What is Cannabis Marketing?
HERE’S HOW CANNABIS MARKETING CAN HELP YOUR BRAND SUCCEED AND GROW IN AN OVERSATURATED INDUSTRY
Cannabis marketing uses a variety of strategic tools to grow businesses within a booming industry that isn’t slowing down. An agency that is fluent in cannabis excels in this space by using a combination of public relations, specialized content marketing, events, social media and influencers to generate targeted buzz and amplify brand awareness.
Working with an agency that has deep industry knowledge and a savvy approach to marketing and digital advertising can help established companies, emerging brands and ancillary businesses flourish in the face of fierce competition.
Right now, cannabis is flexing its economic potential as an in-demand commodity—one that is fueling a nationwide industry whose value continues to grow by billions of dollars every year. It appears the end of federal prohibition is drawing near and millions of American adults support the legalization of cannabis in some form to be used for health and wellness, self-care or recreational enjoyment. At the same time, an overwhelming majority of states have enacted cannabis law reforms, from decriminalization and record expungement to creating regulated marketplaces. If it isn’t evident, the demand is real and skyrocketing.
With all the talk about pending legalization on the state and federal level, and new freedoms being granted to plant-lovers everywhere, it’s easy to gloss over one very important detail: Because cannabis is still illegal on the federal level, many national advertisers and advertising platforms aren’t willing to promote THC products out of fear of government intervention.
Meanwhile, state-level advertisers feel the same way. In Colorado, one of the first states where recreational marijuana was legalized by voters back in 2012, a hard set of rules ensures no marijuana-related advertisements reach audiences under 21 years of age.
These types of regulations mean that trying to market and sell cannabis is not simple. Many cannabis businesses can’t let products be displayed, shown or really talked about on many of the most viable marketing and advertising channels, including traditional media, all the way up to digital giants such as Google and Facebook.
Plant-touching companies (which are defined as cultivators, product manufacturers and retailers) remain under the scrutiny of the federal spyglass and basically have to market their products blindly. Many legitimate ventures get stuck promoting premium products via billboards, print ads and fliers.
To counter such limited advertising channels and taking these shots in the dark, good marketing is crucial. Executing on a comprehensive cannabis marketing strategy is the only real way for budding businesses and new entrants into a market to draw in the right audiences and connect with potential customers in a meaningful way.
At a glance, cannabis marketing uses a number of components to reach both broad and niche audiences, including:
• Content Marketing
• Inbound Marketing
• Curated Events
• Cannabis PR
• UX/UI Design
As a cannabis business or brand, breaking through the noise isn’t just about having a special product or service—it’s about being seen! Before something can be tried out, then appreciated or adored, it has to be discovered. While differentiators count in a crowd, if a company isn’t being found on search engines, trying to compete is a moot point.
That old saying “ask and ye shall receive” has never been more true than with current search engines, including the most-used and ubiquitous of them all, Google. When someone hops online to ask a question or find a piece of information, the engine crawls billions of websites and pages of content to find the most relevant and useful results for that particular search inquiry.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the continual process of ensuring that your site meets the search standards of Google and other engines’ algorithms to rank highly as both relevant and useful content. Beyond ensuring your website meets all the proper technical SEO specifications like having a sitemap, structured data, inbound/outbound links, canonical tags and 404 pages, cannabis content marketing is your best means to breakthrough in search rankings and get discovered by the right audiences.
As the backbone to great SEO, content marketing is one of the best ways a brand can begin to not only own space on the internet, but gain a dedicated following of customers. Using an informative approach, the best cannabis content marketing clusters pieces of content together using relevant search term keywords and tidbits of knowledge that draw searchers in and appease the Google algorithm gods.
Effective content marketing in the cannabis space starts with capitalizing on useful, compelling content that is not only trending, but meets a search engine’s primary objective to point search users to content that shows “expertise,” “authoritativeness” and “trustworthiness”—otherwise known as EAT.
Just as this text is being sourced here, SEM Rush defines EAT as content that must be informative and answer questions through authentic, factual information. No more link farms or spammy blog trash reading, just easy-to-comprehend text and knowledgeable videos from experts in the field. This plays right into SEO too.
The content marketing space can’t just exist on websites alone, however. Bustling social media platforms have become one of the most essential ways to market a cannabis business. With advertising restrictions comes a need to reach niche audiences directly and social media meets that, tenfold.
Despite not being able to directly sell or solicit products or services, cannabis brands can use spaces like Instagram to show off the goods and garner interest, to the tune of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of followers.
This is an exciting prospect for companies trying to get clout among the canna-curious and veteran consumers. However, there’s a delicate balance to maintain when presenting cannabis products on social media to avoid getting an account banned for violating a platform’s community standards.
At the same time, a handful of cannabis connoisseurs have found a way to leverage social media to build a brand around themselves and use it as a springboard for promoting hundreds of products. Enter the cannabis influencers.
With the power to gain tons of followers by marketing a certain image or lifestyle to niche audiences, social media influencers have become beyond important to promoting cannabis culture.
