Put User-Generated Content to Work for your Cannabis Brand
Can’t market your brand directly? Encourage your customers to do it for you
In a world, not long ago, breaking into the cannabis industry was considered a surefire way to hit the jackpot and make some serious coin. This newly legalized business model was novel, and far from saturated, which made the need for marketing almost nonexistent.
But the times, they are a-changing. Today, there are over 9,000 licensed dispensaries across the US, making it one of the fastest growing industries to date, and it is only expected to continue growing like the proverbial weed.
While consumers are more than pleased with the abundance of options now available to them, dispensaries themselves are experiencing a bit of a “needle in the haystack” conundrum. The obvious way in which most businesses would handle this problem would be via tried and true marketing initiatives, but this default solution doesn’t work the same way in the cannabis industry.
Marijuana sales, while legal on the state level, are still illegal on the federal level, which makes most traditional forms of marketing and advertising unlawful, as well. Social networks play it very safe when there is a rift between state and federal laws, and generally abide by rules and regulations set forth by the federal government. This makes some of the most popular marketing platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, off limits to any illicit substance-related promotion.
These regulations don’t make marketing in the cannabis industry impossible, but they do create the need for a little bit of creativity, most often in the form of content generated by anyone BUT the brands themselves.
Here are a few ways that marijuana brands and dispensaries can thoughtfully and lawfully leverage user-generated content to market themselves to the eager public:
Social media influencers may be the most effective way of getting a cannabis brand in front of the masses. Influencers, by definition, are celebrities in the virtual world who boast a massive and loyal fanbase, and the brands or products that they recommend can turn to solid gold in a matter of minutes.
This creates a huge opportunity for marijuana brands and dispensaries to connect with the community at large, via the industry’s favorite influencers. These social media celebrities, specifically those that specialize in “green” content, have the ability to market particular brands via weed photos, reviews, videos, and even indirect sales. Basically, the same way the brand would market themselves if they could, but with the added bonus of a high-profile endorsement.
This method, while effective, doesn’t come without its fair share of challenges. Until marijuana becomes widely-accepted by society, even influencers with a subtle approach to cannabis promotion run the risk of being suspended from their preferred social media channels. It’s important to understand the secret menu of weed-centric influencer guidelines if you want to avoid social media detention.
Create shareable experiences and content
Brand ambassadors don’t have to be famous social media influencers, in fact, some of the most easily obtainable brand champions are those standing in your dispensary right now. Current customers who are already excited about your brand serve as a highly-effective marketing channel, they just need the ready-made content in which to promote and publish your budtastic offerings.
For example, create a photo-worthy experience in your store and encourage customers to snap photos of themselves and post it to the socials with an honorable business mention. One successful dispensary installed a wheel of fortune wheel in their store and allowed patrons to spin it for special deals and bogo opportunities. People come from all over to spin the wheel and take pictures of the process.
Another way to hand-feed shareable content to your brand ambassadors is to write and engage with shareable content. Create educational blog posts or share your thoughts and provide responses to industry news articles. You can gain an industry foothold by creating an association between your brand’s name and highly-sought educational content. As the content spreads, your brand will too.
Befriend the media
As a general rule, media outlets love to earmark quality sources and industry “go-to’s” for their information, if they can. It makes their job much easier and helps to ensure that they are publishing vetted material from people that they trust.
As a player in the cannabis game, it is in your best interest to position yourself as a thought leader in your local community and gain the attention of the media. Go out of your way to build those relationships and make sure they know that they can lean on you for all marijuana-related information.
Not only will your business see a boom once you’ve established yourself as the local industry expert and thought leader, but news and trends published by a third party makes your content editorial, as opposed to promotional, which is totally within the bounds of lawful marketing.
Brand some merch
Branded merchandise, like trendy t-shirts or hats, can act like moving advertising vehicles for your business. Partner with a designer, create swag that people want to wear, and be creative and concise with your branding.
This avenue will reward you with both short-term and long-term benefits. Not only will you collect money from the sale of this merchandise, but your branding and message will have a far reach, helping to increase overall brand awareness. You can even enjoy an added bonus if those sporting your branded duds post pictures of themselves on social media.
Although marketing in the cannabis space is currently restrictive and riddled with rules and regulations, there is a unique opportunity to utilize creative avenues while adhering to the highest standards for respectful promotion in an otherwise misunderstood industry. If you want to stand out, remain genuine, continue to educate, and respect the product at large. This alone will speak volumes to your current customers and eventually spread to those who don’t yet know you via word of mouth, which, at the end of the day, is one of the most effective and time-tested forms of marketing.
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