Finding a way to effectively market and advertise is imperative to the success of any and all businesses, especially new businesses. But with cannabis still being illegal at the federal level, many cannabis startups are having trouble finding a way to navigate the mess of restrictions involved with advertising that state laws have placed upon new business owners. Building national awareness seems impossible when you look at all of the state and federal limitations placed on cannabis businesses. So you probably find yourself questioning what you can do for your cannabis business to build the audience of cannabis consumers you are hoping to attract.
It’s true that our industry is very limited in the marketing tactics it can utilize, but there are still several tried-and-true tactics that your business can implement legally without fear of prosecution to increase the public’s awareness of your brand. We’ll get into all of that soon, but the first thing we absolutely must cover is the general do’s and don’ts involved when designing and implementing a new cannabis marketing strategy.
Don’t ignore copyright laws, regardless of the industry.
Companies that are established and mainstream will not tolerate their brands or trademarks being mimicked by people in the cannabis industry. We already saw TinctureBelle settle a lawsuit with corporate giant Hershey’s who sued for trademark infringement after their edible packaging was designed to mimic popular candies like Reese’s cups and Mr.Goodbars. Big brands have the money to go after smaller, newly established cannabis companies. A lot of these corporate companies want to keep themselves distant from the cannabis industry (most likely because of the Schedule I status of cannabis) and will stop at nothing to keep themselves dissociated. Your branding should be original, anyway!
Do think about how you want the public to perceive your brand.
Your company should be more oriented towards squashing the negative stigmas that surround the cannabis industry after years of propaganda and prohibition. You should be sure to keep fair business practices in your labor and avoid any derogatory or sexist messaging. Maintaining this practice will go a long way in building a successful brand in the cannabis industry. These efforts will allow you to attract a broader audience with a diverse demographic because they will feel more comfortable supporting you based on your message over a business that acts as a legal drug dealer. Brands that perpetuate stereotypes and makes little to no attempt to improve the negative perception of marijuana are destined to fall short of those who are respectable and received well by people from all walks of life.
Don’t market your business anywhere near minors.
You need to be smart about where you take your branding tactics. You need to choose your mediums and locations by keeping age restrictions in mind. The industry is growing fast, but we are still technically in the early stages which means that so many people still question the impact of cannabis legalization on minors. While it’s true that teen and adolescent use is on the decline after legalization in Colorado, many parents are still concerned about exposing their children to it in any way.
Cannabis businesses need to do their part to assuage the fears and make more appropriate and respectable marketing a higher priority. Using cartoon characters in cannabis images can get your pages banned from social media. Animated mascots, like Joe Camel, for example, appeal to children and can hurt your business. Images that include children circulate on social media as well, so be sure not to use them either if you want to reach a demographic that respects your business as a business and not a middleman in the black market drug industry. Using images that appeal to minors, are marketed where minors can see it, or include minors should never be used because they hurt not only your business and public perception but the whole cannabis industry as well.
Remember, just because businesses in the cannabis industry have trouble marketing themselves through the standard, mainstream channels doesn’t mean you should roll over and give up.
Image Source: The Blue Diamond Gallery (RM Media Ltd)
Be sure to check back next week when we roll out part 2 of our cannabis marketing series where we will show you the best conventional ways to advertise your cannabis business.