Rachelle Gordon July 18th, 2019 In the cannabis industry, building a successful brand is critical for long-term success. Many companies struggle to find their... CFN Media Exclusive Q&A with LadyJane Branding Founder, Jennifer Whetzel

Rachelle Gordon

July 18th, 2019

In the cannabis industry, building a successful brand is critical for long-term success. Many companies struggle to find their voices among a sea of consumers hungry for their perfect product, and end up drowning alongside the competition in what has truly become a sink-or-swim game. Enter Ladyjane Branding, an innovative firm offering both design and branding services completely customized to each client’s specific brand goals. Their free brand archetype quiz allows businesses the opportunity to truly understand themselves and their prospective customers in a way not traditionally thought of in the marketing space.

CFN Media sat down with Ladyjane Founder Jennifer Whetzel at the recent MJBizConNEXT in New Orleans to learn more about the company’s history and how their approach to branding is disrupting the game.

CFN:  What is your background and what is the history of Ladyjane?

Jennifer Whetzel:  My background is a bit varied. I’ve spent times in lots of different areas of branding and marketing and advertising. I worked in retail advertising for 7-Eleven, in PR on a military base, and then an advertising agency for about 8 years doing brand strategy, I went to Miami Ad School and learned how to do account planning there. I spent time at a consumer research company developing strategies to activate and implement the results of quantitative and qualitative projects with clients. I was a VP of Marketing at an animal health company where I launched a number of performance horse supplements into a crowded and disorganized market. Surprisingly, that actually prepared me quite a bit for working in the cannabis industry because the rules and regulations for messaging and claims are the same. My last position was in strategy at an experiential marketing firm where I learned the ins and outs of trade shows and consumer activations.

Jennifer Whetzel, Founder of LadyJane Branding

All of those things that I’ve done in my career seemed to have prepared me well to start a branding business in cannabis. Besides, branding was my favorite thing to do!

When I moved to Maine a few years ago, I got my medical (cannabis) card on the day I arrived. I was trying to deal with symptoms of an autoimmune disorder and an immune disorder, and all the stuff comes along with that. Then last year I had a pretty bad year. I lost my job, I had to move my mom to Maine from Maryland to care for her. Then I got divorced, and then I moved out, and I was living out of my car. Well, I was couch surfing for a little while. Then I wrecked my car, and all my stuff was scattered in an intersection. All of that led to a complex, clinical PTSD diagnosis. I broke.

I spent a lot of time at my caregiver’s retail space, which was his dining room. I traded hugs and recommendations with cancer patients and veterans, and people who were having a really hard time, like me. But I also met a bunch of entrepreneurs who were trying to bring their products to market, and they were struggling with their branding mostly because they weren’t doing very much.

You know, people who don’t have a background in that, they think, “Oh, I need a logo and a website and good to go”, but brand strategy is a lot more than that. I thought, “I have skills. I can help these people who are trying to get into this industry, the same people who have been helping me.” it’s kind of a giving back situation, and also an, “Oh my god I don’t know if I can go back to work for someone else,” situation.

What I learned in the caregiver space and condensing 25 years of my marketing experience went into birthing this company. In addition, cannabis played a huge role  in fueling the creative aspect of doing what I’m doing, designing the archetypes that I’ll talk about. So that is what helped me get out of bed every day, and so now we’re here.

CFN:  What sets your company apart?

JW:  We have a disruptive business model in that we offer free and low cost tools for companies who are willing and able to do some of the branding work themselves. Another thing that makes us very different is that we use an archetypal segmentation model as a tool for branding. The model is built using Archetypes, which are universal characters used in storytelling, psychotherapy, tarot cards and personality tests. When I mention a hero or an outlaw or a lover, it’s easy to conjure up images of these characters and to understand what personality traits they encompass.

I created 16 archetypes specifically for the cannabis industry – for example, an Activist and a Stoner, a Healer, a Doctor and a Rock Star. To make the branding process simple, I turned the Archetype exercise into a multiple choice quiz, which is free! That gives companies is the ability to grasp the concepts of branding a little better, but also gives them thought starters in terms of how to bring their brand identity to life. Brands use those universal qualities of the archetype in their branding, and that signals to customers what they are all about – their values and personality, and it helps form an emotional connection. Archetypes can also help brands maintain consistency in their branding. 

For example, if a brand is a Doctor archetype, they aren’t going to want to look or sound like a Stoner brand, or vice versa, because it’s confusing to customers. Once a brand knows their archetype, they can build a “brand character” in their mind – one that can help them make business decisions. Brands can use their archetype as a lens or filter to review design choices, new products, social media posts and then make decisions. If their post sounds like it would come from their well-defined “brand character”, then they should do it. If not, then it’s a good idea to rethink that decision to ensure whatever they do fits their brand identity. Identifying their archetype is just the first step. Then, we focus on the rest of the brand discovery process, that up-front part that comes before making a logo. We explore and dive deep into a brand’s mission, vision, values, goals, target audience, goals and superpowers. 

We’ve turned that discovery process into an online, guided question-and-answer process so people can do a lot of the up-front thinking themselves. Pricing starts at $99 and that price comes with an hour’s worth of consulting time with me to help them hone their answers. That results in a creative brief. So that is what they would give to a designer to get better design work that is on strategy, or we use that brief to design logos and materials that fit their brand.

For a brand on a budget, they can take the creative brief to a designer of their choice if they have a friend or family-member who can help out. That’s not always the best option, but at least they have a roadmap to give that designer. Oftentimes when people aren’t happy with a logo, it’s because they haven’t spent the time to really figure out their brand and what the logo needs to represent. Designers, while amazing, are not mind readers. So they do their best with the input they are given.

We also do something called a Brand Intervention for companies who have teams who can’t agree on a path forward – that way we gain consensus at every step of the way, like brand therapy.

We like to focus on startups. That doesn’t mean we don’t work with larger or more-established companies, but we wanted to make sure there were enough tools for all those entrepreneurs with great ideas who don’t have a budget or funding – and there’s a lot of them, and there’s some really good ideas out there. If I can help the ones with hustle who want it, who want to do it, then great. And then I’ll grow them into clients who have a budget.

CFN:  What is your “brand camp” and how does it help entrepreneurs achieve their marketing goals?

JW:  It’s a one-day intensive event focused on branding. It starts with a discussion of the differences between branding and marketing and advertising, and the value of branding. And short how-to’s, then we will move into the intensive brand makeover. So the first part will focus on the philosophical elements of branding where we’ll talk about mission and vision and values, and their elevator pitch. And practice their elevator pitch, because that is a key component.

Then we will do an intensive part of the makeover for personifying your brand character. We work on that archetype and we’ll develop it, make a mood board, dress them, see what kind of car they drive. We’ll help build that character in your mind to help you make decisions later. Then there’s a messaging and health claims review so people can bring their messaging and claims, so I can help them not get in trouble with the FDA.

CFN:  What else should readers know about the company?

JW:  Well, I would have to say that for myself, my partner and Creative Director, Glen Hawkins, and the company, we are passionate about what we do, and we’re passionate about cannabis. Branding has always been my favorite thing to do. We bring that passion, and a disruptive business model. I know that there’s a lot of branding and design agencies out there but not all brands can afford them. We are trying to lift everyone up by providing those tools.

*This interview has been edited for clarity.

Rachelle Gordon

About Rachelle Gordon

Rachelle Gordon is a Minneapolis-based writer. Find her online at www.rachellegordon.net.

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