Need States in Nicotine and Cannabis

January 2024

Increasingly substance-literate consumers are engaging with greater intensity with outcome-orientated positionings in cannabis and newer nicotine formats – a phenomenon which has clear consequences for the way in which manufacturers in these industries need to innovate, develop and market their products. This framework also offers cannabis brand owners, in particular, a means of demystifying consumption for newer entrants, which will fuel longer term category growth.

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Key findings

Complexity and perception drive need state resonance

A potent combination of emerging legality, layered product variables and a large cohort of potential inexperienced users is driving the significance of need states in cannabis. When feasible, the framework can also seek to alter perceptions of nicotine.

Key need states tend towards the mental and emotional

Nicotine and cannabinoids are used largely, but not exclusively, for their mood modulating properties, and the core need states therefore coalesce in this area: eg relaxation, stress relief and focus (the main exception being pain relief for cannabinoids).

Need states are increasingly framing innovation

Brand owners, particularly in the cannabis space, are increasingly embedding needs states throughout their innovation cycles, as a vital synthesis of outcome, formulation, format and target consumer continues to gain in importance.

There are barriers to need states in nicotine and cannabis

As a messaging framework in industries with severe communications restrictions, brand owners must be deliberative in order to effectively and compliantly speak to the consumer. Products must also meet the expectations which a need states positioning has raised.

Regulation will shape a format and substance agnostic future

Evolving regulation will determine how far brand owners can go in the service of consumer needs with respect to the viability of formats, the potential for substance combination and the ability to communicate propositions effectively.

Key takeaways
Exploring need states
Drivers of need states in nicotine and cannabis
Need states in nicotine and cannabis uncovered
Need to educate around complexity and misperception supports need states
V&You: Pushing the envelope of outcome-based language in nicotine
Curaleaf’s Plant Precision: Providing clarity and reassurance to potential consumers
Need states are a powerful means of addressing infrequent or inexperienced users
Key nicotine and cannabis need states over-index to the mental and mood
Wana Brands: leading edibles brand driving need states in cannabis
Lucy: changing the paradigm in nicotine communication
Core nicotine and cannabis focus on mood modulation requires balancing act from brands
Developing technology, attitudes and perceptions influence need states opportunities
Koan Cordials’ Love: Leveraging and accelerating changing perceptions
Troscription’s Cannatine Blue: Re-interrogating the role of nicotine
Need states requires and fosters a holistic innovation ecosystem
Positioning matters in consumer purchasing decisions
FTC action against Reef CBD demonstrates perils of claim-based cannabinoid marketing
In Norway Swedish Match’s General Snus communications limited by law
Legal risks in need states positioning requires manufacturers to focus on broad propositions
Key takeaways
How to navigate need states in nicotine and cannabis
Evolution of need states in nicotine and cannabis
Questions we are asking


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