With new legalization measures moving forward and consumption on the rise, it’s clear that cannabis continues to go mainstream. But cannabis business owners still face an uphill battle when it comes to brand awareness and customer outreach. Why? Draconian advertising restrictions.
In addition to limitations or outright bans on TV, radio, and print advertising, cannabis businesses are, for the most part, locked out of online advertising, with Facebook, Instagram, Google, and YouTube all prohibiting cannabis ads on their platforms.
But all is not entirely lost.
This might sound a bit optimistic, but there’s actually a silver lining to these restrictions. They force cannabis brands to find new, roundabout ways of reaching out to their target audiences, and to tell their story on their own terms.
None of these restrictions should scare off cannabis brands that have defined their goals and target audience and are capable of telling an authentic, compelling story. Here are some creative ways to get your message out there.
1. Content marketing
Even the most seasoned cannabis consumer has some knowledge gaps about all the different methods of taking cannabis these days. Adding to the confusion, there are countless strain names, CBD and THC products, and what can seem like a constantly evolving encyclopedia of cannabis terms like cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.
Cannabis customers have to do a lot of their own research to make sense of it all, and this is where marijuana brands can meet them—by creating compelling, educational content that clears the air (the smoke?) surrounding cannabis complexities. Putting together a series of how-to or “explainer” blog posts, podcast episodes, and social media threads can help brands solidify themselves as experts in the cannabis space. If the content is compelling, unique, and authentic, then it has the potential to be shareable by customers, industry rivals, and influencers, who will evangelize for you. Also, when it’s time for customers to make an online purchase online, they may be more likely to turn to those brands who they already see as experts in the cannabis space.
2. Email marketing
It may sound counterintuitive to those of us who groan at the thought of our overflowing inboxes. Still, email marketing can be one of the effective, easiest forms of marketing for cannabis companies. According to a 2019 survey, for every $1 marketers spend on email marketing, they receive $42 in return — up from $38 in a 2018 survey. That is a tremendous return on investment. With a growing number of cannabis-friendly and cannabis-focused email platforms available to marketers, this should be one of the first avenues of focus for any cannabis marketing team.
3. Deals and special offers
By offering customer rewards programs, exclusive deals, and giveaways, you give them a greater incentive to connect and try your products. These offers can easily be woven into email and social media marketing campaigns. Your customers may be especially appreciative of these offerings during the pandemic when people tighten their belts and look for ways to make their paycheck stretch a little further.
4. Online events
In recent years, the cannabis industry has hosted countless meetups, conferences, and workshops for people from the grow room to the board room. While the pandemic has caused cancellations of most of these in-person meetups across the globe, it has also created new opportunities for the industry brands to connect online, increasing their visibility not just domestically but to customers in expanding international markets.
Online conventions and webinars create marketing opportunities for cannabis industry professionals who can’t just drop everything at a moment’s notice and fly across the country or world for a 3- or 5-day event. These events allow even cash-strapped businesses of all sizes to participate in industry events without worrying about budgeting in airfare, hotel stays, booth costs, and more.
These events are also not affected by the advertising restrictions placed on the cannabis industry. They can be paired with email campaigns and online deals to get more customers in touch with the brand.
5. Virtual communities
While social media platforms place restrictions on cannabis advertising, they do not restrict your ability to create groups that are geared towards the cannabis culture. The possibilities for brands are almost endless. For instance, people looking to market products to medical cannabis users can join Facebook groups devoted to medical users dealing with specific health conditions and join the dialogue regarding which products work best.
Cannabis brands can join online groups and forums that deal with the culture, lifestyle, jokes, and memes of the cannabis world, and try their hand at creating viral content.
You can also build a community on your social pages, serving as free, organic, and potentially very active marketing channels.
There may come a time when cannabis becomes so acceptable and mainstream that the gatekeepers will loosen their restrictions. But until that glorious day arrives, you should see these obstacles as an opportunity, not a burden.
by Oren Todoros: Cannbe Media