Attending MJBizCon is always an inspiration—there are so many fantastic people to meet (shout out to The Grasslands Party!) and exciting businesses shaking up the cannabis industry. But another key reason we attend is the chance to gain valuable on-the-ground insights into cannabis marketing trends and cannabis industry evolution for the year to come, whether in emerging markets like New Jersey or Virginia or well-established medical and recreational landscapes like Oregon and Colorado.
Based on what we saw at MJBizCon 2021 and our broader industry observations this year, we’ve compiled some predictions for where the cannabis industry, and the larger regulated substances space, is headed in 2022. And we’ve identified how these coming shifts may shape cannabis marketing trends in areas such as product positioning and new customer conversion strategies, and how the cannabis industry may evolve across segments like finance, technology and more next year.
Curious about what’s next for cannabis? Gaze into our crystal bong—here are Grasslands’ 10 predictions for 2022.
1. Bud will get more branded. In years past, you’d likely go to a dispensary and watch as your trusty budtender pulled some sticky flower from a glass canister with chopsticks—and you might check the receipt to see which cultivator made your favorite strain. But in 2022 and beyond, there will be no missing who made that particular Wedding Cake cross or Kush Mints you’re enjoying.
Instead, the branded cannabis trend will continue to take hold with companies branding specific strains and pre-packaging bud, concentrates and other cannabis products for B2B and B2C channels. That way, there’s no chance for customers to miss the maker behind their favorite goodies.
2. Terpenes will be even more relevant. In 2022, we’ll see even less of the Sativa vs Indica dichotomy that’s dominated consumer understanding of cannabis effects. Instead, we’ll continue to see an even greater emphasis on the experiential impacts of terpenes, and more consumer education about the different properties and effects that various terpene profiles offer. That in turn gives cannabis marketers an opportunity to deepen their messaging about different strains – particularly proprietary, branded varietals – and truly differentiate between types of bud at a more granular level. As customers become more terpene-savvy, it’ll be a chance for cannabis marketers to capitalize on that in depth knowledge and loyalty to different terp profiles.
3. Cannabis will continue to piggyback on wellness. The wellness market is measured in trillions, not billions, of dollars. So it’s not terribly surprising to see cannabis brands leveraging messaging around wellness and personal optimization (much like supplement manufacturers do) to reach new potential customers. Because consumers are fairly well versed with the language and ethos of the supplement industry, cannabis companies can use that familiar shorthand to introduce their products and tout their benefits. It will become more and more common to see cannabrands educating canna-curious customers how everything from tinctures to salves to concentrates can be incorporated into their workouts, wellness and self-improvement routines.
4. Minor cannabinoids will take the spotlight. THC still gets the lion’s share of the attention—particularly when consumers want to make sure they get plenty of bang for the buck. But in 2022, we’ll see consumers’ growing interest in minor cannabinoids that have been hanging out in THC’s shadow, like THCV, THC-A, and CBG. Cannabis brands can meet that curiosity with effect-based marketing that helps consumers find the exact cannabis experience they’re looking for.
Factor in other cannabis compounds like Delta 8 and Delta 10, and consumers are starting to pay more attention to more than just THC in their favorite cannabis products. That also provides an entry point for consumers looking for cannabinoids that can help them meet their wellness goals, rather than (or in addition to!) a strong high.
5. Cannabis financing will expand marketing segments. As Mike Regan noted at this year’s MJBizFinance Forum, a “blank check bonanza” has put an end to the cannabis funding drought for many. As the industry inches closer to federal legalization, investors are growing more confident and are pouring money into cannabrands, using some of the same tools they’d use to float more traditional business concepts.
In 2022, we’ll continue to see more Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPAC) and venture capital funds get involved in the cannabis space, and we’ll see cannabis founders grow savvier about raising capital in both newly approved and maturing markets. That in turn will mean cannabis marketing departments will be messaging not just B2B or B2C, but also B2I and digging deeper into market segments.
6. Cannabis will grow increasingly global. This trend was already readily apparent at MJBizCon 2021, with many participants coming from various countries outside of North America, such as Argentina, Germany and Paraguay. Expect to see the biggest national enterprises in the US start to jockey for positions in a future global market and to start setting up for the kind of importing and exporting already taking place in other countries. As more and more cannabis companies reach a global scale and achieve international recognition, we’ll see further discourse about what a truly international approach to cannabis branding and marketing might look like.
7. Extraction technology will advance concentrate marketing. Expect to see increased efforts to make extraction safer, more efficient and more sustainable, along the lines of what companies like Boulder Creek Technologies are already pioneering. Techniques like vapor static extraction will only become more prolific as consumers become more educated about concentrates and industry scale increases. But as technology leaps forward and consumer education deepens, more doors open for cannabis marketers to reach segments that prefer solventless extraction or are already receptive to wellness messaging. As extraction improves, so do storytelling opportunities.
8. Cannabis will fully embrace the Internet of Things. We expect to see a growing number of consumption tools and cannabis products harnessing data and fresh tech to refine and evolve the cannabis experience. From QR codes on product packaging to vape pens that can be routinely updated by developers, cannabis tech is going to get smarter and smarter, just as all our other household devices have in recent years.
Not only that, marketers will get access to the data that the IoT provides. Consumption devices will be sources of insight into how people are enjoying cannabis and what effects they are experiencing. That data boom will in turn power the next wave of cannabis marketing and allow brands to reach that ever-elusive Segment of One.
9. Consumption lounges will heat up. Consumption lounges were a big topic at MJBizCon this year, and they’ve been getting a lot of media attention and inquiry lately. As more people become comfortable with cannabis, and cannabis tourism continues to grow, so too will the demand for consumption lounges. Expect to see shifts in legislation that allow for adult-only public spaces that cater to the cannabis crowd—which will give marketers a whole new branding arena to compete in, much the way beverage brands market themselves in bars. Consumption lounges will not only be another venue in which to connect with customers, they’ll also open up untold possibilities for experiential marketing, a segment primed to become even bigger post-pandemic as consumers return to public life with an insatiable craving for novelty.
10. Psilocybin companies will make a grand entrance. Cannabis hasn’t yet been legalized at the federal level, but already several states are inviting a new substance to enter the chat. More psilocybin companies than ever made their presence known at MJBizCon 2021, and are already aligning themselves with wellness messaging like cannabis has.
It remains to be seen what exactly psilocybin clinics or dispensaries would look like or how various state regulations might permit or prevent their integration into existing cannabis retail infrastructure. That said, the psilocybin market is only going to continue growing as psychedelics edge their way into the regulated landscape. And when psilocybin has its breakthrough moment in the industry, it’s a chance for psychedelics marketers to learn from what has and hasn’t worked with cannabis since medical and recreational messaging began to take shape.