With the emerging cannabis industry extending its reach across the country, many marketers are venturing into this new frontier with questions about how to best make an impact. In a field this new, which saw revenues of nearly $7 billion in 2016, there are no established rules to guide you (although there are laws -- but we'll get to that in a moment).
HOW can you market your cannabis products for success? Here are a few strategies that will expand your appeal and position you as a successful pioneer in this yet-uncharted territory.
1. Think "sophisticated" rather than "stoner"
The days of the stoner stereotype are behind us, so leave the smiley faces, 420, and Rasta flags out. Today, cannabis brands are seeking to widen their appeal to a broad range of consumers, not just giggling hippies.
Take Leafs by Snoop, the cannabis line that is owned and promoted by rapper Snoop Dogg. Leafs has a clean, classy appeal that looks like it could be sold at any luxury boutique or spa; it would fit in a gift basket alongside fine soaps, candies, or perfumes.
Think of it this way: you want your cannabis brand to have an aesthetic that would look right on a shelf at Whole Foods rather than behind the counter at the 7-Eleven.
2. Elevate the language
Part of escaping the old stoner trope involves lending cannabis a more refined lexicon. That's why we're calling it the "cannabis" industry rather than the "pot" or, even, the "marijuana" industry.
Use language that pushes your products into a more refined space. "Buds" become "flowers." "Hits" are now "doses." And so forth.
Forget the slang, and speak to a higher conversation.
3. Hit on the health factors
The modern consumer is more concerned with health than ever. She eats organic, practices yoga, and has quit smoking. He traded coffee for tea, grows his own food, and uses a fitness app to track his workouts.
Bring this thinking to cannabis. Not only does it fit naturally into this lifestyle, but we're learning more and more about the health benefits of cannabis all the time.
Leverage this, and let people know that your cannabis product is an integral part of any health routine.
4. Join the conversation and the community
Cannabis is more than a product -- it's a movement. Whether we're talking about medicinal applications, legal issues, or simply the enjoyment value, remember that there is a larger culture around your product.
Your brand needs to be a driving force in that culture. That means joining the conversation and getting involved. Create a blog that provides the latest industry news. Participate in industry events and expos. Support relevant causes.
Make your company synonymous with the cannabis community.
5. Know the law, and follow it
Different states and localities have widely varying laws pertaining to cannabis marketing. Educate yourself and stick to the rules lest you end up facing penalties that can span fines to losing your business license, or worse.
For example, be careful when it comes to making cartoons or videos. Any marketing that could be construed as being directed at minors could land you in hot water.
So study up, and stick to the rules.
When it comes to the cannabis industry, there is no beaten path, which means it is a space that is rife with opportunity for innovation. Not only that, but cannabis consumers tend to be somewhat more open-minded, creatively inspired folks.
Have fun. Don't think you have to do what everyone else is doing. Take risks. Experiment and make mistakes.
In the end, it's important to remember that you're on the forefront of an entirely new industry, and that you're positioned to set trends rather than follow them.
So think different. Think new. Think forward.
After all, isn't that kind of what cannabis is all about in the first place?