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Blog Post | May 03, 2022

Navigating the Unique Challenges of Marketing Cannabis-Related Products

If you’re an integrated marketer at a cannabis-related business, you face a unique set of challenges, including getting a read on who your customers are, not running afoul of community standards and guidelines on social media, and creating packaging that says “cannabis” (but without saying it too loud). Here are some “not-so-basic” basics to help cannabis marketers thrive.

Topics: Marketing Campaign, Content Marketing, Social Media

The cannabis business has (pardon the pun) blossomed into a full-fledged juggernaut, thanks to changing laws regarding recreational use and widespread acceptance. The industry itself has undergone a dramatic transformation which has shifted its public perception: stores like Med Men offer a sophisticated retail experience with sleek, polished storefronts inspired by Apple. Quite simply, cannabis products have gone mainstream.

But due to a patchwork of laws and regulations, the marketing of cannabis products can still feel like the Wild West. Integrated marketers face a unique set of challenges—some related to conflicting laws at the local, state and national level—in addition to the hurdles marketers of even the most pedestrian products must face, such as standing out in a competitive marketplace and getting traction with your promotions. We’ve collected a few essential best practices specifically for cannabis marketers.

Why knowing your customer is essential
One of the most significant shifts is the changing face of cannabis buyers. Women now make up the largest percentage of cannabis product users. The market is still predominantly driven by wellness usage. Buyers range from executives and yoga moms seeking help to de-stress, aspiring influencers looking for novel beauty products and cancer patients needing pain relief.

Understanding your potential customers’ needs, motivations and concerns is the first step of the customer journey—and the insights you gain can help you:
  • Design more appealing packaging
  • Create stories to tell about your brand and products
  • Determine the most effective channels for engaging and communicating

Conducting this essential market research doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. If your brand is on social media, you have all the tools you need.

The mixed blessings of social media marketing
In addition to raising awareness for your products, you can use social media to gain crucial insights about your customers. Certain aspects are pretty straightforward, such as reading comments and engaging with commenters, following specific hashtags (including your own branded hashtags), and creating posts that invite your followers to share. Look at the goldmine of information Peloton users provided in response to a simple prompt on Twitter.

However, when it comes to maintaining a social media presence, you’ll still need to tread carefully since conventional platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram have different, and often vague, sets of standards for cannabis products and dispensaries.  

Your best bet is to create “high-level” posts that steer clear of any efficacy, potency, health or pricing claims. Highline Wellness’ Insta is a masterclass in marketing: Highline uses a combination of beautiful product shots, colorful lifestyle images and user-generated content. All without getting into any of the specifics that could get their posts flagged—or worse, have their entire account arbitrarily suspended, which seems to happen with unnerving frequency. Even though you want to create engagement, you should also use social media to drive directly to your website, where you’ll have more control over your content.

Differentiate your products with creative packaging 
Packaging for cannabis products has come a long way: it’s as glossy and captivating as anything you’d find at a grocery store or high-end boutique.

Creating captivating cannabis packaging is distinctly challenging, however. Because cannabis-related products are brand new to many buyers, they may not feel comfortable toting around packages emblazoned with pot leaves or traditional “stoner” imagery. So you’re faced with the difficulty of creating packaging that attractively and accurately represents your products but doesn’t scream “cannabis.”

The good news is, it can be done, and here are a few of the best examples we’ve ever seen of gorgeous, low-key packaging:
  • With their marble-effect packaging, sans-serif font and gold-foil printing, Narvona products look high-end and elegant.
  • On the other hand, Zoma uses foil and embossing to look upscale but decidedly trippy.
  • Kiva’s edibles packaging is beautifully minimalistic and would look right at home on the shelf at Whole Foods.

We’re happy to provide advice on the graphic elements that go into creating distinctive packaging or effective labeling—we specialize in both! And if you’re looking to have your products available for bricks-and-mortar retail, we can also help you choose cost-effective and durable options that will hold up and stand out on a shelf.

If you’re uncertain about any of this, you’re not alone! Contact us to learn how we’ve helped other businesses and brands in this industry thrive.