STRICT ADVERTISING MAKES MARKETING THE BEST WAY TO STAND OUT AS A CANNABIS BUSINESS
Effective cannabis marketing comes down to using messaging, branding, content, search engine optimization (SEO), analytical data and a variety of other strategic tools to build up businesses within a fast-paced industry—one that is booming with savvy competitors and huge profits.
In any business, trying to sell a product or service without the right approach is close to impossible. Have you ever tried to convince your friends to help you move without an added incentive, like pizza or cash money? What about trying to offload an old couch at a yard sale without a little sales jargon, like barely used or this gem just needs a little dusting?
In the overly competitive world of cannabis, emerging companies must use all the right methods to reach the right audiences and stand out. This is why marketing cannabis is so crucial to achieving real success in the ever-growing green marketplace.
Navigating the Current Cannabis Industry
By 2026, it’s estimated that the recreational marijuana industry within the United States will be worth more than $40 billion dollars, while medical sales are projected to zoom right past $11 billion, as projected by Brightfield Group (via Statista). This makes sense considering that state legalization momentum hasn’t slowed, and 9 out of 10 Americans are in favor of legalizing cannabis nationwide. But while these numbers indicate that the end of prohibition may be right around the corner, cannabis companies are still facing challenges when it comes to reaching consumers.
Despite being of the people, by the people and for the people, the federal government has thus far ignored popular opinion to keep cannabis on its list of illegal controlled substances.
As a Schedule I narcotic, marijuana is considered to have no accepted medical use (despite a growing body of scientific evidence to the contrary) and sits right alongside heroin, LSD and ecstasy. Because of this, advertisers across the nation refuse to promote cannabis out of fear of governmental backlash. This includes search-engine leaders like Google, social media giants like Facebook and many mainstream media outlets.
State regulators are taking a similar hard line, including in Colorado, which developed regulations with the goals of ensuring cannabis adverts won’t be seen by anyone under the age of 21 (putting major limitations on ad exposure for anyone watching a TV channel, listening to the radio or scrolling online at any given time).
With no traditional advertising options and countless competitors vying for recognition, fledgling cannabis companies must work harder to break out. Instead of using expensive but rather ineffective grassroots tactics, like print ads or a billboard, marketing cannabis is the real key. And everything starts with exceptional branding.
The most effective cannabis brand marketing comes down to having strong messages that will resonate with target consumers, then keeping them engaged and coming back for more. This process of generating brand awareness and advocacy is made easier through marketing strategy.
In researching the market and analyzing competitors, it becomes easier to understand what makes your brand different, plus the types of messaging that best define these differentiators. From this, branding for a specific audience becomes a lot easier to accomplish.
Content marketing is one of the best ways a brand can start owning space on the internet by grabbing the attention of search-engine users with engaging blogs and how-to articles.
This type of content not only focuses on providing specific and useful information, but hits on trending search terms and therefore meets the objective of search engines. In the case of Google, it wants to send its users to content that displays good EAT (“expertise,” “authority” and “trustworthiness”).
This EAT content must answer questions using real (yes, real) facts and legitimate sources, which plays right into good SEO.
To break out as a cannabis brand, you don’t just need awesome products or services, you need to be discovered. Because almost all discovery happens on the internet these days, especially via search engines like Google, a company that isn’t being found online can’t compete.
Search engines index the internet to help this act of discovery along. When search users enter search terms (e.g. best Colorado cannabis dispensary), engines like Google comb through billions of sites, pages and content to find the most relevant results.
Applying SEO best practices ensures your site can meet the sky-high, constantly changing standards of search engines. This includes both the backend Technical SEO aspects of your site, like creating a sitemap and backlinks, as well as On-Page SEO like content that contains the right search keywords and relevant information.
At a glance, cannabis content marketing uses a number of components to reach both broad and niche audiences, including:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
- Content Marketing
- Inbound Marketing
- Events and Expos
- Public Relations
- UX/UI Design
Social media content is also crucial for successfully marketing a cannabis business. Because of strict advertising restrictions, using direct social channels and engaging posts is the best way to reach specific audiences.
And while cannabis businesses are not legally able to use social media platforms to solicit products, brands are able to use these channels to grow a massive following and interest in what they’re selling—and direct the audience to their comprehensive website, creating a positive cycle of engagement.
For brands that are trying to garner interest among everyone from cannacurious, first-time consumers to seasoned aficionados, social media is a key component. Of course, in trying to avoid gatekeepers from flagging and killing off cannabis-related posts and pages, influencers are another powerful ally.
Cannabis influencers use social media to build up their own brand and use it to become an affiliate ambassador of other social media users, new products and up-and-coming companies. With the ability to influence a swath of like-minded consumers, these social stars are able to promote cannabis alongside an army of faithful followers.
Why? Because word-of-mouth recommendations from a trusted source—whether it’s a friend or a cool influencer with the lifestyle consumers desire—are one of the best forms of marketing. This same approach applies to reaching people via traditional media or even in person.
Solid public relations and event marketing are two more standout ways to counter limited advertising. With publicists working hard to pitch intriguing stories to a network of publications, cannabis journalists and mainstream news reporters can find a new story idea or source, and burgeoning brands can get in front of readers in the markets they’re targeting. Everybody wins.
Another win is hosting or sponsoring a must-attend event that brings together industry insiders, top media representatives, business leaders and influencers to rub elbows with your brand. The right event helps build great brand awareness and associations among all the right people.
Consider that events can serve multiple purposes. They can kickstart new company goals and initiatives, for one. And in promoting an event, there are opportunities to grow a network: Creating impressions via social posts, a dedicated email list and other tracking methods are crucial steps to expanding brand presence.
With a PR and marketing agency that is fluent in cannabis on your side, you will find a partner that understands your needs. Whether it’s connecting you with the right media, facilitating networks, preparing for an unforeseen crisis or coming up with a tailored marketing strategy to meet your goals, it’s all about speaking your language—the language of cannabis and highly regulated industries.
Grasslands Founder and CEO Ricardo Baca comes from a long history of cannabis fluency. In a journalism career spanning two decades, he became the first-ever marijuana editor for a major mainstream media outlet, The Denver Post. There, he launched and ran the award-winning online vertical The Cannabist, a pioneering publication that covered the news of the industry and culture of legalization in Colorado and across the country.
Ricardo knows that expertise is fleeting in this ever-evolving industry, and partnering up with an agency that isn’t well-versed in changing policies, product trends and B2B services doesn’t result in success. Fluency in cannabis is the only way to know what a brand needs to build on its growth trajectory.
If you’re still wondering how cannabis marketing can impact your brand, just think about the products you shop for and the brands you care about. How do you find them? What makes them your ideal brand? It’s a sure thing that good marketing played a role in your decision-making.
Marketing cannabis starts with strategy and employs tools like media outreach, events, optimized content and influencer-driven social to sway people to your business, products and brands, the right way. It all starts by using an agency with extensive industry experience and smart, goal-forward marketing services. Are you ready to harness cannabis marketing and PR to your advantage? Let’s chat.