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The following is a transcription from the stage at Green Flower Summit 2018 (paywall) where Zack Darling (CEO of The Hybrid Creative) explains his 10 steps of cannabis marketing in today’s competitive market.

Return for the remaining steps as we publish them in the coming weeks.

  1. START WITH WHY
  2. BE AUTHENTIC
  3. DIFFERENTIATE
  4. RESONATE
  5. BREAK THE STEREOTYPE
  1. DON’T SLACK ON CREATIVE
  2. DO THE RESEARCH
  3. PROTECT YOUR MARK
  4. THINK LOCAL, PLAN NATIONAL
  5. TELL YOUR STORY

Introduction

I grew up in a hippie commune in the emerald triangle. Raised by pot farmers, I’m what you might call second generation cannabis. Now in the early days of growing weed in the mountains, it was a high risk / high reward game. Either you got away with your harvest for another year or got locked up in prison. Some farmers hit the jackpot while others got locked away and treated like criminals. These days so much has changed in this industry, but the high stakes nature of the business remains just as strong as ever. My name is Zach Darling and I’m deeply passionate about building cannabis brands.

In 1997 I started my first creative agency and named it Greenville Graphics, named after the hippie commune. These days I’m the Chief Eternal Optimist at The Hybrid Creative, one of California’s top cannabis, branding, and marketing agencies. In the nine years that we’ve been taking hydroponics and cannabis brands to market, we’ve seen renegade farmers go from criminals to brilliant entrepreneurs. If you knew the backstory of many of the founders of the biggest brands in cannabis these days you’d think they’re borderline crazy for taking the kind of risks that made them successful now.

But, unfortunately, for every success story there are a multitude of failures. Small cannabis brands are shutting down like crazy and, with regulation and taxes, refining cultivators are beelining for the black market. The high stakes nature of this business maybe less likely to put you in jail, but they can be crushing none the less.

If you’re starting a new brand in this highly competitive market place it is vital you get it right from the beginning. This is your chance. This is your chance to rise up to turn heads and to create a loyal following of customers devoted to your brand. Entrepreneurs, we need you and we need you to do it right.

Now there are some specific steps that the most successful brands in cannabis have made to them make them successful and today I’m going to share a number of those secrets with you. Some of these are just inherent to any brand strategy while some are very specific to cannabis. These are my ten steps to creating a strong cannabis brand.

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