The cannabis industry is growing at an unparalleled rate, and there’s no shortage of research that proves it. In the United States alone, legal marijuanawas a $10.4 billion industry in 2018, and the North American market is on track to reach more than $16 billion this year. That’s pretty astonishing when you consider that Colorado, the first U.S. state to legalize cannabis, passed the law just seven years ago.
Whether you’re living in a weed-friendly state, or an area with stricter cannabis laws, it’s hard to deny that cannabis companies are becoming more widely accepted. Dispensaries are moving into vacant retail shops, new brands are coming onto the market every day, and more states are passing medical and recreational laws. Cannabis is starting to shed its negative stigma, and it’s becoming a staple for many consumers across the world.
The Challenges with Cannabis Marketing
We can all agree that the cannabis market is booming, and for marketers, that presents a unique set of challenges when promoting their brand. In all states, cannabis is still heavily regulated, and marketers must adhere to a long list of rules in order to stay out of hot water. Unlike similar age-restricted industries, like alcohol, gambling, or tobacco, cannabis brands are subject to additional rules at the federal level, with can create obstacles when it comes to establishing and promoting a cannabis business.
Despite these challenges, cannabis companies can still successfully market their brand, grow their audience, and drive revenue. It just means that marketers have to get creative, and most importantly, know the rules. So before putting together a marketing plan, closely review the laws around cannabis marketing in your state. Brands can face penalties, or even lose their business license if their marketing strategies oppose cannabis laws. Understand your limitations, and determine the most effective marketing tactics that won’t interfere with those regulations.
Marketing for Modern Cannabis Companies
More people are trying cannabis than ever before. A 2018 report from Eaze found that first-time cannabis consumers grew by 140 percent due to new legalization laws. The study also determined that last year, baby boomers spent more money on cannabis than any other generational group. New research has proven that consumers of all types are becoming more curious about cannabis, and marketers are capitalizing on the opportunity to reach a wide and untapped audience.
So how can marketers successfully promote their cannabis brand without breaking the rules? It’s actually simpler than it seems, but requires a bit of research. It doesn’t mean that marketers have to reinvent the wheel, generate out-of-the-box ideas, or run expensive campaigns. In fact, a back to basics approach might be your best option. Here are a few ideas to help you get started.
1. Market Through Education
When it comes to promoting your cannabis brand, there’s one idea that should drive all of your marketing activities: Sell your brand, not your product. This tactic is important for a few reasons. As we discussed, there’s a huge population of first-time cannabis users. To reach that wide audience, your brand should appeal to consumers that aren’t already familiar with the benefits of cannabis. Sell them on the ways that cannabis can improve their lifestyle, instead of focusing on specific strains, or consumption methods. Focusing on the educational piece also means that marketing regulations tend to be more relaxed.
2. Know Your Buyer
Before you start marketing your cannabis brand, make sure you understand who you’re marketing to. Do you want your brand to reach baby boomers or millennials? Are you positioning your brand as a way to cure common health ailments, or as a recreational product? For cannabis marketers, those are important distinctions to make so you know exactly who you’re talking to. Those factors will determine how you write your website copy, which platforms you advertise on, or even the design of your logo. Know which audience you want your brand to reach, so you can personalize your marketing campaigns and differentiate your brand from competitors.
3. Recruit a PR Team
In any industry, a robust marketing strategy can involve a lot of time and budget to see real results. But early-stage cannabis companies often lack the funds and manpower to do so. Working with a PR agency can be a good alternative. A PR team can help promote your cannabis brand in the right places, to the right audiences. Agencies with cannabis experience will understand what publications cannabis consumers are reading, where people are going to learn about cannabis, and how to position your brand as a change maker in the industry. They can also help navigate the murky waters associated with rules and regulations around cannabis marketing.
Cannabis marketers have dozens of strategies at their fingertips. The trick is finding the right ones that resonate with your audience, convert customers, and build brand loyalty. For some companies, exhibiting at an industry event might draw prospective customers. If your customers are on social media, focus on growing your Twitter and Instagram presence. To reach an audience focused on recreational use, consider throwing a “launch party” at a trendy venue, complete with live music, food, and branded swag.
The cannabis industry is thriving, with no signs of slowing down. And as we approach the 2020 election, more states could pass laws legalizing both medical and recreational marijuana. That’s good news for brands breaking into the cannabis market today, but it also means that competition is strong. By following the steps above, cannabis brands can use marketing tactics to expand their customer base, grow profits, and establish themselves as a key player in the industry.