Challenges in Cannabis Marketing and How to Overcome Them

Cannabis is the latest buzzword in the business and investing sectors. But despite this new era where cannabis is seen as a legitimate commercial playing field rather than a Wild West frontier with a dubious future, there are a number of unique challenges when it comes to marketing cannabis businesses.

The biggest challenge comes from the fact that cannabis is still not legal on the federal level. To complicate matters further, marketing and advertising regulations differ from state to state even where it is legal. Just like everything else in the legal cannabis industry, marketing is highly regulated and navigating the maze of what can and can’t be done to advertise your cannabis company can be a daunting task.

Cannabis and Marketing Platforms: An Overview

In an age where the majority of advertising happens digitally, cannabis marketing is remarkably old-school while simultaneously requiring a unique level of forward thinking – simply because cannabis companies are forbidden entry to many of the ad platforms that are go-to’s for other businesses. Below are some of the most popular advertising platforms and their policies when it comes to cannabis marketing.

Cannabis Marketing on Facebook and Instagram
Facebook’s policies prohibit cannabis companies from creating paid ads – even in states where cannabis is legal. While creating a Facebook page can be a great strategy for growing your cannabis company’s audience and brand presence, do so cautiously and avoid posts that:

  • Make medical claims
  • Provide instructions on how to grow, use, or sell cannabis
  • List the prices of cannabis product
  • Post cannabis products as being “for sale”

Since Instagram is owned by Facebook, the policies on cannabis marketing are the same, as are the post suggestions.

It is essential for cannabis companies to understand that they are always at risk of having their Instagram and Facebook accounts shut down. Needless to say, this can be extremely frustrating as years’ worth of work and growth is lost. However, it is one of those unavoidable challenges of the industry. Create a plan for how you will handle this if it were to happen – for example, many companies create more than one Instagram account so that if one is shut down, they have a backup while they work to get the other reinstated.

Cannabis Marketing on Google
GoogleAds prohibits the paid advertisement of cannabis related companies and/or products.

Cannabis Marketing on Twitter
Twitter prohibits cannabis-related ads.

Cannabis Marketing on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a great tool for growing a cannabis company’s potential customer and investor base but prohibits cannabis related ads.

Cannabis Marketing on TV and Radio
Cannabis advertisements are not permitted on TV or radio.

In addition to these company policies prohibiting cannabis-related advertising, another marketing challenge is that cannabis companies have to comply with regulations that are specific to the state you are in. For example, some states allow cannabis billboard advertising, while others do not. Certain states allow direct giveaways to consumers, but others do not. It is important to stay up to date on your specific state’s regulations, since the policies are not the same across all legal states.

Advertising Within the Cannabis Sector: The Good News

If you’re getting the impression that the landscape for advertising your cannabis company is bleak, take heart! There are avenues for marketing within the cannabis space – it just requires a bit of creative, out-of-the-box thinking since the rules and success tactics of marketing in other industry sectors don’t apply here.

The best ways to market your cannabis company include:

  • Print advertising
  • Host giveaways on your social media platforms to encourage UGC (user generated content) … but not of cannabis products, of course! This is a great time to invest in some brand merchandise
  • Ask to be a guest on an industry related podcast
  • Work with influencers or brand/company ambassadors
  • Advertise at live events, tradeshows, and conventions
  • Hire an SEO specialist to get the biggest bang for your buck with your digital written content – and create new content regularly
  • Develop a unique brand identity and personality
  • Publish articles in print magazines and digital spaces

Steps for Cannabis Marketing Success

Connect with your customers

In the world of cannabis marketing, success is determined by how well you connect with your customers rather than how much money you spend. Who are your customers? What do they do? What are their demographics? What is their lifestyle? What types of activities and locations do they frequent? What are the most important aspects they look for when choosing cannabis products?

Put your money towards researching these things so that you can truly know your customer base, and then create grassroots marketing campaigns and social media feeds that are so impeccably targeted that your customers feel as though you’re inside their heads and hearts.

Make sure that you are utilizing every feature available to you on digital and social media platforms

In addition to regular Instagram posts, try consistently creating Stories, Live Videos, and IGTV posts and see how it affects your analytics. Host a Facebook Live ‘meet the team’, services overview, or facility walkthrough (video) event and build excitement for it by talking about it across all of your platforms for a couple of weeks prior to the live event date. Write regular blogs and post them to your cannabis company’s website with links on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, post screenshots to Instagram Stories, and create a condensed version for an Instagram post. Explore avenues for writing guest blogs and articles. Focus on providing useful information to your audience. Education is key in the cannabis industry.

Give your company as much brand personality as you can

Cannabis use is a very personal thing. Because it is deeply intertwined with people’s lifestyles, consumers want to feel that they can connect with their brands of choice in an authentic way. Create a brand DNA, and then stick to it so that your brand becomes easily recognizable and irrevocably linked with the pillars of your brand identity. Invest in professional photography. Become a presence that your viewers can’t help but interact with, be that by sharing, commenting, following, or DM’ing, all of which curry algorithmic favor which will, in turn, increase your organic reach. This is free advertising for your business, and it is essential to any company but particularly invaluable within the highly regulated cannabis sector.

Scope Out the Competition

Identify three or four cannabis companies that are similar to you. Research their brand presence on social media platforms, as well as their advertising campaigns in print and live event sectors. Identify what seems to be working well for them and what doesn’t. For each area, consider whether there is something unique to your company that would set you apart in the same spaces, or whether there are spaces and platforms they are not present in that offer an opportunity for you to take up space and build your cannabis company’s audience and potential customer base.

Create a Roadmap to Success

Rather than trying to explore all of the options for cannabis marketing at once, ending up overwhelmed, and putting forward a less than stellar result, identify a few options that you want to start with and focus on showing up in those spaces in the absolute best and most consistent way that you can. If you have a limited budget, identify what will give you the biggest bang for your buck. You can’t do it all, so whatever you do – do it well.

Stay Positive!

As with everything in the cannabis industry, an ability to look at challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles is a benchmark of long-term success. Cannabis marketing requires creative thinking and hard work, but if you’re in the industry you’re already well acquainted with both of those things. Focus on finding the best ways to reach your target audience at a grassroots level, whether it’s by hosting budtender events or creating experiences at events that are frequented by your ideal customers. By implementing these steps, providing a customer experience that exceeds expectations, and focusing on educating rather than selling, you will be setting yourself up for a bright future as the cannabis industry rides the wave toward full legality.

Are you looking for cannabis photography, brand strategy and social media help, or content creation? Union Cannabis Group has a team of leading industry experts who can help you overcome some of the challenges of cannabis marketing and take your brand to the next level.

Hana Rexroth

Hana Rexroth is the Marketing & Social Media Manager of Union Cannabis Group and assists in the day-to-day functioning of the UCG team, as well as overseeing the marketing aspects of the business including photography, social media, design, copywriting and web development.