It’s no secret the cannabis industry has faced an uphill battle in most states. As cannabis is still illegal in many places and at the federal level, the legal fight is far from over.
For many cannabis companies in legal states, the real challenge is just beginning. The product may be legal, but there are still all kinds of rules and red tape about what can and can’t be done.
This is especially true when it comes to marketing. Most states have adopted strict rules about packaging and labels, including warnings. Some states, like Maine, even restrict the shapes of edibles to make them less appealing to kids.
Oregon, Colorado, and Washington have rules about what kinds of advertising the industry can buy. For example, you can’t run a PPC campaign on Google search or buy web ads on your local newspaper’s site.
What’s a cannabis company to do?
Restricting Marketing Hurts Niche Companies
If you have a smaller audience or you’re just getting your business off the ground, you’ve run into advertising restrictions.
Paid advertising is still available to you. It often comes in the form of billboard ads or other more “traditional” means of marketing. These marketing techniques have their place and restrictions in concentrated consumer areas have caused an increase in billboard demand and price.
That can shutter smaller companies out of the marketing game. You may only be able to afford to buy one billboard. Meanwhile, your larger competitors are buying up the whole of downtown, plastering every billboard and wrapping every bus.
It certainly makes it more difficult for you to gain visibility and market share. Necessity, though, is the mother of invention, and you need to find a way to get the word out about your company. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get creative.
Not sure where to start? We’ve gathered these 5 ideas to give you a jumping-off point.
1. Team up with Influencers
Cannabis and CBD companies can still get the word out about their product by leveraging social media and the like. One of the best bets may actually be influencer marketing.
Influencers are the darlings of the social media world. They’ve amassed large and loyal followings. Their followers turn to them for product recommendations. Some of them may already use your products and be willing to advocate for them.
Besides their follower count, influencers are great because they don’t face the same sort of regulations that businesses do. For example, Instagram has been notorious for shutting down cannabis-related business profiles. Their community guidelines specifically state, “buying or selling illegal or prescription drugs (even if legal in your region) are also not allowed”, which gives them the authority to shut down any account they feel violates that guideline. This can put cannabis companies in a gray area, as they are seen as selling illegal drugs.
So what about an influencer gushing about how much they love your medicated gummies? Since they are not a business and are not actually selling the product, they have the freedom to express interest in products that they use and like—and their followers will take notice.
There are some restrictions to be wary of here. For example, influencers must tag sponsored posts and reveal if they were given a product.
Nonetheless, influencers can help you reach people beyond your core customer demographics. Think about teaming up with a foodie to promote your edibles or a beauty blogger to talk about your skin care line.
2. Content Is Still King
“Content is king” on the Internet and that saying still applies to cannabis companies. Invest the time in creating how-to videos and informative blog posts to help your customers.
Producing high-quality content is a great way to market your brand and your products. People are looking for information about cannabis. Many people are novices. Some are trying it only now that it’s legal. Others have heard about the health benefits and are curious to see if cannabis can help them.
Your content can help them answer their questions and find the right strain or CBD oil for them. You can talk about just about anything cannabis-related:
- Health benefits and the latest cannabis research
- Product quality and how to find great products
- How cannabis is produced
- Choosing the right product for their needs
- Cannabis regulations and safety tips
- How to use cannabis and the different methods available
Sharing your expertise on these topics can help you build customer relationships. People will arrive at your site looking for answers and leave knowing they’ve found a valuable resource.
Don’t forget about the importance of opportunities like guest blogging or podcast interviews. Leveraging these opportunities can help you reach a wider audience.
3. Build Your Social Media Following (and Brand Identity)
Social media should also be a staple in your cannabis marketing plan. Most customers don’t trust brands. Giving them the opportunity to connect with you can help you earn that trust.
Social media also isn’t “paid advertisement.” Due to restrictions in the industry, you can’t buy ads on Twitter or Instagram, but you can and should most definitely still have a presence.
Why? Social media is the best platform for building a brand identity. This is what sets brands apart from the competitors.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at fast-food chain Wendy’s. Wendy’s Twitter has become infamous for snarky clapbacks to other fast-food giants. Some people follow the Wendy’s account just for the commentary.
Other fast-food chains have tried to mimic Wendy’s, but they’ve been less successful.
Another brand that’s done well with this tactic is Merriam-Webster’s. That’s right: People follow the dictionary, because the dictionary likes throwing shade when people are wrong on the Internet. If you use a word incorrectly, Merriam-Webster’s might school you on the actual definition.
Of course, being snarky isn’t the only brand identity you can cultivate on social media. Many brands aim to be trustworthy, informative, or helpful to their customers. Some are known for being quirky, while others have a reputation for environmentalism. Some brands have even crafted personas around dad jokes.
The point is, people feel these brands have personality or identity. They can “know” the brand, and they can see the brand’s values in action. Social media is the perfect platform to engage with your audience and build a reputation. Even if people don’t use your products, they may stick around for entertainment or helpful tips.
4. Go Guerilla
The lingo around sales and marketing often echoes war. You target certain prospects, and you “win” deals. Since sales and marketing can be so challenging, it’s little wonder the terminology around it has taken this tone.
Another term that’s become more common recently is “guerilla marketing.” It borrows ideas from guerilla warfare, like staging a surprise campaign when people least expect it.
One popular example has been sidewalk chalk drawings. Round up a few of your most talented team members and hit the streets to create some eye-catching artwork. Other brands have employed a similar tactic using stickers and posters. These can be placed on telephone poles and other fixtures.
It’s unexpected and often delightful. Bold designs, bright colors, and more catch people’s eyes. They look a little longer because they didn’t expect to see an ad in this space, and they’ll likely remember your name.
If you’re looking for something a little bigger, think about a temporary art installation that supports your brand. Team up with a local artist to create something that promotes your brand. You can even work with existing art. That’s what underwear company GoldToe did when they placed a giant pair of underoos on Wall Street’s iconic charging bull back in 2010.
Okay, not everyone is going to want a graffiti artist’s interpretation of a marijuana plant. Locals might not be pleased if you make an iconic statute smoke a joint, but art doesn’t have to be so literal. Let your imagination run wild and discover something that represents an important aspect of your product or brand. Maybe you focus on products that help with pain relief and relaxation. Think about interpretive works that focus on how cannabis makes you feel.
5. Get Involved in Your Community
Local events can be another great spot for guerilla marketing tactics. A pot statute or giant bong in the downtown core may not fly, but one at an industry show or fair would.
Work with local event coordinators and even other businesses to find opportunities. Think about how you can give back to the community to build goodwill with customers and community members.
An example could be volunteering at the local soup kitchen or visiting cancer patients. Donations, fundraising for charity, and other events can showcase how your brand believes in helping the people around you. If you have an environmentalist bent, you could support local fundraising.
Local media may also offer opportunities to voice opinions, discuss important issues in the community, or even interview and profile your business.
Put Your Thinking Cap On
There’s no shortage of marketing tactics cannabis companies can try and many of these tactics are low-cost or free. Building a brand identity is one key to standing out and forming long-term relationships with customers.
If you’re ready to get creative and think outside the box, get in touch. Mary Jane Marketer can help you craft a winning marketing strategy that gets around the red tape.