As a consequence of the rapid expansion of the cannabis industry, competitive pressures have risen. Today, entry barriers faced by new companies interested in the cannabis industry are falling, but there is no guarantee that this will continue into the future. And current cannabis industry participants know it.
Take, for instance, the recently failed industry-sponsored legalization initiative in Ohio earlier this month, which was driven by the backlash from pro-legalization supporters who voted against the issue because the of bill’s stipulations allowing the development of a state-protected oligopoly of 10 companies as opposed to a more open cannabis market.
For these 10 companies, this entry barrier-creating strategy was unsuccessful and it isn’t likely to be replicated in the future. Luckily for these market participants, using regulations to create entry barriers is not the only way to protect against increased competition.
A more successful and socially acceptable means to create entry barriers is to use a powerful brand that consistently attracts customers. Industry growth drives me-too companies which, in turn, drives the need for each of these companies to differentiate in order to stand out.
A powerful brand should have very high awareness among the target customer base who recognize your brand and know what you have to offer them versus the alternative. A classic example of a cannabis company that understands how to build a powerful brand is The Bulldog Company from Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The Bulldog is a nearly 40-year-old institution in Amsterdam’s cannabis market.
Starting from its humble beginnings as a popular coffee shop and dispensary, The Bulldog has evolved into one of the most recognizable brands in the cannabis industry in the world. The Bulldog is now a tourist destination in the Netherlands and Canada, and it offers a wide range of services, including resort-style hotel/lodging, restaurants and bars, gift shops that sell a full line of cannabis consumer devices, a full cannabis dispensary, and of course a coffee shop. It also offers a full range of edibles including its famous Space Cake and its Iced Coffee canned beverages.
The Bulldog has been able to create this global brand by understanding the key building blocks of brand equity. The first building block of brand equity is brand awareness. The Bulldog’s famous logo is recognized the world over with its bright, inviting colors paired with the face of a bulldog. The company has done this by ensuring that The Bulldog logo is everywhere.
The company puts the logo on everything, including the walls, glassware and mugs, the rolling papers, and even the sugar packets for its coffee drinks. This constant presence drives brand recognition among customers and, in turn, increases their understanding of what Bulldog offers them in terms of goods and services, the second key building blocks of brand equity.
The Bulldog prides itself as being “Amsterdam’s Livingroom,” which means that it is an inviting place where people can go to easily find and enjoy the cannabis experience. Comfort and convenience are important differentiators that may be why The Bulldog is the only cannabis brand that is known outside of Amsterdam through products sold into the United States and coffee shops in Canada.
The Bulldog’s customers are the some of the most loyal in the world. In fact, this loyalty has driven The Bulldog to become a key destination itself for many people visiting Amsterdam. And customer loyalty has enabled its global expansion.
The Bulldog has successfully established a resort in British Columbia, and the company distributes its full line of cannabis consumer devices to stores throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Because of The Bulldog’s constant attention to building a powerful brand, the company can truly say that it is currently one of the few, if not the only, global cannabis brand in the world.