Marketing and advertising are paramount to the success of any business—especially new ones. However, because the cannabis industry is still new in many ways, navigating the uncharted waters of marijuana marketing can be difficult. Because of the complex regulations and advertising restrictions that state legislatures have placed on cannabis business owners, staying compliant can be challenging.
Although the industry is limited in the type of mediums it can utilize, there are still numerous ways the cannabis industry can boost brand awareness. To help illustrate the possibilities, let’s look at some marijuana marketing success stories.
In 2014, national attention was focused on the progress being made in Colorado. To capitalize on this, Todd Mitchem, former CRO of O.pen Vape, partnered with Cannabrand on a lofty goal to rebrand the entire culture surrounding cannabis. The resulting “I Choose Cannabis” campaign sought to reverse negative stigmas and stereotypes associated with the industry by portraying users as productive, contributing members of society. To drive this concept home, the campaign hosted a series of cannabis-friendly yoga and meditation events in downtown Denver.
“Cannabis is going mainstream,” said Mitchem. "It's not a question of ‘if,’ it is a question of ‘when.’ By coming together and launching ‘I Choose Cannabis’ [Cannabrand founders] Olivia [Mannix], Jennifer [DeFalco], and I are hoping to give people like us, the mainstream cannabis consumer, safe places to gather with like-minded people while enjoying amazing activities such as yoga.”
The events were an immersive, practical method of portraying marijuana as a social substance. As this marketing technique displays, it’s entirely possible to leverage event marketing to drive brand awareness.
Self-described “creative cannabis agency” Green Street connects cannabis brands with influencers and consumers through nontraditional marketing to build brand awareness and loyalty.
“We noticed that there wasn’t a lot of great branding and great packaging, and a lot of the imagery and artwork ... felt a little lowbrow,” said Darren Romanelli, creative director of Green Street. The agency’s manifesto is to provide an option for brands that desire something a little different. “We wanted to bring some professionalism into what felt like an otherwise unprofessional space—very much the wild West,” he said.
Though the full-service marketing firm offers conventional capabilities such as art and creative direction and development, it also partners with artists, celebrities, and cannabis companies to host experiential events such as art installations and private parties to promote certain products. A July 2016 event featured the work of High Times artist Richard Prince. To commemorate the event, Nameless Genetics—a high-end California medical marijuana company—produced a boutique strain of cannabis in honor of the artist.
As research shows, 72 percent of Millennials prefer to spend more money on experiences rather than on material items. By creating a luxury experience and promoting exclusive products, experiential events present cannabis as an alluring, appealing experience. And much like Cannabrand, these Green Street events effectively work to combat cannabis stereotypes.
Taking cues from the craft beer scene’s emphasis on small-batch, locally sourced products, Flow Kana executed what was billed as the cannabis industry’s first multi-channel marketing campaign in 2016. Self-described as the “first sustainable, sun-grown cannabis brand,” Flow Kana’s omnichannel campaign titled “The California Way” was found online, in local newspapers, and on billboards, bus exteriors, and bus shelters.
The campaign, which ran the day before full legalization and emphasized the importance of California’s farmers, also included digital ad placements and high-quality video footage. As this campaign illustrates, when executed properly, omnichannel experiences can impact marijuana marketing. Because consumers are used to receiving information when and where they want it, it only makes sense for dispensaries and other cannabis brands to cater to modern audiences.
While marijuana marketing may be limited, if anything, Flow Kana’s campaign represents a bright future for omnichannel opportunities. Campaigns that exist on multiple mediums not only expand your reach, they also expand your horizons. Omnichannel experiences increase sales because people can interact with products easily—and from numerous channels. Consumers get the information they want, the way they want it, and how they want it.
While multi-channel marketing campaigns increase reach, interactive experiences take things a step further. Technology such as interactive touchscreens help customers discover more information on a product, read reviews, watch videos, and check availability. These marketing techniques recreate an informative, in-store experience. By fully immersing consumers, these interactive campaigns build brand loyalty and increase sales.
As the cannabis industry evolves, it’s safe to say that technology will increasingly supplement creative campaigns. Cloud-based, interactive software allows business owners to create industry-specific messaging. The best software also enables users to manage their apps remotely, so that content can be updated in real time to comply with ever-evolving regulations. Paired with the right hardware, this software engages consumers, providing them with customized, impactful immersive experiences.