While the legal weed industry continues to grow by leaps and bounds, conflicting local, state, and federal regulations present unique roadblocks when it comes to marijuana marketing.
As we may have already mentioned a few times, the legal marijuana market is exploding. Not only are more and more states moving to legalize cannabis, but countless budding bud businesses have sprouted up to provide pot — as well as new pot-related products and services — to the growing numbers of consumers who can now legally buy the drug.
For all of its innovation and growth, however, the cannabis industry faces an uphill battle when it comes to digital marketing.
“Operators like Facebook, Instagram are pulling accounts all the time or Facebook won’t even let you start advertising,” Cy Scott, CEO and co-founder of an analytics company that works with cannabis brands, told Ad Week. “It’s worse than alcohol or tobacco—you see beer commercials all the time [where] everyone looks like they’re having a good time and enjoying alcohol, but you don’t see that with cannabis.”
While 30 states have legalized some form of marijuana, 20 have not. That disparity, coupled with the fact that marijuana in all forms is still illegal at the federal level, has made allowing marijuana advertising — even in small amount — too politically risky for the likes of Google and Facebook. And that climate isn’t likely to change much until cannabis is legal everywhere.
In order to maximize their opportunities for growth in the face of these unique obstacles, cannabis companies are taking a creative approach when it comes to marketing.
With many cannabis companies steering away from digital ads, the folks at Search Engine Land recommend companies build cannabis marketing teams consisting of “the best SEO strategists, content marketers, email specialists and public relations (PR) managers available.”
Cura Cannabis Solutions’ e-commerce site features a referral program that uses MailChimp for managing email campaigns. The company also partners with publishers like Leafly, who offer reviews of dispensaries and specific strains of cannabis.
Some retailers and dispensaries connect with new customers via in-store demonstration days. Others have promoted themselves with near-field communication, mobile payments, and text messaging campaigns.
As industry experts note, the cannabis companies who can successfully navigate today’s complicated landscape will be at an advantage when more traditional advertising channels finally open up for the legal weed industry.