There are very few topics that are garnering more attention today than cannabis. Over the last few years, the cannabis industry has exploded, thanks in large part to more and more states either legalizing it entirely for recreational purposes or at least for medical use.
Right now, 11 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, and that the number is expected to increase in the near future.
Plus, CBD, the non-psychoactive portion of cannabis, is federally legal and is now found in everything from creams and ointments to seltzers and snacks. Despite the meteoric rise of cannabis and CBD, there is still one thing that’s a little hazy: how to advertise it.
Due to a number of rules and regulations, cannabis and CBD brands are largely prohibited from paid advertising on digital channels like Google and Facebook.
For example, Google Ads blocks ads for cannabis products under its ban on ads for recreational drugs.
This presents a fairly substantial roadblock to brands and businesses that are looking to grow and thrive.
However, just because paid digital advertising is unavailable doesn’t mean that the cannabis industry can’t take advantage of digital marketing. In fact, when done right, digital marketing can be a huge growth driver for the cannabis industry.
Let’s take a look at a few digital marketing channels and tactics that can be used to help increase brand awareness and ultimately drive sales.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Since paid digital advertising is largely barred for the cannabis industry, the name of the game becomes organic growth. How can you increase your brand awareness and gain a larger share of the conversation without resorting to paid ads?
Organic growth starts with SEO, or search engine optimization. SEO generally refers to the process of driving organic (non-paid) traffic to a website through search engines and other earned online media.
By developing a comprehensive SEO strategy, cannabis industry brands and business can increase traffic to their websites without needing to resort to paid advertising. Some ways to boost SEO include developing a blog and other content for your website, working on a backlink strategy, and optimizing your website for both mobile and desktop viewers.
This will signal to search engines that you’re an authoritative, trustworthy source of information on the topics you’re addressing on your website, thus earning you a higher rank for keywords related to your business.
While social media platforms may prohibit paid advertising, they can still be used very effectively for driving organic growth. Instagram is a great example.
Instagram by its nature is a very visual platform that allows you to get creative when telling your brand’s story. To use Instagram effectively for brand growth, it’s important to establish a consistent content and posting strategy:
What kind of content are you going to post on your Instagram profile and how often?
It’s also important to take advantage of hashtags on the platform. Hashtags help to drive conversations and increase the reach of your posts. 2019 research by publishing platform Later estimates that posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6% higher engagement than posts without one.
Finally, don’t be afraid to use Instagram’s video options (stories, live video, etc.). When it comes to digital content, video is king, and using video on Instagram is an authentic way to increase engagement with your content and ultimately increase reach and brand awareness.
Podcasts are like talk radio, but they’re downloadable and available to listeners on-demand.
They’re often a series of audio episodes based on a specific subject. They’re easy to upload to popular streaming audio services like Spotify and iHeartRadio, which can dramatically increase your total addressable audience.
Nearly 165 million Americans have listened to a podcast – roughly 51% of the US population – and 22% of Americans listen to podcasts weekly.
Podcasts represent an easy and affordable medium for reaching people en masse and educating new market segments. They’re also a great way to build authority in a particular subject area.
Blogging is a great way to drive traffic to a website, increase brand awareness, and build a library of content. More importantly, by blogging consistently, you can build authority on your subject matter among your audience.
Another benefit of blog posts is that they can easily be shared on social media and beyond, which can help to increase your brand’s reach.
By leading with blog content that’s inspirational, educational, and informative in nature, you can build deeper, more meaningful relationships with current and prospective customers than with ad messaging alone.
If you travel across the country, chances are pretty good that you’ll see billboard advertisements for cannabis brands; from dispensaries to cultivators and beyond.
That’s because billboard advertising is one of the few advertising channels available to cannabis and hemp brands. Out-of-home (OOH) advertising spend is set to reach over $26 billion by 2023, and the cannabis industry’s chunk of that spend is on the rise.
OOH also includes digital mediums like digital billboards: those video screens at gas stations, video kiosks at malls, and more.
All of these digital OOH advertising options can be segmented and adjusted for target audiences in real time. OOH advertising, whether it’s in a traditional or digital format, presents a huge opportunity for cannabis brands to get creative with their advertising efforts while reaching a larger subset of their target audience.
More and more cannabis businesses are using influencer marketing to increase brand awareness and drive sales.
Influencer marketing is the process of leveraging individuals with large communities of online followers as evangelists for your products or services. In 2018, a Southern California cannabis company spent millions on influencer marketing to advertise it’s chain of high-end shops. There are even cannabis-specific influencer marketing agencies that work exclusively with tastemakers who post about cannabis and CBD.
While there are still some loopholes to jump through when working with influencers in the cannabis space (such as YouTube’s policy against cannabis-related content), working with the right influencers can be a powerful way to expand your audience and reach more customers.
The cannabis industry is all the rage right now and the political landscape is more accommodating that growth than ever before, but advertising simply hasn’t caught up…yet.
Until regulations are lifted, brands and businesses within the cannabis industry will need to get creative to achieve their marketing and business goals.
Fortunately, there are still a number of digital marketing tactics out there that can drive growth and success.
Ready to jumpstart your marketing strategy? Drop us a line today.