Did you know that 21 states, Washington DC, and Guam have officially legalized the recreational use of cannabis? And more are on their way! As more states legalize the practice, the cannabis market grows; according to Markets and Markets, the cannabis industry had an estimated value of 22.5 billion in 2021 and is forecasted to reach 82.3 billion by 2027 (at a CAGR of 24.3% between 2022 and 2026).
What does this mean for your cannabis brand? If you're thinking 'more consumers to reach,' you'd be right. However, it also means more competition you'll need to overshadow to reach your audience in this growing market. That is where your marketing strategies come into play—but they must be developed carefully due to ongoing legal issues.
Keep reading for an overview of the do's and don't of cannabis marketing and our best tips on how to make a cannabis marketing strategy that works.
What to Implement in Cannabis Marketing
Before diving into what you should avoid, let's cover some important factors you should implement into your cannabis marketing strategy to generate the best results.
Develop a Plan with the Legal Landscape in Mind
The cannabis market is vulnerable to substantially more legal issues than most other industries, as the product is still under the blanket term of 'drug.' That gives it an inherent negative stigma you must carefully position yourself to dispel. Don't position your brand as a cure or treatment when presenting it to audiences. Also, ensure your promotions won't appeal to or reach those under 18. It's also not federally legal yet, and although 21 states have made it recreationally legal, more than half of U.S. states have not.
Developing a plan ahead of time — preferably with all relevant laws and platform rules to you laid out — prevents you from making avoidable mistakes while preparing you for an ever-evolving legal landscape.
Understand the Audience You Want to Reach
It cannot be stressed enough: don't waste your time on consumers that are not and never will be interested in your cannabis products. Focus your time, money, and efforts on the audience you want to reach. That consists of those who are either interested but don't know where to start or would be interested if they had the proper insight and resources (need to overcome their hesitancy!).
That all begins with a thorough understanding of your ideal consumers. Begin your research by evaluating your current customers, your competition's customers, and those that match your buyer personas.
Know What You Want Your Brand to Be
Knowledge of who your brand is and what it stands for will allow you to expand on those values in your messages and interactions with consumers. That will also help you reach and resonate with your preferred cannabis consumers. People no longer care only about the products you offer but the purpose and value you bring to those around you.
For instance, studies show that 83% of Millennials (currently the largest proportion in the buyer market) want brands they purchase from to align with their values. Another one found that an astounding 63% of global consumers cite their preferences for brands that stand for a purpose. Examples of some of the most successfully purpose-driven brands include:
- Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream
Invest in Lead Generation
Lead generation is a marketing process that guides consumers through their consumer journey, from their first contact with your brand until they purchase (and preferably repeat purchases). The most successful lead generation strategies involve a combination of online and offline marketing efforts, such as the following:
- Company website
- Social media
- Display ads
- email marketing
- Direct mail
- Print or broadcast
Did you know more than 50% of marketers allocate more than 50% of their budgets to lead generation? More than 85% of marketers feel it's one of 'the most important goals of marketing.' After all, how can you acquire new customers or elicit more conversions if you're not constantly generating more leads (preferably quality leads!)?
Provide Educational Materials to Help Customers Learn
The vast majority of people (87%) turn to search engines for product information before making a purchase. In an industry full of so much stigma, hesitancy, and lack of product information, you must build credibility and trust with content marketing. Some great ways to inform and educate your cannabis audience is through content that:
- Breaks down the typical stigma around cannabis and CBD with the support of facts and data
- Educates consumers about the different types and uses
- Informs readers about what cannabis and CBD are and how they can be beneficial
What to Avoid with Cannabis Marketing
Now that you know what to do, here are some critical things to avoid with your cannabis marketing.
Marketing Directly or Encouraging the Use of Your Product
Marketing directly to consumers and encouraging them to use your product can violate the terms of ad platforms, especially when using social media platforms for cannabis marketing. For instance, Facebook's advertising policy on cannabis marketing explicitly mentions your ads 'must not promote the sale or use' of your products. Twitter's policy voices that your brand cannot promote 'drugs and drug paraphernalia' with marijuana in its mentions.
Instead, offer a partnership with sponsoring influencers as a workaround to get someone else to share information about your product. You can promote your brand and share valuable information without risking platform or legal consequences.
Don't Make Misleading Claims, as That Might Violate Regulations
Another common violation cannabis brands can run into in their advertising is making misleading claims. These include statements like 'cannabis products can treat or cure serious ailments' or that they can prevent or mitigate ailment symptoms. Even if there are studies here and there that find connections, most platforms prohibit advertising such claims wholeheartedly.
Instead, focus your marketing on reputable data. It's one thing to say that 'this study found that...., so cannabis may help...' It's another issue to see one study (or none, even) and claim that cannabis 'will treat, cure, reduce, etc.'
Fail to Differentiate Your Brand
Your brand is the face of everything your business will do, has done, and is currently. Differentiating it from others in the industry makes you more memorable than and preferable to others because the right consumers will resonate with who you are and what you stand for in the industry. Without differentiation, every cannabis brand merges in a blur, and consumers will blindly pick one to purchase.
Moreover, the industry is still very new. While this can bring more opportunities to your doorstep, the competition is ramping up, so investing in brand awareness to stand out will help you grow sales.
Instead: Work with a Partner to Grow Your Cannabis Brand
The rules, limitations, and hesitancies surrounding cannabis products are still very prominent barriers between you and your target audience. Perfecting your cannabis marketing is crucial in pushing through those barriers and establishing credibility and trust with your consumers. Contact McClatchy for specialized guidance, insight, and resources on the cannabis market and how your brand can expand its reach.