At first glance, you would think developing a cannabis marketing strategy would be easy. It is a product people want to buy so moving it shouldn’t be a problem. But, the reality is that cannabis exists in a complicated legal landscape and the industry has been buried behind decades of false campaigning and misinformation.
So, how does a brand take a desirable commodity like marijuana and get it in front of the right audience? How does a brand fight back against the hangover of “Reefer Madness” while staying within the bounds of the law?
The answer is creativity and outside of the box thinking.
There are lots of different ways to develop a successful cannabis marketing strategy. To help you understand exactly what makes an effective campaign, we’ll explain what makes marijuana different and share with you our favorite examples!
How Cannabis Marketing Differs from Other Marketing
The marijuana industry is a heavily regulated one which makes marketing marijuana products incredibly difficult.
In the United States, both medical and recreational cannabis are illegal at the federal level. There are a growing number of states that permit its sale and use, but the federal government has not changed its stance. This means that any cannabis brand or business faces hard restrictions on where and how they can advertise.
Social media platforms and national publications often refuse to run paid advertisements for cannabis products. Even a brand that specializes in a specific CBD product, which is federally legal thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, will find themselves shut out of the paid advertising model.
This means that cannabis marketing is often restricted to specific regions in the country, making it nearly impossible to grow into a national cannabis brand.
In countries like Canada, where recreational and medical marijuana are legal and available to all adults under the Cannabis Act, there is an incredible number of restrictions placed on cannabis advertising practices that make it incredibly difficult to advertise at all.
Guidelines released by the National Association of Cannabis Businesses demonstrate just how challenging it can be to make a name for yourself in the U.S. cannabis market.
According to these guidelines, all cannabis advertisements must:
- Clearly indicate and disclose the cannabis product’s licensee
- State the age restriction on all products
- Warn of the possible health risks associated with cannabis consumption
When speaking about the effects of the cannabis product, the advertisement must indicate that:
- Experiences may differ between consumers
- Any health benefits or claims have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
All of these guidelines are fair and reasonable. BUT, the restrictions don’t stop there.
Marijuana advertisements are not allowed to:
- Imply or suggest that cannabis is safe or healthy
- Promote overconsumption
- Promote recreational use in states where only medical use is legal
- Promote underage consumption
- Depict people inhaling, exhaling, or consuming cannabis products, with the exception of topicals
- Depict cartoon characters, toys, animals, or mascots
- Encourage people to drive after consumption
- Support or promote crossing state lines while in possession of cannabis products
To add an extra layer to all of these complications, a cannabis brand must maintain up-to-date records of all advertising efforts, abide by restrictions on product placement, and follow all appropriate steps to ensure compliance for event sponsorships, merchandising, or gifting.
While these obstacles present a challenge to developing a concrete marketing strategy, it is not an impossible task. Below are examples of cannabis brands, companies, and services that have used all avenues and resources available to them to separate themselves and significantly increase brand recognition.
Brands That Crushed Their Cannabis Marketing Strategy
Because of the many limitations laid out above, a cannabis marketing strategy needs to be more than just one thing. A successful strategy will incorporate social media, content marketing, digital marketing, and even influencer marketing to reach the target audience and created a definitive brand voice.
Here are some brands that managed to combine these strategies and make waves in the industry:
As a cannabis service, Weedmaps is a brand that seeks to help people find dispensaries in their local area, find products for purchase, and educate visitors on all things cannabis from profiles of cannabis companies to the science behind terpenes and cannabinoids to the current laws and regulations.
One of Weedmaps’ most effective marketing strategies has been their #weedfacts campaign.
This campaign involved posting cannabis facts on billboards to generally demystify the subject. It also strategically included a comprehensive and targeted content strategy in addition to the use of social media platforms like Twitter and an email campaign to get individuals involved in the legalization movement.
By sharing current, accurate fact-based information and statistics, Weedmaps sought to tear down misconceptions and promote thoughtful conversation around cannabis, its uses, and the path towards legalization.
Focusing on the legislation as well as the results of scientific and medical exploration and research, Weedmaps has promoted their brands, established themselves as a reliable resource, and done so within the confines of a restricted advertising space.
MedMen is a dispensary and delivery service based in Southern California. They created a brilliant campaign that took on cannabis stereotypes.
The “Forget Stoner” campaign sought to normalize cannabis by displaying some of the types of people that use it. It sent the message that cannabis can be, and is, used by just about everyone across all demographics.
Sure, the videogame playing, Doritos eating stoner exists (hey, we don’t judge!) but the idea that that is the ONLY type of cannabis user is plain wrong. There is a wide range of users that have embraced cannabis for a wide range of reasons. From chronic pain to social anxiety, many people have found relief with cannabis and it has no bearing on who they are as a person.
MedMen used their branding colors (a red background with white text) at all touchpoints ensuring brand continuity while at the same time cultivating inclusivity in the marijuana community. They highlighted working professionals like police officers and doctors, alongside senior citizens or other folks you wouldn’t immediately associate with cannabis.
By redefining what society considers to be a cannabis consumer, they were able to reach those hesitant to use the product or those that may have felt alienated by brands in the past. At the same time, the campaign effectively shows curious potential users that people just like that have space in the cannabis community.
Again, this primarily visual campaign was backed up with detailed and educational web content, supporting visitors, and legitimizing cannabis in the process.
Surprising to many, women make up at least one-third of cannabis users. And these numbers are true despite that fact that women are underrepresented in the industry as a whole.
Yummi Karma has sought to change all that! As an all-female cannabis company, they have taken a dive into this potential customer pool, by creating cannabis products that speak to women’s interests and needs.
The brand specializes in cannabis tinctures and drops and has created specific branding with the goal of appealing to a female audience. The launch of their High Gorgeous beauty line is perhaps the best example of their strategy. The High Gorgeous topicals and drops are infused with CBD and THC allowing women to reap the benefits of cannabis during their typical beauty routine.
Media representation matters. Not only does Yummi Karma create products that women want, but they also feature women in their advertising campaigns. Doing so has carved a space for women in the male-dominated cannabis industry.
Yummi Karma already challenges the industry conventions by being owned and operated by women. Now, they are working to challenge the conception of the cannabis consumer. As stated above, women ARE using cannabis, so, why shouldn’t they have a business that speaks to them?
Cannabis Content Marketing is Possible and Worthwhile
Making waves in a tightly regulated industry is complicated. No matter how much people actually want to buy the product you are selling, spreading the word is tough when you are met with regulations and limitations at every turn. A successful cannabis marketing strategy requires careful thought and a lot of creativity.
Consider your target audience and give them what they want and need. But, don’t forget, that if you want to grow that audience you must educate and inform. Providing accurate information or acting as a reliable source for cannabis education can help you break down negative stereotypes and overcome marijuana misconceptions. All of these moves can help you create a community of people that share and spread positivity about cannabis.
The campaigns listed above utilize content marketing to support their visual campaigns. Blog content can be used to support your audience in the buyer journey. Have fun, think outside the box, and provide the content people want and need.
Many people are curious about cannabis and are perfect candidates for the use of cannabis products. Unfortunately, they might miss vital information needed to actually make a purchase. For example, many people fail to understand the different delivery methods or how specific cannabinoids respond in the body. If you can answer the questions your audience is asking, or the questions they don’t yet know they have, you will establish yourself as a market authority and will see your page traffic and sales increase accordingly.
If you need help developing an effective cannabis content strategy, okwrite has you covered. We have an extensive background writing for both cannabis and CBD brands and can artfully accommodate your specific industry niche. Reach out today to get started!