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Whitepaper: Ignoring Female Consumers Puts Cannabis Businesses, Industry at Risk

Underrepresentation in the office often leads to erroneous assumptions in brand development and marketing efforts

Boulder, Colo. (February 2, 2021) – Today’s cannabis ecosystem has plenty of female-focused brands. But according to a new whitepaper co-authored by Nancy Whiteman, CEO of Wana Brands, and Allison Pugina, a nascent industry and a lack of awareness of how men and women differ as cannabis consumers result in brands falling short on what really matters to a constituency that makes up one-third of the cannabis consumer population.

The whitepaper, “Product Development and Branding,” was included in Building New Foundations in the Cannabis Industry,” a research report featuring whitepapers on gender parity written by women leaders of the cannabis industry. The research was published by the National Cannabis Industry Association and The Arcview Group.

“It is not surprising that product development and marketing teams populated primarily with men are more likely to miss the mark when attempting to reach the woman cannabis consumer,” Whiteman said. “But ignoring these consumers cannot be an option, and using the wrong strategy to reach them can be as damaging as ignoring them.”

“An insights-led organization has an inherent right to win because business strategies are grounded in facts. Our research confirms that when brands act on assumptions and unchecked biases, they risk alienating a large cross-section of their target market, leaving money on the table,” Pugina continued.

It all boils down to knowing the audience, according to the whitepaper. Using research data from BDSA and experiential insight gained in the industry, Whiteman and Pugina detail common misperceptions about women and cannabis and key implications revealed by data surrounding brand and product development strategy. Finally, the whitepaper outlines options for building brands with strong appeal to women based on the research.

“The data clearly shows that there is a significant and robust female market for cannabis products that we should not ignore,” Whiteman said. “However, there are myriad pitfalls to avoid, and a brand’s credibility can quickly be damaged when missteps occur.”

The whitepaper opens with the example of one company’s launch of an entire brand focused on the female consumer without the input of even one woman on the brand’s development team. The company is no longer in business, providing an excellent case study of how a lack of gender parity can damage a business.

“Pursuing inclusion and diversity in business is not just a way to encourage goodwill. It is a strategic business decision that can literally make or break a company,” Whiteman said. “This is not a wishful, feel-good attempt to make news or have people speak well of the industry. It is truly how we survive — and maybe how we change the world a little bit.”

The whitepaper includes dozens of data points and observations illustrating how cannabis companies should approach product development and marketing to women cannabis consumers. Key insights:

  • Because they do not consider themselves to be “experts” in cannabis, many women are likely to respond positively to brands that provide educational information and resources.
  • Dispensaries have the opportunity to earn a strong following among women if they identify and execute on retail strategies that make the dispensary experience more comfortable for women.
  • Female-focused product lines should include at least one or more micro-dosed options.

“We have consciously worked to consider gender issues in the development and marketing of Wana products,” Whiteman said. “But it is so easy to fall back onto old ways of thinking, and so very easy to make critical errors early on that companies may not even be aware they are making. We hope that the information provided in this whitepaper will be leveraged by brands, dispensaries and investors to avoid making business decisions that are based on erroneous assumptions about what women are looking for in cannabis products.”

The participation in the NCIA/Arcview report is the latest example of Wana Brands’ full-throttle effort to move the cannabis industry to greater acceptance, inclusion and diversity. In November 2020, Wana Brands partnered with Black CannaBusiness Magazine as part of the company’s organizational commitment to meaningfully contribute to social equity and racial justice. In September 2020, Wana launched the initiative, providing trusted resources for cannabis industry companies to address systemic racism and social equity while building more inclusive workplaces. Most recently, Wana Brands joined with Oregon’s NuLeaf Project to support the passage of the state legislature’s recently introduced Cannabis Equity Act.

Wana is applying social equity practices in all areas of its own operations, from compensation, benefits and training to a more conscious and equitable hiring process to address any inherent biases such as criminal history due to the racist War on Drugs. The new partnership with Black Cannabusiness complements Wana’s long-standing support of the Last Prisoner Project (LPP)’s advocacy and restorative justice work.

This Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, join Whiteman, Pugina, NCIA and The Arcview Group for a public webinar to discuss this new white paper series, “Building New Foundations in the Cannabis Industry.” Register at this link for this free event to learn how to be a part of the change.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Shawna Seldon McGregor at 917-971-7852 or

Wana Brands: Enhance Your Life.

Included in the 2020 Inc. 5000 list at #2,074 and boasting a three-year growth rate of 203%, Wana Brands is the No. 1 edibles brand in North America. Wana leads the industry in quality, consistency and potency, providing a range of different options that enable customers to create the specific cannabis experience they want. Wana products offer diverse product forms, four different CBD/THC ratios as well as a variety of different dosages, onset times and duration of effects. The portfolio is designed so products can be used singly or in combination to address specific health, wellness, and recreational needs. Wana products are available in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Arizona, Oregon and Oklahoma dispensaries, with Massachusetts among the states imminently coming online. Wana Brands is available internationally in Canada. For more information or to subscribe to Wana’s e-newsletter, visit Follow Wana on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest. Subscribe to Wana’s Enhance Your Life Podcast.


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