We've Got The "Strain Name Dilemma" All Wrong


How is it possible that even regular cannabis users can't come up with a favorite strain when asked?

We're talking users who identify as flower or vaping superfans in states with a legal adult use market. Nearly a third (30%) of those who prefer vaping or smoking and use at least multiple times per week couldn't come up with a favorite strain or had no preference when asked. Oh, and some of those who could name a go-to could only respond with "indica", "sativa", or... wait for it... "hybrid". 

(Also: who doesn't love terrible stock photos...?)

Yes, as cannabis steps out into the light and normalizes into a legitimate industry, we need to address the legacy of strains like "Chernobyl", "Green Crack", and... other, even less savory names. This issue - the so-called "strain name dilemma" - has gotten more attention over time.

But as our study on smoking and vaping customers revealed, there's another strain name problem: a surprising number of people don't have a favorite.

We surveyed 900+ current cannabis users and 45% couldn't name a favorite strain or had no preference.

Should we expect "special occasion" smokers to cite "Purple Urkle" or "UK Cheese"? No. (And that is reflected in the data: 77% of light users couldn't name a favorite.) Not that respondents didn't care about strains altogether - it was second to price in driving purchase decisions - but there are clearly far fewer connoisseurs out there than many would guess. 

How could that be the case?

A number of factors are coming together, distracting and confusing customers:  

  • Eager cultivators and manufacturers bringing new products to a booming market

  • The unpredictable nature of the cannabis supply chain

  • Variable product availability due to external factors like regulation

This isn't a challenge in flower and oil alone. The dilemma is not dissimilar from the lack of brand loyalty among edibles users. In our Edibles Consumer report, we found that only 44% of consumers who preferred edibles could name their favorite brand.

As a general rule in retail, new products serve a useful purpose by retaining customers and driving traffic. For cannabis, innovation and novelty will always play a special role. Customers are benefiting from new cultivation techniques and processing technologies. Yet the industry is clearly struggling to convey a key attribute in any consumer goods market: consistent product experience. 

If prompted, we could all come up with a favorite adult beverage (Blanton's bourbon is the only correct answer, btw), sugary treat, go-to OTC painkiller (Advil Liqui-Gels for me) and for some of us an anti-anxiety solution (previously Xanax, now Harlequin). Our insights on the customer mindset paired with test results from the scientific community underline an uncomfortable truth: strain names are increasingly meaningless. The industry needs to hit reset on what's being delivered to customers.

Curious to know more about our cannabis customer insights reports? An excerpt from the "Smoking & Vaping August 2018" report can be found here: click to download in PDF.

Want to connect directly? Email me (mike@highyieldinsights.com) or
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Mike Luce