By Sara Batterby
I came to Oregon with a lot of experience branding other companies. One of my last consulting clients was a publicly traded technology company in The Bay Area that hired me to help them come up with a POV, (point of view). I think it's funny that the term "point of view" has an acronym, but such is the nature of consulting. This type of project most often falls into the "turd polishing" category where you take something that lacks a completely obvious set of merits and values, manufacture a few that sound credible, and then use public relations and communications to talk-the-walk as it where. An exercise, nicely summarized by one of my most respected advisors, as "the bullshits" but more often referred to as branding.
Cannabis is a little different because so many of the companies are totally new. We don't have a bunch of legacy products and services that we are trying to remodel to fit new markets. We don't have to "refresh" our brands or "re-engage" and "re-inspire" hundreds of bored employees and ambivalent customers. This business feels more like college than industry with everyone learning and growing and problem solving together. This is a bit kumbaya, but I can say from experience that there is more space to bring a product to market, say something about it that is authentic and unique, and have that thing actually be authentic and unique. That isn't really branding, and it is also the best that branding can be. It's the foundation of an organic brand.
When I co-founded and became CEO of Hifi, I quickly realized that the newness of EVERYTHING that surrounded my business represented the opportunity to build a truly authentic, and organic brand by answering a singular question about our company; What is it that we do best? Once we answered that question, we focused all our attention on proving it. I definitely spent a lot of time looking at vertically integrated models and big budget scaling, but ultimately, my team and I decided to commit to a simple singular thing, which was to grow the highest quality, tastiest and cleanest flowers possible.
We pulled in our horns and started slashing sections from our business plan. Actually we stopped planning completely for a while and, relatively quietly, started putting our 2 signature strains, Island Sweet Skunk and Hifi Purple (Alien Dawg) out into the market. We let the product speak for itself, and it did, on Instagram, Facebook, and through all the phone calls we got from dispensaries that had heard about our flowers and wanted to carry them. We started to gain credibility and establish a good reputation, and then we put all our remaining energy into delivering a great experience to our customers by being reliable, professional, organized and honest. Over a period of months this simple tactic earned us the credibility and recognition we needed to gather the resources and capital to grow our business. Our brand wasn't an expensive visual identity and a bunch of adds. It was a committed team and the relatively small community of people who believed in us because we promised to do something and then we did it. Quite simple, but very powerful and I learnt an important lesson.
So, by all means, go through the exercise of creating a logo and throwing up a website but these things are ultimately peripheral to the establishment of an identity strong enough to attract strong customer loyalty and investor interest. Pick the think that you can honestly say you are the best, or one of the best at doing and then focus on that, share it, and much of the rest will follow.
About Sara Batterby
Sara is a recent Venture Capitalist and early-stage technology veteran with 20 years of marketing, operations and business development experience in high growth, innovative environments. Prior to entering the cannabis industry, Sara co-founded an early stage venture fund in Silicon Valley with the goal of helping investors understand the powerful business case for investing in women as part of a well-diversified portfolio. Now as the CEO of Hifi Farms, a cannabis cultivation company, and Founding Chair of the Portland Chapter of Women Grow, Sara's priorities are diversity, sustainability and organics. She is excited to bring her business experiences to bear supporting those who wish to enter this industry and ensuring that cannabis becomes a market that enriches and empowers a diverse group of entrepreneurs in Oregon and throughout the US.