How to Build a Cannabis Advertising Strategy that Sells

Are you trying to grow your business but are confused by the right way to go about cannabis advertising? Building a strategy for your cannabusiness that sells your product isn’t just an overnight solution, especially because the marijuana advertising landscape is constantly evolving. From knowing regulations to social media advertising to getting creative, here’s how to build a cannabis advertising strategy that sells. 

By definition, advertising is making your product or service known to an audience or marketplace. You want to best communicate your brand to the right audience to create long-term customers. Can you honestly say you are currently doing that? This article helps you do just that by breaking down the laws you should consider, what to include in your strategy, and different types of advertising to engage in including social media, display ads, and email.

Advertising in the Industry Can Be a Challenge

The business may be booming but regulations on cannabrands are still in place at many levels and on many social media platforms and search engines. Cannabis marketing regulations in this industry in particular can be quite extensive and violations are not well-received. This is because cannabis is still a Schedule 1 drug according to the US federal government. Because it is designated as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” many advertisers won’t accept cannabis brands due to fear of federal regulation. Before you advertise, you should know the marijuana advertising laws and how to present your brand in alternative ways. 

Marijuana Advertising Laws

Laws vary based on where you are advertising and what type of advertisement you are running. Many states with legalized marijuana choose to enact laws that are similar to alcohol ads, because of exposing minors to a controlled substance in a manner that looks cool or desirable. In general, the federal law is that you cannot take out a national advertisement for cannabis products. For example, a publication printed in Los Angeles where recreational marijuana is legal would allow ads for cannabis brands and dispensaries but if the publication were one distributed across state lines, the ad wouldn’t be allowed. The United States Postal Service states that cannabis ads can’t be mailed. 

The best piece of advice is to do more research on the laws of your actual state, as well as states you may expand to one day. States with recreational marijuana have looser restrictions than states that only allow medical marijuana (MMJ) sales.

It is your responsibility to know the cannabis advertising laws of your state or your ads will not be approved on platforms and your business may be disallowed. Google and Facebook do not allow ads for medical or recreational marijuana. The other big platforms like Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, YouTube, and Pinterest also limit marijuana ads for cannabusinesses. This also includes related businesses like career training companies, recruiters, apps, and software. Some things to expect would be: 

  • Required notices to consumers when placing an ad
  • Close monitoring of safety claims made in ads
  • Television ads cannot be placed for spots on programs targeted toward minors
  • Advertising on mobile apps that allow people over 21 years of age
  • Regulations on event advertising cannot be one with a large audience of minors
  • No statements about competitors products
  • Not displaying cannabis products in public view
  • Imagery denied or not allowed because it seems like it appeals to young people.

Know Your Outcomes 

For the most effective marijuana ads strategy, you need to know your outcome and goals. A lot of this falls under the definition of marketing. In cannabis marketing, you define your target market, determine what your customer wants, and plan to reach them where they are. Advertising is about the actual placement of the ads and reaching the customers you’ve already identified. For example, if your desired outcome is to increase the sales at a specific location for a particular product you need to know what customers to target and reach them where they are. 

What to Include in Your Strategy

All effective cannabis advertising strategies will include social media advertising, display ads, and ads at events. Although it is not direct advertising, email serves as a strong messaging platform. Some brands will choose physical publications and promos, such as billboards, print ads, and sponsorships at community events. Some questions to answer when building your strategy are: 

  • Who is my target audience and avatar for the business?This is part of your whole marketing strategy. Knowing who you advertise to will do half of your work here. Since messaging and platforms will depend on your avatar and audience.
  • Where does my avatar live? Do you want to reach a nationwide audience? What states or locales is my target audience living?
  • Where does my avatar go for information or business or purchases?  
  • How will I reach them?  
  • What conferences or events might be aligned with my audience and my brand?  
  • What publications might be effective in reaching my audience? 
  • Which social media platforms does my avatar tend to use? 

Once you’ve defined your audience and platforms, you can start placing ads. 

Social Media Advertising 

To be an effective business, you need to reach people on social media platforms. Firstly, you have to join cannabis-friendly platforms that allow advertising for these businesses. If you want to put your brand on the biggest social media platforms, there are other tactics you can take such as influencer cannabis advertising.

Influencers

While influencers may not advertise for you directly, they can discuss the way your brand has changed their lives and any positive effects of a brand. Influencer-generated content is allowed on the larger social media platforms. It would be best to start with influencers that have a history of being cannabis-friendly because many would hesitate to advertise unless it matches their own online brand.

Working with influencers has to be mutually beneficial. The best weed-centric Instagrammers share weed reviews, photos of flower, how to grow plants, app recommendations, and products to try out. People trust influencer’s opinions because it feels like a recommendation from a friend or trusted confident that some anonymous brand.

Cannabis Friendly Social Media Platforms

There are a few cannabis-friendly social media platforms, you can maintain profiles on this page or in some cases run ads. Most of them bring together people with a similar interest – cannabis. A few social media platforms to look into are: 

  • LeafWire: Designed to connect cannabusinesses with partners, other professionals, and even investors.
  • Weedable: Made for sharing content, this platform lets individuals connect with and shop cannabis brands.
  • Duby: Built to connect cannabis users, you share content and react just like you do on Facebook or Instagram. Businesses can also market themselves. 
  • WeedLife: Created to connect cannabis users with the latest news and updates from the industry. Companies can post promotions and updates about businesses. 

Display Advertising for Cannabusinesses

There are two ways to get display advertising in front of your customer, to submit ads that relate to a federally legal part of your business or to put your brand on cannabis-friendly platforms. For example, if you sell hydroponic equipment, you may focus on products and features that aren’t specific to cannabis. 