This is because some of the best marketing comes from word of mouth, like a recommendation from not only a trusted source, but a respected or admired one. This includes family, friends and most definitely celebrities. And with the very idea of “celebrity” shifting from the silver screen to the Instagram grid or TikTok feed, influencers have become overly valuable, idealized tastemakers who can make or break brands.
It turns out that trust goes a long way when it comes to selling more. This same rule applies to trusted media outlets and in-person events.
Considering that cannabis advertising is so limited, effective public relations can be key for raising brand awareness. And having an agency’s knowledge and support is also critical for handling crisis communications if the need arises.
By having a team of savvy publicists connected to a network of journalists and publications, a brand can disseminate valuable information to cannabis journalists who are hungry for a story and ready to report it.
Event marketing is also crucial for elevating brand awareness. Between large-scale expos and conventions down to curated, exclusive events, companies can get in front of niche audiences to demo new products, flex their knowledge and draw people in with fun displays of innovation. Tying events in with future marketing goals and generating lasting connections through social media or newsletter sign-ups makes for unbeatable marketing presence.
And just like event marketing has been able to reshape the landscape by bringing together some of the most important industry veterans with new entrants, cannabis journalism has brought a standard of legitimacy and accountability to the entire market. Both elements allow brands to be understood in whole new ways.
With a booming cannabis market comes some very stiff competition. With so many new states hopping on board with cannabis, new brands are cropping up like dandelions without much direction.
Knowing the right messages and ways to broadcast them are the first steps in building out a brand that will keep audiences engaged and enthused. By digging into target market research and competitor analysis, this in-depth process defines what types of messages will hook in potential customers, just as much as helping a brand stand out among the many others in the crowd.
Branding is about defining the “you” within a business right down to its personality and values. Think of scarfing down a McDonald’s hamburger. On one hand, the end product is a quick meal, but it also comes with the underlying values of being inexpensive, convenient, consistent, familiar and even nostalgic for many.
With the right marketing tools, the art of branding for a specific audience becomes a lot easier to understand.
WHAT IS THE KEY TO FINDING A CANNABIS BUYER PERSONA?
From eager entrepreneurs who are ready to enter the market to longtime veterans preparing to open a new venture, the possibilities seem endless, but only when standing out among the weeds as an eye-popping flower—one with the right appeal of mission, messaging, growth plan and products—to really connect with consumers. That’s easier said than done.
Part of being a successful cannabis brand comes down to knowing your audience like an old friend and being empathetic to their journey. Understanding exactly what experience consumers want to have with a product or service, as well as exactly what pain points they have experienced or want to avoid, are paramount to solving issues before they occur and refining products and services so they will actually sell. This all starts with devising an in-depth marketing persona that defines who your ideal customer is, as well as those you’d like to make aware of your business.
First, think of the ideal audience for your company, then do some research into who your audience may be based on factors such as needs, wants, demographics, location, price point, previous sales and behavior. From there, painting a descriptive picture of both ideal customers and those who would be great to reach is easy. Of course, tapping into the psyche of your customer is complicated and requires real fluency in cannabis.
HOW CAN FLUENT MARKETING HELP MY CANNABIS BRAND?
Cannabis has a language all its own. And fluency speaks to understanding the complexity of not only the plant itself, but the entire multibillion dollar industry it has created. Without a real on-the-ground understanding of cannabis and all the processes that go into cultivating it, turning it into a variety of different products and the science behind all of it, everything will get lost in translation.
The truth is, when it comes to entering or thriving in the fast-paced world of cannabis, one of the most important things any brand or company can have is help pushing forward, and scaling their business with agility. Those who are fluent in cannabis have a distinct advantage over others when it comes to jumping in and lending a hand.
WHAT DO CANNABIS MARKETING EXPERTS HAVE TO SAY?
It’s critical for a marketing agency to have an established connection to the media industry. And Grasslands founder Ricardo Baca has a connection that’s as deep as it gets, along with a singular perspective on the cannabis industry itself.
In addition to more than 20 years of journalism experience, he holds the title of the world’s first marijuana editor-in-chief. He oversaw coverage of historic legal cannabis sales and a changing culture for The Cannabist, an award-winning online vertical that he created and ran for The Denver Post, Colorado’s largest news organization.
This means most of his waking moments in the past decade have been dedicated to becoming ever more fluent in cannabis. Because no matter how much expertise one can gather over days, years or a lifetime, this industry keeps changing and evolving.
Working with an agency partner that isn’t actively staying up with cannabis—or trying to market it just like any other industry—is a risky challenge. As Ricardo explains, the journey to success starts with speaking the language, knowing what’s next on the itinerary and using a strategic map to reach the next destination.
DOES YOUR MARKETING AGENCY HAVE CANNABIS FLUENCY?
Beyond utilizing the right strategies to amplify your brand, finding a cannabis-fluent agency that can enact the complex tools and methods detailed here is essential to standing out and growing into a national household brand. Are you ready to market your business for the better? At Grasslands, we love to talk shop. Reach out anytime.