Three Takeaways and an Insight from the Business of Cannabis: CT Cannabis Conference
From the evolving regulatory landscape to the developments within the cannabis industry, this is a market where innovation and strategic thinking will be paramount. In this blog post, Chief Creative Officer Sean Crane and Associate Creative Director Carla Gonzalez share their thoughts and insights from the Hartford Business Journal and New Haven Biz Business of Cannabis: CT Cannabis Conference.
1. Cannabis in Connecticut is growing. So are the opportunities.
Adult-use cannabis sales began on Jan. 10, 2023, adding to the medical-use market that had been in place since 2012. As of August, total sales have exceeded $170 million, with roughly $69 million coming from this new category.
According to panel experts, those numbers include the residents still unaware of the new recreational use laws and those who continue to drive out-of-state for specific products. In addition, 46 cannabis businesses—ranging from growers and processors to retail establishments—are about to join the 20+ businesses currently in the market, with another 100 new licensees beginning the process.
While not nearly as extensive in some other states, this is shaping up to be a promising yet competitive market where creating the right lifestyle brand experience will make or break a business’s success.
2. New entrants will step into a satisfied, but not oversaturated, market.
Because Connecticut started with the tightest regulations in the country, there is a strong likelihood that laws covering potency, sale limits, and product availability will change. Factors include the potential rescheduling of cannabis by the federal government and public education and acceptance of the industry.
So, the good news for newcomers is there’s still room to carve out a distinctive position and brand, even with businesses such as Fine Fettle already making a name for themselves. The challenge is the existing regulations—how to stand out with so many rules about what you can’t say and do.
Companies will have to be smart and get creative with what they can do, pushing against the limitations of the space to establish a distinct presence and create media and social opportunities that haven’t been considered (or limited) yet.
3. Don’t forget about the businesses around the business.
What makes this new market fascinating is the way other companies and organizations are evolving, growing, or being established to support cannabis businesses.
Banks are deciding to do business with these establishments and open accounts for employees—something unheard of a decade ago. Local colleges are creating cannabis programs of study; law firms are providing regulator guidance; HVAC companies are expanding product lines for climate-controlled environments, and so on.
The marketing challenges and needs of these businesses on the periphery are different but will require a similarly deft hand.
While regulations may loosen both product and advertising restrictions over the next five years, the challenge for the foreseeable future will be creating an ownable brand experience.
While Connecticut may take some heat for being restrictive or for the speed at which new retailers, growers, and processing facilities come online, the abundance of caution and deliberate pace is giving new entrants the necessary time to think about how to stand out and how to fit inside the box today while carving out a long-term niche.
That brand distinction includes interacting with clients and the environment you create, the media where materials are placed, the influencers you select, and the events around the business.
And, of course, it includes all the traditional elements people think of when they hear the word “brand.” Funny enough, it’s everything we excel at.