Data is king today,” Neumann exclaims. “If I have a lot of data I can learn from, then I can adjust and I’m not flying blind anymore.” Extensive research and analysis is key because a company’s product needs to satisfy consumer needs in order to be successful.
“You have to identify the top frictions your customers have and then you have to work to solve those problems for them.” – Andreas Neumann
Seamless User Experience
One of Neumann’s first tasks upon joining Jushi was to create an easy-to-use online platform for pre-ordering. Not only did the platform make $30,000 overnight upon launch – fuelled by consumer demand and Covid lockdowns – but the data garnered from the website enabled Jushi to tailor its user experience to the customer’s needs. “You have to identify the top frictions your customers have and then you have to work to solve those problems for them,” says Neumann.
“If you go to our site today,” Neumann says, “you only have two clicks and you’re in your local dispensary and you can order.” Data is consistently being reviewed to allow the company to generate solutions, evolving and adapting to its consumer needs.
Building Cannabis Brands That Last
“Building brands now is very challenging,” admits Neumann. A core barrier to establishing a sustainable brand in cannabis is the lack of consistency of product. Consistency of whole flower products is extremely difficult to achieve in the current cannabis climate because of the numerous variables which impact cannabis cultivation.
Before brand consistency in cannabis flower can be achieved, the industry must first develop technologies and infrastructures which allow for the creation of a “really good, consistent high quality product which people can go back to.”
“Quality is everything, the product is everything” – Andreas Neumann
Neumann makes the analogy that cannabis consumers buy whole flower like they buy strawberries. “People want high-THC, low price and great quality,” he says. There is more focus on the quality of the product and the story behind it, rather than the packaging it comes in. “Quality is everything, the product is everything.”
Emotion and Your Promotion Engine
Developing a brand strategy that is sustainable is challenging because cannabis as a product is unmatched in that the consumer’s emotional experience of cannabis “is always different,” explains Neumann.
This will vary greatly depending on: the user’s location (are they in a forest, or in their bedroom?); their company (are they alone, or with friends?); whether they have consumed other products (such as alcohol); and their overall mental state (are they feeling happy, sad, anxious?); as well as the way the product interacts with a user’s individual endocannabinoid system.
For this reason, cannabis brands need to think carefully when designing their promotional strategies for their products. For example, when looking at celebrity partnerships, “it’s really not as easy as attaching a famous person to this very sophisticated plant, and then thinking it’s going to sell because of that.”
If a celebrity is going to be a promotion engine for your product, Neumann believes that “it doesn’t have to be the biggest celebrity in the world, but it has to be the right one.” They should have a genuine, non-commercially committed interest in cannabis and the partnership should be meaningful and engaging, rather than just a label.
A data-backed focus on product quality and user experience are valuable assets in today’s nascent cannabis climate. An understanding of the role of emotion in consumer experience and brand strategy will also go a long way in giving those who utilise it an edge in the industry. Ultimately, Jushi’s approach in cannabis “is all based on research,” Neumann concludes, “what we make is based on what people are looking for, and that’s the best way.”
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