Cannabis brands must approach marketing in a way that complies with regulations at both the federal and state levels. Failure to comply can result in fines and injunctions, prohibiting future marketing.
Research has linked adolescents’ exposure to alcohol and tobacco advertising to early initiation of those substances and higher consumption among those already using them. Similarly, exposure to cannabis marketing may also be associated with increased adolescent use.
Online cannabis marketing can help cannabis brands reach a broad audience while complying with regulations. Using contextual targeting, for example, allows retailers to place ads on relevant content websites and apps where users are looking for cannabis products without violating regulations.
Partnering with influencers on Instagram and TikTok can boost brand awareness and credibility by educating consumers about the product, debunking myths, and encouraging responsible use.
Influencers are less likely to run into trouble with platform rules for overt promotion of their products, and providing educational content demonstrates a willingness to comply with industry standards.
Email automation can also help promote new products, offer discounts on existing products, and drive sales by reminding customers who have abandoned their online shopping carts. However, it’s essential to ensure that the right message reaches the right people while avoiding regulatory backlash.
Whether attending local events or creating mailers, marketing offline can be a great way to get your cannabis business noticed. Mailers can include postcards, brochures, flyers, door hangers, coupon books, or personalized cards. Another great marketing technique is to host a marijuana convention or other event where you can showcase your products and services.
Social media can be an important marketing strategy for businesses, and take note that certain social platforms have age restrictions that may prohibit specific marketing campaigns. It is also necessary to avoid using cannabis or marijuana-related keywords in your ad text, as this can trigger the platform to suspend or remove your account.
Other popular marketing tactics for cannabis businesses include email marketing and influencer marketing. Influencer marketing is a strategy where popular social media influencers promote your products and brand to their audience. This is a great way to boost website traffic and sales for your cannabis business.
In the cannabis industry, marketing is a tricky business. It’s essential to know your market and adhere to state regulations. Still, it can also be challenging to determine how best to promote your products, especially when it comes to outdoor advertising, where there’s minimal control over who sees your billboard.
While states have restrictions that prevent adolescents from being exposed to cannabis marketing, this doesn’t necessarily stop it from happening. Longitudinal data has shown that exposure to cannabis marketing is associated with higher odds of past-year marijuana use among adolescents.
Many states restrict specific tactics in their cannabis marketing policies, such as depictions of smoking or vaping, promoting health claims without FDA approval, endorsements or testimonials, association with alcohol or tobacco, and disparagement of other cannabis businesses. However, these rules are often inconsistently enforced, which can lead to violations.
Social Media Marketing
Cannabis brands can market themselves through social media but must be cautious. Some platforms have strict age verification rules, and others allow only paid advertising. Social media posts can get flagged if they are too explicit about cannabis or if they use medical symbols. Using unique and catchy logos branding that doesn’t make medical claims or partnerships with like-minded businesses can build brand awareness and generate buzz.
In a recent study, 469 adolescents self-reported exposure to cannabis marketing on social media or traditional (e.g., outdoor) media. Marketing exposure was associated with past-year cannabis use, adolescent demographics, and beliefs about the consequences of cannabis use.
Policymakers should consider regulating social media to limit cannabis promotion, and platforms may want to adopt more consistent policies. For example, Colorado explicitly prohibits cannabis retailers from advertising on any medium where more than 30% of the audience is expected to be under 21.