Authenticity and Transparency in Cannabis


Authenticity and Transparency in Cannabis

March 13, 2020 | Education

Consumers still mistrust cannabis companies.

The illicit market is flourishing and filling the market with knock offs because of our one-foot-in-one-foot-out approach to legalization, shady companies are taking advantage of the lack of up-to-date FDA legislation to sell mislabeled or misleading CBD products, and the vape crisis dominated the headlines at the end of last year.

It might not be enough for brands just to stay compliant. Education and transparency will be essential to building trust. It’s tough to do within the frame of marketing programs that are already complicated because of fractured state laws.

And it’s a two-sided coin; public trust will also go a long way toward building advocacy for favorable government regulations, which in turn will help iron out disjointed marketing regulations.

Promoting your traceability

QR codes or RFID tags are required on products by many states with a regulated legal market to show that nothing is diverted to the black market.

Although around 86 percent of Millennials use their smartphones while shopping in-store, they won’t have access to the Amazon, Yelp, or Google reviews they usually rely on. You could treat codes as a way to engage and help close the knowledge gap for consumers. Kimberly Dillon, Founder of Plant and Prosper, suggests going one step further.

“Only 53 percent of Americans stated that they use QR codes, so just placing a code on the packaging doesn’t mean that the consumer knows how to take action. This means including clear calls to action. Use language like “Scan here to verify authenticity.” It’s a small touch, but helps consumers know to scan.”

Creating a human connection

Making customers feel safe is a process that starts with weaving transparency into your strategy, and ends with a human connection.

On-product QR codes, your social media, and website could house for charmingly lo-fi videos and photos showing how long the farm has been in operation, who’s working there, information about the owner, and what production looks like, to create a human connection with consumers.

If you’re a white-labeled brand, this type of content might not be available. Continue conversations with your farmers and hemp oil suppliers about what measures they have in place to guarantee consistency. If you can, try to work with US-based, vertically integrated companies so that information doesn’t get lost in the pipeline and you share more details about your product’s origins with your audience.

People will share your content if it moves them, or if it serves as an extension of their self-identity (it proves that they are relevant or smart). A hard thing about this industry is that advertising and SEO aren’t available to purchase to the highest bidder, but that also creates an opportunity to build trust over traffic.

Facing the hard truths

A lot of people have had a hard time in the fight for cannabis legalization. Scientists risked their careers to research the plant, and communities of color are still outsizedly hurt by the imprisonment of people for non-violent cannabis-related crimes.

If you’re new to the space, there are still a lot of legal challenges to contend with. However, people in the community and your customers will expect you to understand the legacy of the industry and to support initiatives that attempt to remedy the harm that’s been done. Try to hire people who have a long history with cannabis, support organizations like Equity First Alliance, and get involved with advocacy groups to dig into local issues.

Committing to third-party testing

You will have tested your products for THC and CBD, residual pesticides, and mold and mildew when you launched your product. However, more stringent testing regulations may be on their way. Arizona, for example, has historically had a very lax attitude toward testing. That will change in November 2020, when it will require medical cannabis to be tested for microbial contamination, heavy metals, herbicides, fungicides, growth regulators, and residual solvents. Across the rest of the country, the vape crisis made testing for Vitamin E acetate a must for vape pen companies.

If you get ahead of regulation-change by testing thoroughly and testing often, you can add the results to any customer touchpoints you have to help assure people that you take your product and their health seriously.


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