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Marketing cannabis businesses is actually pretty nuanced. For example, you can’t just start a new Facebook account about your marijuana brand and say whatever you want about your products like any other business would. Nope. Facebook does not like that.
Cannabis marketing is still evolving with the changing industry, and there are things we can and can’t do. On top of that, the industry is young and many companies didn’t have to worry about strong branding and forward-thinking marketing because the demand was so high. But, with increasing demand always comes increasing competition.
Here are a few cannabis marketing tips to help businesses navigate the changing landscape of marketing and stand out from the competition:
Be Careful Your Marketing Messaging Doesn’t Target Minors
Cannabis is still in its early stages in terms of its legalization and acceptance in many ways. You must always keep age restrictions in mind and be careful about where you choose to advertise.
Marijuana businesses should make marketing messaging a top priority. Using a lot of jokes and incorporating cartoon mascots, like Joe Camel, will give the wrong image of your brand. It will also undermine the goal of the cannabis industry as a whole: to be taken seriously.
Make sure your social media AND your website both ask the user to confirm that they are 21 years or older in order to proceed. You might not be able to verify each follower yourself, but the disclaimer gives the platforms some assurances you are trying to do your part.
Don’t Try to Sell Your Cannabis Products on Social Media
The big social media sites, such as Facebook and Instagram, are being pretty particular when it comes to what you can and can’t say about cannabis on their platforms. Some cannabis business owners have reported being flagged, getting posts removed and their accounts taken down altogether. It seems like marijuana is all over social media, so why are some accounts getting shut down while others are not?
We turned to the Instagram Community Guidelines to see if we could find any answers. This seems to be the closest thing to an answer: “Offering sexual services, buying or selling firearms and illegal or prescription drugs (even if it’s legal in your region) is also not allowed.”
Okay, we get it. But, why then do some accounts seem to remain unrestricted for years while others are taken down over and over? With cannabis only recently becoming more legally available, it doesn’t surprise us that Facebook and Instagram are a bit paranoid about what they allow on their platforms. But, if cannabis is treated like other substances, this wouldn’t be such a common issue for dispensaries.
Just look at alcohol. Who is monitoring the Coors Light account to make sure the 82,000-plus followers are all over 21? No one. But, better believe they are promoting the sale of their product. It appears to be fine to share product pics and talk about the product as long as you don’t directly suggest that fans purchase it.
Unfortunately, this is a bit of a gray area for some. It’s hard to know what you can and can’t say. And who has time to read all of those guidelines, anyway?
Are You Recreational or a Medical Dispensary? Why? There’s a Big Difference.
If you are marketing yourself as a recreational cannabis business, then social networks should treat you like it treats tobacco and alcohol industries. Meaning, you should have to make specific warnings and then be allowed to market your product as you see fit.
However, if you are offering a medical product and making medical claims about cannabis, then it makes sense that they would view you as a pharmaceutical company, which has its own process for proving a product has medical benefits.
Decide What Type of Cannabis Business You Are
Unfortunately, if you want to play by the rules, you are going to have to decide. Are you going to market yourself as a recreational brand? Or, are you going to push the medical benefits?
If you are going to share health advice, be advised: Certain platforms will see this as a violation of their terms.
There are two main rules you should remember:
- If you are talking about medical benefits, don’t take a solid stance as a brand. Instead, refer to studies and other third-party information to support your comment, such as patient testimonials. For example, write, “Many patients claim CBD helps them with their arthritis,” instead of, “CBD is known to help with pain from arthritis.”
- If you are a dispensary, you cannot push your cannabis products. If you have some new products to sell, they don’t want you publishing a picture with a caption that says how and where you can buy the products. Yes, even if you are dispensary and require visitors to present a valid card before they can purchase anything. The social platforms don’t care. These types of posts will be removed, and your whole account may get banned or suspended.
Branding Your Cannabis Business Beyond Recreational vs. Medical
Of course, there is more to it than simply knowing whether your brand represents a recreational business or medical company. What does your brand stand for? Do you have a company mission statement? Why did you get into the cannabis business? What is your story? What is your long-term vision for your brand?
If you hope to stand out from the competition, you must first define what sets you apart. Ask yourself what makes you unique?
Start with a Mission Statement
A well-crafted mission statement aligns the company officers and employees with the same goals and objectives. The mission statement can act as the framework for decision making and provide a clear path to change if the company gets off track.
Without a mission statement, a company can easily lose track of its values, stability and specific goals.
Here at Eminent SEO, we have our own Mission Statement clearly stated on our website:
“Eminent SEO seeks to create and promote beautiful brand collateral, expertly optimized websites and well-crafted marketing messages as a means to push the boundaries of internet marketing, and to help companies, corporations and government agencies be more successful.
“It’s our mission to deliver ethical, high-quality services while simultaneously working on creating meaningful relationships with our clients, partners, each other and those in the community around us.”
If you want to get to work on your own mission statement, here are some things to consider: Mission Statement vs. Vision vs. Company Culture
Examples of Cannabis Business Mission Statements
“To promote the growth of a responsible and legitimate cannabis industry and work for a favorable social, economic, and legal environment for that industry in the United States.
