How do you appeal to new consumers who are interested in partaking of the plant for the first time? These entrepreneurs have built their businesses on answering this question.

November 1, 2019 5 min read

This story appears in the October 2019 issue of Green Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

As adult-use cannabis becomes legal in more states, it is also becoming more socially and culturally acceptable. Those who just five years ago would never have dreamed of visiting a dispensary or gorging on a gummy are now interested in doing just that. They’re the canna-curious, and they’re a massive untapped market. But there is still a stigma attached to weed, fueled by years of anti-pot propaganda, seedy past business practices of the black market, and an overall lack of knowledge, that can prevent the canna-curious from giving pot a shot. We asked some of the industry’s top CEOs what they’re doing to appeal to this new kind of consumer.

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Make Your Product Approachable

“Dispensaries can be very off-putting and weird to the uninitiated — dark, opaque window treatments, armed guards, less-than-desirable smells, with design motifs that are either all green, brown and tend toward leaves and flower, or neon, silver and flashy. The customer journey at Sweet Flower begins with the assumption that our customers shop more at retail stores than cannabis stores. Our retail stores are bright, well-lit, smell good, don’t have guards at the door, and have versatile color schemes that don’t overwhelm the products, so we follow that retail model — open, bright, airy, and melt the security and compliance functions into the background as much as possible, only to the extent required by laws, rules, and regulations.” — Timothy Dodd, CEO, Sweet Flower

Design Packaging You’d Be Proud To Display

“My advice for creating approachable packaging is to simply learn about your customer and listen to them. We recently did a survey with our customers and learned that 80 percent of them don’t use other cannabis products, so you could say that the vast majority of our consumers are canna-curious. Sagely Naturals, as a brand, was designed to be approachable — products you feel proud to display in your medicine cabinet because the packaging is beautiful and doesn’t have stereotypical stoner marks, like leaves or rainbow colors, all over it.” — Kerrigan Behrens, cofounder, Sagely Naturals

Make It Fit Into Their Lifestyle

“When we were in the process of creating Beboe, we took careful inventory of the contemporary market and contemporary consumer, which led us to determine that our aspirational customer would be ‘canna-curious’ or fall into the ‘haven’t done it in a long time’ category. That being said, we ideated and drew upon our past experience of building luxury brands and creating art as parallels. Taking inventory of how our potential consumers would best resonate with marketing and how they were currently integrating brands within their everyday was extremely beneficial for us. It led us to market Beboe in a manner that was subtle and within the context of their lifestyle. Beboe is ultimately a lifestyle, so we do everything within those confines, and I think that is what makes the consumer comfortable with our product.” — Clement Kwan, cofounder, Beboe

Make It About The Experience, Not The High

“Decades of prohibition have made so many people afraid of the plant and fearful of overdoing it. That’s why we made it easy for people to understand how they would experience cannabis depending on the type of activity they’re looking to enhance. Our vapes are color-coded and labeled beyond just indica, sativa, hybrid. We also have THC-CBD blends, so people can ease into cannabis at a pace and experience that works for them.” — Andy Singh, CEO, Nuvata 

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Show Them You’re Committed To Safety

“Canna-curious consumers want to know they are purchasing safe, high-quality, and legally compliant products from a tried-and-tested brand. On every Henry’s Original package, you’ll see a Clean Green–certified sticker. The certification verifies sustainable, natural, and organic cultivation practices; preapproved plants, soil, and nutrients; full legal compliance; and crop inspection.” — Jamie Warm, CEO and cofounder, Henry’s Original

Educate Them About The Plant

“People fear the unknown — and at the root of the stigma around cannabis is misinformation and ignorance. Education around the product itself is key. We feel that the more people know about the plant, the more open they will be to trying this medicine. We partnered with, a nonprofit, unbiased, science-­based CBD information source. We also contribute funds to cannabis studies to support ongoing research and education. By removing the stigma around cannabis, we hope canna-curious customers will overcome any prejudices or fears and find a product that works best for their needs.” — Dennis Hunter, CEO, CannaCraft 

Make It Easy To Use

“The canna-curious are not only the fastest-growing demographic in cannabis sales but also the future of the legitimacy of the market. If the only people smoking pot have always smoked pot, the industry is never going to evolve. It’s never going to become normalized. The greatest advantage we have in the industry is to really work with the canna-curious and develop products that aren’t for the traditional daily smoker. We have made easy-to-use products that enable you to take a customized, smaller hit. Our vaporizer and branding are very approachable. They look like something that could be sold in Walmart.” — Corey Mangold, CEO, Orchid Essentials

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