Introduction to Cannabis Marketing:
The legalization of recreational marijuana has gained ground in the United States. Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, along with the District of Columbia, were early adopters. California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada followed their lead. Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota and Montana look to be next out of the gate. According to an article posted by Business Insider this week, “A powerful Republican Senator hints that Congress may discuss nationwide marijuana legalization this year.” Marijuana companies are chipping away at the stigmas created by decades of prohibition and negative propaganda surrounding their products and services. There are nearly 10,000 dispensaries nationwide. That’s still some stiff competition. The marijuana brands that succeed in their marketing efforts will focus on four key initiatives: 1) They will differentiate themselves from past stigmas, 2) They will differentiate themselves from current competition, 3) They will follow the laws, and 4) They will present a professional image.
Cannabis Advertising Regulations:
Those who live in a state that legalized medical or recreational marijuana use are still committing a federal crime by possessing, buying or selling it. Currently, transporting marijuana across state lines is prohibited. Subsequently, the industry has largely remained localized. It is hard to build national brand awareness across the various limitations of state and federal laws. However, regulations facing the marijuana industry tend to change as fast as they are implemented, so it pays to keep up-to-date. There are strict advertising restrictions placed on where and how marijuana businesses can advertise their products and services. As of today, SEO, Event, Merchandise, Social Media and Print Marketing appear to have some potential:
- Cannabis SEO (& Content Marketing):
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices require an understanding of how to build a content-rich Web experience that can be easily indexed by search engines. While there is already plenty of competition in this space, it looks like there will be a lot more tomorrow, so it makes sense to get Google (and other major search engines) crawling your keyword-rich website right away. Less competitors doing this effectively means your superb content is more likely to appear on the first page of search results related to your products and services, which translates into more eyeballs and wider brand awareness.
- Cannabis Event Marketing (& Speaking Engagements):
Attending relevant events for this specific industry will provide brands with the opportunity to connect face-to-face with potential (and existing) customers and vendors. But be selective. Participating at an impactful level at any event can be costly and labor intensive. We suggest attending the events at which you are considering exhibiting as an attendee/scout the year prior to attending as an exhibitor. This will provide you with a feel for how the event is run, see where the most visible booth spaces sit, and gather information from an attendee’s perspective.
- Cannabis Merchandise (& Apparel):
Merchandise and apparel can help your customers keep your brand top-of-mind as they go about their daily lives. Selling apparel online is a good way for your brand to get out there globally. Handing out gifts at events is also a good way to garner interest in your booth. If you go this route, try to keep your giveaways on-brand and/or useful. Branded rolling papers might be an on-brand option. However, branded water bottles, breath mints or hand sanitizer are appreciated at events and might be an even better idea even though they are largely unrelated to your product. Always consult your state’s laws on what marijuana-related materials can and cannot be printed – then sold or handed out – before green-lighting the printing or manufacturing of your swag. You don’t want to produce 1,000 branded lollipops only to learn that you cannot distribute them.
- Cannabis Social Media Marketing:
Instagram and Pinterest are image-driven platforms and popular with the marijuana community. Share professional-looking photos of your products, your business, and other things that will resonate with the marijuana community. Review your social media metrics often to see which types of posts and images are resonating the most with followers, so you can adjust your strategy accordingly. If an online user responds to one of your posts, create a positive association with that individual by listening to what they have to say and engaging with them in a helpful and professional manner. If you attend or exhibit at an event, curate and share some fun event photos with your followers. While there, consider creating a hashtag for your brand and the event to track engagement with your audiences. Then, use this specific hashtag to make connections with other attendees and exhibitors at the event itself, too.
- Print Cannabis Marketing:
While print media may not be as sexy as other forms of media right now, it is an obvious choice for marijuana marketers. There are many publications that cater directly to exactly the type of customer marijuana companies are trying to target. Place ads in those industry-specific, alternative publications and see how many of those magazines turn up in your local dispensary waiting room for everyone to leaf through. See what we did there? We used the word “leaf”. Couldn’t resist.
Final Thoughts on Cannabis Marketing:
Whether you are penning content-rich white papers, sharing gorgeous photos of your packaging or handing out trinkets at an event, be compelling, professional and worthy of admiration. Furthermore, find the sweet spot between following the laws surrounding marijuana marketing and leveraging marketing channels that could lead to greater success. Once your strategy is implemented, keep track of your marketing efforts, measure them and adjust them accordingly for optimum ROI. We know that we are not giving away the farm here; we are running a business, too, after all. These are just some initial thought-starters…free of charge…for those of you interested in marketing your brand effectively. If you’d like to dive deeper into marijuana marketing, or learn how Creative Butter helps clients like you to nurture existing customers and win over new ones, simply fill out our easy form here. Have a nice day.