“The National Cannabis Industry Association was founded on the principle of power in numbers. The thousands of American businesses involved in the state-legal cannabis industries represent a tremendous economic force in this country. As the industry’s national trade association, NCIA works every day to ensure our growing business sector is represented in a professional and coordinated way on the national stage.”
“EarthMed prides itself on providing the highest quality compassionate care to patients who truly need it. We understand that for many, pain is a daily part of life and that nobody should have to live in pain when there are treatments available. Medical Cannabis has many medical benefits that ease the pain that traditional medicine cannot offer. EarthMed’s focus is to provide a safe and legal venue for patients to receive treatment using Medical Cannabis.
“Another ideal EarthMed strives for is community outreach and education regarding Medical Cannabis. These include educating the community with regards to the benefits of Medical Cannabis and how to legally obtain it.”
“Kind Meds is a medical marijuana dispensary that is focused on cultivating top-quality medical cannabis flower and similar products to help patients overcome illness, pain, and to live happier.
“Our company is passionate about supplying grade A cannabis flower as well as being a reliable resource to help educate individuals about quality cannabis medicine, because we feel that it can help change people’s lives for the better.”
Define Your Buyer Types
Before you can market to new prospects, you must define who they are. If you have a luxury cannabis brand, for example, your buyer might have a higher income, certain profession and live in a specific geographical location. You also need to consider age, gender and interests.
Buyer Personas for Cannabis Businesses
Depending on your specific brand and goals, you may have one, two or several buyer persona types. If you are just getting started, don’t overdo it.
Define your top two to three revenue-generating buyers and build your strategies around them to start. Consider:
- Medical patients
- Cannabis advocates/fans
- Advertising partners
Let’s say you are a medical cannabis dispensary that offers top-shelf products in Mesa, Arizona. You may ask yourself:
Who is my desired customer? What motivates them? What do they need to make a decision?
- Favorite websites
- Shopping preferences
- Typical buying concerns
- How they found you
Once you have your buyer personas identified, you can create better marketing strategies for each one. If you know your buyer hangs out on Instagram and watches YouTube videos but never goes on LinkedIn, then you know where to focus your marketing dollars and effort.
Cannabis Business Logos
We always tell our clients to think about how their logo will look on T-shirts, hats, mugs, letterhead, business cards – all kinds of swag and print. Your branding should be cool enough to wear on a hoodie, and professional enough to use on the website and marketing collateral.
James L. Bowie, a sociologist at Northern Arizona University who analyzes patterns and trends in logo design, wrote in Slate’s design blog “The Eye” in 2016:
“Analysis of United States Patent and Trademark Office records shows that 44 percent of logos registered as trademarks for marijuana-related businesses feature the familiar cannabis leaf.”
Too many cannabis brand logos and websites look the same. If your competitors are all using the same colors, fonts and symbols, maybe – actually, definitely – you should do something different. How else will you stand out among the endless sea of green marijuana leaves?
Where’s the creativity, people?
Cannabis Digital Marketing
Branding is just the beginning. Next, it’s tagline, messaging, website and marketing strategy. In today’s marketplace, people are consuming more digital content and less traditional media.
You might still rely on some forms of direct marketing, such as billboards, radio spots and print. However, if you expect to be successful long term as a brand, you’ve got to incorporate digital.
Our outline for a successful cannabis digital multi-channel marketing plan includes:
- Quality Website
- Expert SEO
- Well-Researched, Relevant Content
- An Engaging Website Blog
- Google My Business and Other Local Listings
- Organic Search Marketing
- Social Media, such as: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.
- Email Marketing
- Text Messaging Marketing
- Video Creation and Promotion
- Branded Asset Development
- Banner and Ad Network Campaigns
- Influencer and Brand Partnerships
- Event Sponsorships (with Online Event Promotions)
- Reputation Monitoring and Management
We then track all marketing channels and evaluate the data each month to determine what the strategy will focus on in the following month.
The cannabis industry is evolving at a fast pace. If you want to be part of the future of cannabis, you might want to consider upping your branding and marketing game.
The Public Demands Quality Cannabis Content
Matei Olaru, CEO of Lift, a cannabis media and technology company in Canada, said that putting the right data, instruction or knowledge in front of consumers, sellers and medical professionals is a need that cannabis entrepreneurs can fill.
“Decades of misinformation has been perpetuated by prohibition,” Matei said. “As the number of legal cannabis consumers increases exponentially, so will the opportunities for information and media companies (in print, video or on the web).”
Before Applying These Cannabis Marketing Tips, Share Your Story!
Have you found success with a specific marketing strategy for your cannabis business? What about an epic fail or a big lesson learned?
Share your cannabis branding, marketing or business strategies in the comments and help budding entrepreneurs grow their businesses (pun intended).
Together, we can create and share cannabis content that matters. Learn more here: Professional Cannabis Branding and Marketing Services or call to speak with a pro: 800.871.4130.