As for the second option, they say “necessity is the father of invention” and when cannabis users were not welcome on mainstream platforms, they created their own way of getting ads to the users. There are cannabis-specific ad networks made to connect you to your target audience. You send users to their ad network and they get your product or service distributed throughout their network of smaller niche websites, but collectively can add up to a lot of “eyeballs.”

You can run straightforward display ads – static or video and even employ retargeting ad campaigns. Some media companies like Thrillist and mainstream brands are allowing marijuana-adjacent ads to run on their platforms as they begin to realize it is what their audience wants. 

Cannabis-Friendly Display Ad Platforms

The most popular cannabis-friendly display ad platform is Mantis. They work with more than 500 publishers in the space to get your Cannabusiness in front of the right audience. A few of the other options are Kush Clicks, Traffic Roots, DankCity, and CannaImpact. You don’t have to do the work to make sure everything is legal, they do that for you. 

Email Advertising 

According to a recent study, email marketing is 40x more effective at acquiring new customers than Twitter and Facebook combined. Cannabis email advertising is different from regular email ads because it does have more regulations. Some of the larger and more well-known platforms like Mailchimp have removed cannabis businesses from their email services. It is best to set yourself up with an email service provider that explicitly allows cannabis companies like ReeferMail or Cannabiz.Media. 

Capture email addresses at checkout, put a popup on your website for people interested in emails, at in-person events, and even run email advertisement campaigns. Buying an email list with possible leads is not a good idea in general. It might get you flagged for sending spam and unwanted messages and rarely leads to the desired outcome.  Once you get names on your list, you can start building relationships with your leads. Get to know your audience well and after that start selling to them

Grow Your List, Get to Know Your Leads, and then Sell to Them

You may want to start with the sales emails right away, but building a relationship with your leads and then selling to them in the next interaction is a better strategy. 

Firstly, create an onboarding email marketing campaign. Educate your leads. Show them the good opportunities your brand has to offer them. For example, you can send via email a blog post about CBD as pain relief to a user that has looked at your CBD pain relief creams. 

Secondly, track their interest and segment based on their activity. The power of email marketing and advertising is in segmenting your audience and users. Did the user open the email, click, or read your article? Based on these metrics decide how to bring them down the funnel into your engagement marketing campaign. This can be for example showing them more CBD products or giving them a coupon for the product they viewed. 

Lastly, you can create sales marketing emails. These will be right in your target audience’s needs since you already will know a lot more about them. You can give them limited time offers, retarget the abandoning cart users, and a lot more. 

Sending emails to your customers can bring in revenue while you also keep them in the loop about your products and services. You should automate your email marketing efforts based on the users’ activity and what part of the marketing funnel they are in.

Advertise at Canna Events

Starting in your close community and expand outward. Sponsoring and showing up for events in your area gets your name out there to an audience that cares. You can also target specific events that allow for cannabis businesses to advertise, for example, at canna events, you can either become a sponsor for some existing events or host your own. 

Lots of local dispensaries organize events in their locations. Those are great for small scale local businesses. As for nationwide brands, there are tons of cannabis events in the industry on which you can get in front of the right crowd for you. Currently, most of the 420 events are virtual, but you can see this as more online options to place your ads. 

Advertise on the Internet Radio and Podcasts

Major internet radio services, like Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Spotify, do allow cannabis advertisements at their discretion. This is because they don’t consider it as “print advertising” and the companies behind these channels are willing to reach their audiences. Compliance rules vary, but the basics include: 

  • Not targeting audiences outside states where cannabis is legal
  • Verifying your audiences are over 21+ 
  • Don’t make any false or unsupported claims about cannabis 

Another form of audio media you can use to reach your audience is podcasts. Podcasts are owned by networks and distributed on streaming platforms like Spotify and Overcast. These platforms allow cannabis advertising, you might have heard one of these ads yourself. They can be quite direct, just as long as you stick to valid claims and features of your product. 

There are ways to reach your audience that involve guerilla techniques – like sending brand ambassadors to festivals that attract your target age group and audience – but these wouldn’t be official advertising campaigns. 

Publisher Partnerships to Reach Your Audience

The ad platforms limit cannabis advertising but strategic alliances with publishers that target cannabis users can be the perfect fit. Some of the biggest brands in cannabis are High Times, DOPE Magazine, and Merry Jane. These businesses also have an online presence. You don’t have to be a big company to get in front of people’s eyes. 

For example, High Times allows guest blog editors and they accept businesses of all sizes. You may find opportunities in the health and wellness spaces, depending on the legality in your state. One of the best things about physical publications is that they target geographically specific audiences so you know your ad is getting in front of people that it applies to. 

Advertise Now for Brand Longevity

The legalization of marijuana continues on its state-by-state march toward complete medical acceptance and hopefully recreational is not far behind. As legislation catches up, you’ll get more opportunities to advertise your cannabusiness. You will need to put in an effort at times to make sure you are following current rules and regulations in your area.

Be sure you reach your target audience where they are, whether they are podcast listeners, conference attendees, or business owners surfing the web. Advertising is not a science, and it takes some time to get it right. Get creative and continue to learn, so your brand can grow!

Olivia Solero

Olivia Solero is the Co-founder of Cannabis Stack. Olivia has an unusual blend of creative thinking and the ability to put that thinking into effect. She likes to write; loves to edit; she knows how to lead, follow or get out of the way; she is good with a buck and wicked smart when it comes to data.


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