Cannabis Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Brand

Over 263 million people consume cannabis every year, consisting of a global market value estimated at $344 billion. 

The European and North American markets account for 45% of the total market. Despite the huge demand, cannabis marketing is challenging. Due to its unconventional nature, most traditional marketing strategies are difficult to adopt, and different approaches are required to build and grow a successful brand.

While cannabis is legalized for medical purposes in 50 countries worldwide, recreational use of cannabis is only legalized in Canada, Georgia, Uruguay, South-Africa, and partially in some states in the USA and Australia. 

With the growing legalization, buying cannabis products becomes more routine and familiar. There is a transition from local dealers to legal brands, but the cannabis customer is holding onto his same principles and motivations in picking his products. Trust, credibility and personalized customer care are the values to build and sustain a cannabis brand. 

How will a skilled marketer persuade and guide this curious customer into a new world of legal marijuana products? 

Uncertainty in cannabis advertising 

Advertisement is an essential marketing tool in most industries. When it comes to cannabis advertisement, however, there is huge uncertainty about its legality.

In most cases, what is legal and what is not is ambiguous. 

Cannabis marketing is facing a full block or at least strong resistance to go public on national TV and radio stations. The same applies to print ads distributed nationally. 

When it comes to local marketing, there is a more viable space for advertisements. 

Stationary and mobile billboards popped up already in different locales with relaxed regulations. Also, at multiple local events, brand ambassadors are sent to market emerging cannabis products. The same goes for magazines and newspapers with limited distribution, which permit cannabis ads. 

Cannabis advertising is still possible, but it should not be your main marketing strategy.

Can you advertise cannabis on social media?

With the mentioned difficulties with print media, you may think that the digital space is the right direction to drive your cannabis marketing plan.

Is the answer simply to invest your marketing budget in Google Ads, Online banners, paid online spaces, and mass email advertisements? 

The answer is “NO,” and it is good news. Paid online campaigns are not the most advised strategy in cannabis marketing. 

Unsurprisingly, digital marketing is not that immune from social or legal restrictions regarding advertisement. If you are contemplating investing heavily in paid digital ads, you may want to reconsider.

Here are the policies of social media platforms on cannabis advertising:

Google and YouTube

Google (including Youtube) lists cannabis under dangerous products and services, banning promotional ads for any of its relevant products or services. 

Facebook

Facebook is also clear in its community standards, prohibiting any content promoting marijuana and pharmaceutical drugs, forbidding any sellers or dispensaries from promoting their business or contact details regardless of their state or country. 

Instagram

Instagram is no different in its policy. It forbids any sellers or dispensaries from promoting their business or contact details regardless of their state or country

Twitter

Twitter adopts a slightly different policy for business accounts. It also applies a global prohibition on promoting drugs, yet they have proposed special regulations for businesses based in Canada and the United States, allowing approved cannabis advertisers to target audiences on Twitter under certain restrictions.

Snapchat

Snapchat is following Twitter’s example. The community guidelines did not directly address the medical and licensed cannabis business. 

It was clear in prohibiting the usage of their platform to “buy or sell illegal drugs.” HEXO, Tweeed, and Tokyo Smoke are examples of brands that used Snapchat to advertise their products. 

Linkedin

On Linkedin, one can find the obvious presence of cannabis companies and business articles on the platform. Their advertising policy includes all kinds of drugs, even OTC and prescription pharmaceuticals, under prohibited content for ads. 

The restrictions on social media channels extend to other online platforms under similar legal regulations. To legally start selling or promoting cannabis on a website, you first need to be licensed in regulating states. 

Even using ad space in online magazines and websites with unrestricted access can fall under the same regulations as for printed media. 

Cannabis content marketing strategies 

While Google, Facebook, and Instagram are not allowing your paid ads on their platforms, you can still get a foot in their doors and have a strong presence on social media and rank highly on search engines.

Anyone with a license can sell cannabis, but a customer only buys from those who know their craft. A solid business needs to show credibility. Owning knowledge and awareness is the key to success.

Your online image has to offer visitors an exciting journey in the cannabis world. On your website, you need to introduce them to herbal medicine, explaining the difference between THC and CBD contents, how to read cannabis labels, and the different ways to consume cannabis products. 

Depending on your business scope, you will have to clarify the recreational effects of cannabis for boosting creativity or leveling up activities’ enjoyment and institute its medical purposes ranging from improving sleep quality to easing depression, stress, headaches, insomnia, and pain relief. 

A successful strategy for marketing cannabis won’t try to convert a customer to a quick purchase decision, but rather to win an educated customer who knows which product he needs and can rely on a trusted shop to sustainably supply him.  

Successful content marketing has two main pillars: An SEO strategy that helps you rank on Google and a social media strategy to build a strong social network. Both approaches go hand in hand.

1. Adopt an SEO strategy to drive organic traffic

An SEO strategy starts with building content around keywords that your target customers search on Google to find what they are looking for. Ahrefs is a useful tool for this. It helps you find keywords with a high search volume.

But a successful piece of content does not only contain relevant keywords but is of true value to your readers. Engaging content will guide customers through your website and help them find your products, which offer solutions to their problems. 

Google notices how much time people spend on your website and considers this in its ranking algorithm. So creating high-quality content that not only draws readers to your website but also keeps them there is key.

Ranking for cannabis-related search terms is not an easy game. You’re competing with huge websites like Leafly that are nearly impossible to displace from their top ranks.

 This is true for most topics regarding cannabis. 

For this reason, you should try to focus on long-tail keywords. These are keywords consisting of multiple words. They have a lower search volume than shorter keywords with much less competition. Because long-tail keywords are more specific and targeted, they bring higher-quality traffic to your website than broader search terms. 

Let’s take “medical marijuana” as an example of a short, general keyword. It has a huge search volume of 40,000 per month. But at the same time, it is almost impossible to rank for this keyword. According to Ahrefs keyword planner, you need around 455 backlinks to rank in the top 10 for this keyword.

Compare this to the long-tail keyword “is marijuana a depressant.” You need very few or no backlinks to rank in the top 10 for this keyword, and it still has a relatively high search volume of 3100 per month.

If you are a local supplier, you can easily find attractive long-tail keywords by adding local terms. You can cover news around cannabis that is relevant to your region or city. An example could be an article about doctors in your area that are pro-cannabis use. 

2. Use social media to build your online presence 

Social media is a powerful tool to build customer relationships and trust that are so important in the cannabis business. It helps you grow a social network that supports you and your products. In the past, it was word-of-mouth that helped local dealers find customers. In today’s world, it’s content sharing on social media that helps you build a reputation and trust.

The good news is that a strong social media presence also helps users find you on Google.

You should apply different marketing cannabis strategies for social media: 

  • Post on social media regularly: Use your website content to feed your social media accounts and groups with regular posts. The right content will get shared naturally and consequently expand your fan base and increase website traffic.
  • Stay active on online networks: Join cannabis-centric business and social networks to present yourself as an expert on the matter backed with quality informative content from your website. On these networks, you have an opportunity to publicize your brand and create new traffic streams to your website. 
  • Refer your customers to content: Your customer care team can adopt a strategy for linking articles from your website when they manage customer inquiries on social media and cannabis-centric platforms.  

You can learn more about developing a successful cannabis social media strategy here for your cannabis brand.

Final thoughts

Content marketing proves to be a key player in the cannabis business. Even if the business scale requires traditional local marketing techniques, the digital presence stays essential for these businesses to thrive and create a sustainable customer base. 

A customer base is built on knowledge and online customer relationships in a market founded on trust and credibility.

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