At the end of the day every company needs to drive conversions. Whether that be a purchase of a product or the sign up of a membership or subscription. The usual route to growing a company and its profits is through various forms of marketing strategies; most recently Facebook and Google are the go-to platforms for digital marketing. What sets the cannabis industry apart from most other industries are the advertising and marketing restrictions.
To understand why cannabis and CBD companies face advertising hurdles, let’s look to where cannabis stands in the United States. Marijuana is only legal in a handful of states and available for medical use in many states; same goes for CBD. Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance which limits it’s opportunities to advertise.
The tough part is that businesses are faced with complicated laws that depend on what state the company operates in. To prevent your company from running into trouble with local advertising laws, stay up to date and learn about the nuances of the ad guidelines in your city and state.
Because of these tricky laws and restrictions in the U.S., cannabis and CBD products and cannabis related paraphernalia are restricted from being advertised on a number of platforms that most other companies are allowed on. There’s a lot of uncertainty in these industries and the question of where the most appropriate place for advertising is, remains up in the air.
Right now, CBD and cannabis companies are restricted from advertising on Google, Facebook, and Instagram. This is a big deal since Facebook and Google make up 57 percent of the U.S digital ad marketing according to eMarketer.*
Also, Instagram doesn’t allow any cannabis seller to promote their businesses by providing contact information or using their “Contact Us” option on Instagram business accounts. The silver lining with Instagram’s policy is that they don’t prevent a cannabis-related company from linking their website in their profile; giving businesses a chance to organically drive leads to their website where someone could buy a product.
Facebook and Google aren’t the only media platforms that are shying away from cannabis advertising. Radio and television have also proven to be a potential liability and aren’t always reliable. Advertising isn’t banned, however the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has shown to be another hurdle when reviewing television and radio stations at their annual license renewal.
Traditional advertising has also proved to be tough. Direct mail advertising has slowed down in recent years with the invention and subsequent surge in digital advertising, but it's still useful for some businesses. Unfortunately, advertising through mail is off-limits for cannabis companies. Since the U.S. Postal Service is a federal agency, they have to follow the federal law that bans the advertisements of Schedule I substances.
Aside from the various marketing media unavailable to CBD and cannabis companies, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also enforces labeling and advertising rules to be applied to all products. Although the FDA is in opposition of CBD products meant for consumption, they have shown to be changing their stance, stating that it “will continue to take steps to make pathways for the lawful marketing of these products more efficient.” The FDA is making some strides in easing the advertising pains for the industry, but the cannabis industry growing at a rapid pace and government organizations like the FDA could take a while to catch up.
Both traditional and digital advertising and governmental organizations are erring on the side of caution when it comes to cannabis and CBD marketing. And although platforms like Facebook and Google have proven to be a trusted marketing tool for companies to increase brand awareness and increase profit, this doesn’t mean all hope is lost for cannabis companies.
To find the right ways to market your brand, you’ll want to have a tight grasp on your target audience and their expectations. With this information, you’ll have a better idea on where to market your brand and the content of your messaging. Different marketing platforms serve different purposes; find the ones that align with your company’s marketing goals.
Build Your Brand
A good story will attract a strong audience. Cannabis and CBD companies have an opportunity to tell stories that will resonate with their consumers who are increasingly becoming more discerning when it comes to which companies they decide to buy from.
With good storytelling, your brand becomes more than just a service or product. Does your company have an interesting backstory? Tell it. Has your product helped benefit someone medically? Tell it. A story can shed positive light on your company and generate PR. It can also be useful content for your paid and organic marketing.
Engage With Your Community
Because of the tough advertising restrictions, businesses have turned to events to get their brand in front of potential consumers. Sporting events and concerts are always looking for sponsors. This is a useful tool within your city or state to get your brand name out there. The event type that your company chooses should depend on your target audience; with the right choice, your brand will resonate with your target audience.
Aside from sponsoring events, look for cannabis-related events to attend. For example, the annual Freedom Rally in Boston brings in a huge crowd of people from the city and beyond to demand marijuana law reform. But it’s also a marketplace for cannabis and CBD businesses to not only sell their products but build brand awareness. The rally attracts a lot of cannabis companies’ target audiences. This gives them the opportunity to engage with their consumers and grow their brand presence within the community.
Perfect Your Organic Social Media
Although paid advertising is off-limits, social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are still available for organic posts. Cannabis and CBD companies have the opportunity to perfect their social media pages. Nowadays, consumers like to check out companies’ social media pages before deciding to purchase; especially when it comes to something that they’ll be consuming.
People will inevitably judge your brand based on looks and social media is the perfect place to appeal to this type of consumer. Some tips on keeping your social media game tight include posting frequently and creating content that’s relevant to your brand in the industry; this can include product shots, company culture shots, and cannabis-related news.
Product shots are important in the cannabis and CBD industries. So product packaging that’s clean and easily photographable will benefit your brand’s image on social media and create a cohesive and aesthetically pleasing feed that represents your brand.
Influencer marketing is another great way to get your product in front of your target audience. Popular social media influencers with a solid following can post about your cannabis and CBD product organically on Instagram and reach a large amount of potential customers. Social media isn’t going anywhere anytime soon; take advantage of the platform.
Find Industry-Specific Online & Print Publications
Because the industry is growing rapidly, cannabis-specific ad networks have been created to cater to companies who would like to run digital advertising but can’t, due to the restrictions. Digital ad networks like Traffic Roots, Mantis, and 42 Network all cater to cannabis and CBD companies. Mantis, for example, offers a network that includes sites like The Cannabist, Leafly, and The Daily Chronic.
Print advertising has slowed down, but for some companies, the ad placement still makes sense. Check out both industry-specific and complementary magazines with a similar audience as your target audience. Wine, cigar, beer and other adult lifestyle publications could be an applicable choice for your business. One thing to watch out for when advertising in cannabis specific magazines are the other cannabis and CBD advertisements. You don’t want your message to get lost, so make sure to do research on print advertising best practices to make sure your advertising money isn’t going wasted and is benefitting for your company.
Avoid Unsubstantiated Claims & Follow Best Practices
Since there are already so many ad restrictions, we don’t want to cause concern and create even more hurdles in the industry. Avoid any claims about the benefits of your product unless there’s verified research on it. For the benefit of your business and the industry as a whole, abide by appropriate and responsible ad messaging. This might even help to ease some of the current restrictions put in place. Be cautious with who you’re advertising to and the content of your messaging.
Cannabis and CBD companies do face difficulties when it comes to advertising, but by doing market research on your target audience, you’ll be able to find other means of advertising that are the best option for your business. There are tons of cannabis and CBD companies that are driving conversions and growing their brand successfully; your business can do it too.