Marketing & Cannabis: A Review of Some of the Most Effective Tactics in the Industry
Inbound content marketing allows you to have a deeper and less restrictive relationship with prospects about cannabis products
- Cannabis ads remain prohibited on most social media and advertising platforms.
- Email marketing is an effective alternative to social media and advertising platforms.
- It’s growing fast – but there remains only a small amount of research-based and factual information about cannabis.
Consumer interest and buyer intent are on your side if you’re a participant in the fast-growing cannabis industry. We’re reaching a pivotal point where brands will break through and assume leadership positions. But not without a struggle. The world’s largest advertising platforms are either closed to marijuana marketing, or nearly impossible to navigate because of arbitrary rules and regulations.
Connecting with cannabis consumers
Cannabis has credibility as a legitimate solution to health problems. It’s shed some of the stigmas around recreational use, as well. Negative stereotypes remain, and that’s one of the biggest challenges. Some of the most effective advertising vehicles remain off-limits to cannabis.
Successful marketers within the industry know they must carefully carve out their “ideal” customer. There are likely few similarities between a consumer looking for CBD products to help a pet versus a recreational marijuana user. Define your brand, so it helps you define your customers.
Don’t let stereotypical thinking derail your marketing efforts. Studies paint an encouraging picture of today’s cannabis consumers. Many are discernable and deliberate. They’re sophisticated, family-oriented professionals who are seeking out ways to use cannabis as part of their wellness program. We’ve seen a handful of identifiable segments form as more consumers come forward to self-identify.
- Medicinal users: These consumers treat cannabis similar to prescribed or over-the-counter (OTC) medications. They’re eager to discover how cannabis products can help them with various ailments ranging from muscle pain to insomnia.
- Parents: Cannabis as an alternative to alcohol is a growing preference for parents after putting their children to bed.
- Professionals: According to a survey taken by 800 cannabis users, a majority earn more than $75,000 per year and make many purchasing decisions based on branding and packaging.
- Creatives: This group seeks to enhance their concentration and creative output. They’re searching for education and perspective on how cannabis products can assist.
- Experts: All consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on peer recommendations. Those who seek to become subject matter experts are hungry for information about cannabis products. What can you share that arms them with social currency?
Dig deep into understanding what your target audience wants from your brand. There’s not a single type of cannabis consumer. They’re educated, diverse, and cultured.
Overcoming brand awareness obstacles
Sure, you’ll find cannabis influencers on social media platforms like Instagram, but you still can’t facilitate marketing campaigns on this Facebook-owned property. Facebook operates this way because of the wide variety of cannabis laws and restrictions worldwide. It is “operationally difficult” to create and implement a policy that could work across global jurisdictions.
Advertising platforms such as Google and Bing take a similar approach. They may or may not determine that your advertising is allowable, depending on the language you use. For example, Facebook will allow some, but not all, CBD ads based on how you describe the product’s application.
Even though CBD is legal and does not fit Google’s own definition of dangerous products or services, the platform is likely to reject all text search ads that refer to CBD.
Many cannabis brands have opted to take an old school approach. They’re aware that email marketing remains one of the most powerful and effective ways to reach prospects.
Pushing a signal through the noise
It’s estimated that we’re subjected to 5,000 advertising messages a day. Which ones do we pay attention to?
Email marketing generates the highest ROI. For every dollar spent, email marketing returns $38. Here’s why it can work for cannabis brands.
Email is bigger than Facebook. Mailchimp has studied data on clients with at least 1,000 subscribers. The results showed that the average open rate across all industries is nearly 21%. “Tell, don’t sell what’s inside,” Mailchimp advises. The company also says not to blame spam filters for missed opportunities. The challenge might be created by your limited understanding of how they work.
You might be thinking, “Okay, email. But it’s not in front of people who are spending 144 minutes daily on social media.” Fair enough, but a recent study found that when we’re not looking at social media, we spend about two and a half hours on emails looking at personal messages. This is above and beyond checking personal email accounts before arriving at work. Some don’t even wait until they get out of bed.
Clearly, generating your own content and using email marketing campaigns to drive traffic is an effective alternative to social media and advertising platforms. Here are a few best practices:
- Take a mobile-first approach: At least 56% of email messages are read on an iPhone or a mobile device using Gmail. Skip the large image files and animation.
- Keep it short and specific: The average word-centric email message has between 300 to 400 words, taking up to three minutes to read.
- Make it actionable: Does your email contain a specific purchase offer or call-to-action (CTA) driving the recipient to take a specific action?
- Use appropriate personalization: We all love to be addressed by our names and acknowledged for our relationship. Just don’t go too far because it’s creepy.
Email is an unparalleled way to educate and establish yourself as a subject matter expert. Use it to create and deepen relationships by sharing information that helps prospects and customers connect with your cannabis brand. It works because you are telling stories that actually matter to your recipients.
Consumers want specific types of content depending on where they are in the buyer’s journey. Many email recipients are keenly interested in being educated and gaining perspective on a subject that has only recently become accessible. They’ve given you permission to reach them this way. How can your email messages help to connect them with information that will put your cannabis products into their worldview?
Cementing your role in the cannabis community
Marketing succeeds when you focus on the problem instead of your solution (that comes later). Although cannabis is quickly gaining credibility as a solution to various health problems, there is still some residual stigma from the stereotypes associated with it.
It’s growing fast – but there remains only a small amount of research-based and factual information about cannabis. What your marketing messages can and can’t say are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And this isn’t the only organizational watchdog that has the cannabis industry in its sights.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has truth-in-advertising laws that, among other things, require your product descriptions and marketing to be backed by legitimate research. It’s extremely difficult to facilitate marijuana research, which contains THC and remains a Schedule I drug. Any research requires approval by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
These challenges should not prevent you from defining your niche and introducing your brand to the growing number of consumers who are adding cannabis products to their worldview. You may not be able to advertise on social media, but you can engage prospects and invite them back to your website. There you can have a much deeper and less restrictive relationship with them. Keep that social media presence reputable. Content doesn’t always have to be sales-focused either; in fact, it shouldn’t be.
Industries are communities. They create organizations for self-regulation, and they establish best practices to encourage successful image-building. The cannabis industry is young, but it’s following this fashion. As a whole, the industry expects you to behave.
- Avoid unprofessional and juvenile references: Part of being a pioneer in this industry involves working to eliminate public concerns, such as the effect of cannabis legalization on minors. An appropriate logo can help not only your business’s image but also the industry’s.
- Steer away from immature language: The “stoner” stereotype is not a part of the new cannabis industry. Use a sophisticated voice to establish yourself as an expert in a legitimate field. Position your brand to give consumers confidence in your quality and customer service abilities.
- Stand with the facts: In the age of “fake news,” pseudoscience is the enemy of the industry. Consumers are eagerly searching for accurate information about something that has been deemed illegal for the past century. Share carefully vetted factual information. There might be much of it, but when you complement it with perspective, you won’t run out of things to say.
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