The cannabis industry in North America is developing at a rapid pace. Marketing and branding are proving to be essential as countless new companies and consumers enter the market. There is a need for brand differentiation and product consistency. This article strives to help these new “potrepreneurs” understand the cannabis industry marketing landscape.
It is important to note that the cannabis industry is incredibly unique and diverse. Marketing to a cannabis consumer requires specific knowledge and techniques.
Do your research around the history and activism that has allowed these new ventures to exist in 2017. It doesn’t hurt to understand the science of cannabis and all of the therapeutic benefits. Customers want companies to be knowledgeable, especially when they are selling psychoactive substances. Be able to explain every aspect of your product and fully stand behind its quality.
Branding is incredibly important to any business in any industry. When it comes to cannabis, you need to be unique to stand out and make a positive first impression. It may not be the best idea to name your company “Mary Jane’s”. If your company has a generic title it will be impossible for a potential consumer to find and differentiate you online. Popular marijuana puns and symbols are fine; just make sure that you are unique to your sector of the industry.
As legalization is implemented across Canada, there will be more elderly and inexperienced consumers entering the market. Businesses that wish to service this higher-income demographic must draw from luxury marketing in other industries like fashion and wine. Keep your design simple, clean and informative. However, if you decide to create a luxury cannabis brand, don’t forget or disrespect the humble grassroots of the cannabis industry. The community can be visceral to anyone who appears inauthentic or pretentious.
The cannabis industry may be unique but it is not immune to the changes in technology and the way we consume content. It is essential to understand that we live in a mobile-first digital world. More than half of the time spent on a mobile device is spent on one of the main social media platforms according to TechCrunch. North Americans are now using their phones for social media more than texting, calling and video-chatting combined. I hope this statistic convinces you that if your canna-business doesn’t exist on social media, it doesn’t exist – PERIOD. Content is king on all of these digital platforms. Put out content that potential customers want to see, read and share with their friends.
In my experience of operating the marketing for an edible company and a dispensary, a huge portion of our customers came from social media. Instagram specifically allows you to interact with potential clients through relevant hashtags and geo-locations.
Example: You are a dispensary in downtown Toronto.
You search #TorontoWeed and interact with all of the individuals posting about cannabis in the area. You realize that one of the posters has a large following and is considered an influencer in the Canadian cannabis industry. You press the three little dots in the top right hand corner of your screen and this opens up a “direct message”. You offer the influencer some free product if they want to stop by the store. I recommend not asking for anything in return since 80% of these individuals will post about their experience online anyways. If you have quality product and knowledgeable staff, this influencer now acts as a digital billboard for your business. This can be replicated in several sectors using both hashtags and geotags.
Facebook Ads can be extremely effective and have helped many companies grow. It can be tricky advertising as a cannabis business though. In the Facebook Prohibited Content section it states “ads must not promote the sale or use of… illegal, prescription, or recreational drugs”. Even legal cannabis businesses in places like Colorado can’t technically advertise on these platforms.
I have found that you can run ads as a canna-business as long as you are careful about the language in the specific ad. Describe your business in terms that don’t use the words marijuana, cannabis, ganja or weed. Sometimes code words such as “herb” and “green “will pass.
Example: You own a delivery service and want to run a Facebook ad.
DO: “Speedy delivery, 7 days a week, top quality, no hassle”
DON’T: “Marijuana to your door in minutes”
The word marijuana will be flagged and your advertisement will be denied.
Utilizing marijuana websites is a great way to grow your business and increase sales. Weedmaps is a platform that allows you to list as a dispensary, delivery, mail order, or cannabis brand. It is the most widely used platform for locating marijuana in North America. There are several alternatives that can be found with a quick Google search. Cannabis-themed social media websites like Marijuana.com and Massroots allow you to connect to the cannabis community. Kalogia is a professional network that can be explained as the “LinkedIn for the Cannabis Industry”. It is a great tool to make potential business connections.
I hope this article was helpful and provided some practical value for those of you entering the cannabis industry. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about cannabis marketing feel free to reach out to me through social media. I am here to help and to learn!