!-- Global site tag (gtag.js) - Google Analytics --> Marijuana Business Magazine March 2020

Marijuana Business Magazine March 2020

March 2020 | mjbizdaily.com 69 After spending decades in high-level branding posts for companies such as Coca-Cola, Molson Coors and Walmart, Stephen Horgan helped launch InterContinental Beverage Capital (IBC), a partnership of former beverage and CPG executives that helps young companies develop their brands. This includes a growing roster of cannabis companies, such as Ceria Brewing, an Arvada, Colorado-based business producing THC-infused nonalcoholic beers for the Colorado market with the goal of expanding nationwide. How does your experience working with major mainstream brands help you with Ceria—or not help because cannabis is so unique? Being professionals and longstanding experts in beverages and CPG, we basically know how it should work. But that doesn’t mean that’s the way it’s working in the cannabis world right now. As we got into it, we made some assumptions that the industry was a little bit more mature and evolved than it actually was. We started to build Ceria and create a brand position for it as the world’s first cannabis-infused nonalcoholic craft beer, and what we found was that we were mostly competing with products, not brands. What role does distribution play in branding? Distribution puts your product in the hands of the consumer. So we find ourselves advising, consulting and helping people who bring beverages to market on how to handle beverages in the transportation process, how to talk about it to the dispensaries. And it’s a continual learning process. We’ll share information in the beginning about what the product is. We create materials that they’ll provide to the dispensaries. We’ll do some co- marketing on our social media. We have to ship it to a licensed infuser or manufacturer who typically is the distributor, too. So they will buy the product from us, infuse it with THC to our standards and then use our packaging. We’ve created the packaging and the brand; they assemble the product. How did you develop the brand art and design? The chief customer officer at Ceria is one of our partners at IBC, Doug Christoph. He’s been in branding for 30 years. He basically lays out what the brand is all about before you come up with the name, how we’re different than other products out there. And then you try to find attributes—like agriculture is something that we latched on to. We have the Roman goddess of agriculture on our cans and she has a cannabis wreath around her head instead of the typical laurel. We probably had seven finalists for our packaging, and the one you’re looking at is the one that we decided on. How do you assemble a consumer focus group? It’s a very traditional and relatively inexpensive way compared to some studies to get feedback from customers. But the feedback is specific to the people you’re talking to. The focus group is not as scientific. It’s more of a feeling and the way people react. And then you tweak some things so you can do it in a shorter period of time for less money. You can do large focus groups, but a focus group is probably typically 12 to 20 people, 25 maybe. It’s not that much different than when you walk around in a mall and somebody might take five minutes to talk to you. What do you think the future of branding holds? We see a tremendous amount of opportunity for traditional branding to be applied in the cannabis space. There’re some very good products out there, some good distributors, some good retailers. But consumers buy brands because they want to associate with brands. If you’re just selling toilet paper or laundry detergent, unless the consumer is buying Tide or a Coca-Cola, there’s no reason for people to spend more money on the category. They’re just going to buy what’s cheapest. Branding brings the opportunity for everybody in the value chain to realize more value. STEPHEN HORGAN FOUNDING PARTNER, INTERCONTINENTAL BEVERAGE CAPITAL, ATLANTA Stephen Horgan Courtesy Photo