Cannabis companies are in a unique position as they try to navigate the Covid-19 crisis. There's a lot of advice on what they should do. But what should they not do to maintain their brand and connection with their consumers through this uncertainty.

HQ is a collection of experts who have years of experience across all facets of the cannabis industry. We asked them to give us the advice they would give to brands attempting to deal with the coronavirus crisis. Here's what they said:

Kimberly Dillon - Founder of Plant and Prosper
Don't stop communicating. Consumers don't need overly slick or produced content to be engaged. Brands can still tell a story with simple videos and IG lives. The message and the story of your brand are what matters most. Production value is not a replacement for story, so this is a good time to experiment especially if you have team members at home. Sometimes people not in marketing can tell the story in a unique way. One source of inspiration was Tim, the former security guard at the National Cowboy Museum who was suddenly in charge of the Twitter feed. His authenticity led to better results than the folks in the marking dept.

Daniel Abrahami - Founder, Headquarters
There's panic in the air and rightfully so. That being said, I'm really pushing back against companies doing two things: 1) direct sales 2) heavily discounting to promote sales. This sounds counter-intuitive, I know. But, there are many forces at work here that can diminish your brand in the future after we get through all this.

For the most part, your customers don't want to be sold to right now.

Imagine cutting your hours or losing your job and getting an email or an ad from a brand shamelessly promoting a product. That's the LAST thing you want to see. The opportunity in this is to connect with your customers on a deeper level. Don't sell to them, relate to them. Engage. They'll be loyal to you after all this.

Secondly, discounting items to promote sales.

This is the number one killer to your perceived value. If you normally sell for $40 and now you're selling for $20, what does that tell me about your brand? That you're normally overcharging me and that I should just wait for you to discount or just leave your brand altogether. This can have detrimental effects in the long run. More so with higher-end brands. Perceived value is a major component of brand building.

Michael Gosney - CEO, Cyberset Music and Media
Hard sell.

Now is the time, more than ever for cannabis brands to emphasize public (and industry) education vs. in-your-face “stoner culture” marketing.  Not to take fun completely out of the equation, but we need to be sensitive to the mood of the culture, which is undergoing massive change right now and will be altered for months to come.

Cannabis users have their own views and prioritize their choices from the diverse range of products we sell. Everyone has health on the mind right now, and many people, users and non-users alike, are curious about how cannabis as medicine can play a role in strengthening one’s immune system and overall well being. There is a rising curiosity among adult “recreational” users about what more their favorite herb might offer beyond escaping with a strong Indica edible into the latest Netflix adventure.

We need to remember that the gradual decriminalization of cannabis began with Prop 215, California’s Compassionate Use Act of 1996 and since that time, with the re-opening of research and the unfolding science of the endocannabinoid system, the medical applications of cannabis continue to expand and improve. And the good news on this front will keep coming.

It all began with compassion. This difficult year of 2020 would be a fitting time for today’s cannabis brands, in whatever categories we are working, to honor and apply that legacy in how we present our companies and our offerings.

Reavis Daniel Moore - Founder at Serve Global
Green-tings from my small quarantine room in Tel Aviv, Israel. In my life, I’ve lived through more crises than I care to remember – but no matter the crisis, some things remain the same:

1) This too shall pass.

2) Bring lots of love and compassion, and do your best to help those who need it.

3) Devote as much time and effort as possible to supporting your team, allies and advisors. They need you now, like you need them. And they will be the one’s standing beside you, through this and beyond.

4) Take this chance to really push forward with your work. And maybe you will be among the many fortunate people and companies who will have unexpected financial successes as a result of this crisis.

5) We too shall pass. So keep smiling! Do your best to have fun with your family and your friends, even during this crisis. We only have a limited number of spins around the sun, so rememberer to enjoy the ride, no matter how bumpy.

6) Finally... use the products! IMHO, cannabis is the best cure for the quarantine and lockdown blues. PS And as you know already, this advice conveniently applies to all of the many phases of life, from crises to celebrations.

Cory Jones, Founder of The Statement Group
In short: don't do nothing. Consumers are watching how brands are reacting to this crisis. Even as cannabis is deemed essential in some states, there is palpable fear and concern that people will not have access to their products. What can you do to help alleviate those fears? Understand how the political and legislative reactions effect your tribe in each state and municipality -- and keep them updated across all your platforms. Because consumers will be spending less time in brick and mortar establishments now. Make sure you're digital experience is on point, constantly updating and most of all, interesting. This is your brand showcase.

Additionally, don't pivot your business model with each news cycle because commerce should be your last thought until we're out of the woods.  Become a source of facts and comfort in this time. Don't market to your audience, speak to them the way you would speak to a friend or family member. Facts, spoken plainly –  sprinkled with humanity – during a crisis is how brand leadership is born.

David Kramer - Attorney at Vicente Sederberg
Don’t sleep on compliance.   Although it’s fair to assume that regulators have their hands full, and it’s true that some states are relaxing certain cannabis regulations and deferring licensing fees, don’t sleep on compliance.  Cannabis regulators across the country are working during the pandemic—some are even conducting virtual inspections—and law enforcement is cracking down against unlawful operations (albeit too slowly here in California).  The FDA, too, remains on alert, and has continued to send several warning letters to CBD companies making over-the-line health claims, including absurd claims about Covid-19.

Headquarters is a strategic advisory studio that specializes in California cannabis. We help brands launch, grow, and scale in the Golden State and beyond.

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