Marketing cannabis has never been an easy feat; as social giants -like Facebook and Google- change their standards or outright deny cannabis, it proves more difficult every day. Even so, if you were to ask about the cannabis market across the country, the answer may not be hopeful. Considering the current health and economic situation looming, over the country, things are more uncertain than ever. Regardless, the ‘essential’ cannabis-industry isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and cannabis media may be the key to it all.
As laws keep cannabis at arms-length, overcoming the marketing obstacle has led some cultivators and producers to take a more creative approach. As far as trends go, the US is the model; the west coast is the playing field. As legalization progresses, the marketers are looking to those areas for the dos-and-don’ts of cannabis advertising. Nearly every option under the sun has been pursued, but a fresher perspective is creating more opportunities.
A City of Trends
In the coming decade, the market’s value is expected to reach over 70 billion. According to the report from Grand View Research, the US cannabis market amounted to almost 9.1 billion in 2019. That’s nearly 30% growth from the previous year. The industry has shown significant numbers in recent years; but, only a handful of companies stand out amongst the growing sea of green. After a closer inspection, their approach to blending cannabis-culture, media, and sales leads to mass brand awareness with consumers.
To the north, around 35% of consumers couldn’t name the brand they were consuming. Though the issue isn’t the same in the United States, identity is still a struggle. Luckily for US consumers, their packaging can display enticing branding to further help sales. It’s a small consolation; but, the ‘real estate’ on cannabis packaging has proven to be just as important as the push to sell it- when used properly.
Traditionally speaking, word-of-mouth, has been the only way to gain recognition. You create a good product, maybe some snazzy branding, and hope for consumers to catch onto what you’ve created. Advertising was once unheard of and budtenders were the only connection companies had to consumers. Early on, as dispensaries only carried a small number of brands, this formula of maximizing that packaging was efficient enough. Nevertheless, the tactic became obsolete as more brands have cropped up.
Alternatively, US consumers are 37% more likely to purchase a cannabis brand with an A-list celebrity endorsement. Another 34% wasn’t fazed in the least by the A-listers seal of approval or flashy packaging. The quality of the product and endorsement from knowledgeable figures in the industry went much further. While Hollywood A-listers might not give you an exponential boost, uplifting aspects of your local cannabis community may be the sweet spot.
Digital Audiences and Cannabis Culture
We can look at global brands like Cookies for more answers. Statistically speaking, the lifestyle-based empire capitalized on a new market with a subtle but effective marketing campaign. Cookies owner and beloved rapper, Berner’s, passion to include cannabis-culture with his products is the deciding factor. Starting with a strain, he slowly integrated clothing and music as his own career took off. It was one of the first true combinations of cannabis culture and media. It remains one of the most popular today arguably for that reason.
Big-name endorsement, as we discussed before, is on the opposite end of advertising. A wide variety of cannabis companies use star-power. Whether it is local, national, or global, having a cannabis-friendly figure to stand by a product is enough to drive consumers. Although general celebrities don’t have the largest effect on cannabis sales, the focus on local cannabis-celebrities and issues is the biggest driver of traffic.
“From music and television to ride-sharing and e-commerce, digital technologies have completely upended traditional markets across the board.”–Jessica Baker, Forbes
As social media is the main source of advertising for most new companies, social media influencers are the gatekeepers to millions of followers willing to give your product or service a chance. Cannabis itself has never been one for the mainstream; it’s only understandable that the ways of marketing would fall back on the community’s favorite personalities. Similar to the way Cookies included music and clothing into their brand-culture, others can include the local figures that consumers already love and trust to help with brand awareness.
In addition to ways that the community can help, the media itself has grown more comfortable with cannabis over the years. With shows like “Cooking on High” and “Disjointed”, the ‘stoner-mystique’ is blown away. In turn, those who do not consume cannabis are more comfortable with cannabis advertising as a whole. Through advertising we can educate, through education, we continue to grow acceptance.
Educating consumers and humanizing cannabis culture with relatable cannabis-consumers is the key to connecting to a lasting audience.
“Educate, educate, educate. With so many products, brands, and regulations in the market, one of the most effective strategies to differentiate yourself is to be the true trusted advisor for cannabis education. From how cannabis is grown, to how to properly roll a joint, and the laws in your local area, there are hundreds of topics to cover.
By using this strategy, you become a generous brand focused on educating overselling, build credibility and visibility, and become the go-to source for clients entering the cannabis market.
It’s simple and effective!”Allyson Markey, CEO at Forum Public Relations
Mergers and collaborations are another great way to expand reach. ‘Merger’ has always been a scary word as the industry has always felt some animosity about corporate cannabis. In 2020, however, the word may actually be a saving grace. In the same way that we collaborate with celebrities and influencers, we can work with bigger brands and companies to reach wider audiences.
The concept itself closely mirrors what other success stories have. Just as Cookies deals with brands and companies whose ethics align with their own -despite them touching cannabis or not- brands looking to branch out can do the same. Seek out those who align culturally with your brand and industry to propel both forward.
“The maturing of the industry to focus less on grabbing market share and more on profitable growth is making the industry more sustainable and viable.”Ello Gerson: Merger Market, Forbes
Our own partnership combining the cannabis community and culture can be used as an example. Culture & Cannabis started in 2016 with the hope to empower the local cannabis community and its businesses, all without touching the plant. On the plant-touching side was Solaris Farms -founded by Mike Sassano- aiming to create the highest-quality flower with the most effective cannabis-growing practices from around the world. Las Vegas is a hub for stoners from every corner of the globe making it a match.
By working with local artists and community influencers, the two companies drive brand awareness and sales through in-store events, concerts, meet-and-greets, and local advertisements. As a result, the partnership has put both brands at the forefront of the Las Vegas cannabis market.
The ways to market cannabis in 2020 however don’t stop there. A mix of media and culture is proving useful; but, the possibilities are endless regardless of what has already been done. As social media and cannabis both evolve, opportunities spring up at every turn. Keep an eye out for rapidly growing brands and engagements levels for what works and what does not. Additionally, never lose sight of the tried-and-true ways of the cannabis market. Things may evolve but, sometimes the oldest tricks are the best.
For more information on cannabis marketing or insights into Culture & Cannabis partnership, check out our web series. Stay tuned for more tips and insights on building in the cannabis industry.