We’re less than two months away from the official legalization of recreational cannabis, but the land rush has already begun. All across Canada, hundreds of startups and currently operating medical suppliers are preparing for or retooling to enter the lucrative recreational market. Come October, each of these businesses will be battling for market dominance. If legal markets in the US are any indicator, a few of the biggest businesses will acquire or squeeze out competition over time, creating a consolidated market of industry giants capable of dominating newcomers on price, selection, and quality. To set yourself apart from the competition, you need an exceptional marketing strategy. Unfortunately, the big players in digital marketing don’t make that easy.
Cannabis is illegal on a federal level in the United States. While it will be legal on a federal level in Canada, provinces have the ultimate say in regulating its sale. This makes cannabis marketing pretty challenging. Your biggest marketing options, Google and Facebook, ban all cannabis advertisement automatically. As US corporations, they have to comply with US federal law. Even if they were based elsewhere, the US remains the largest market in the world for their services. Even advertising cannabis products euphemistically is a challenge.
What are the best options for advertising your cannabis product online? One method is through popular blogs, dispensary directories, and other industry sites. Many of these sites, like Leafly, offer ad placements for cannabis companies, ranging from a simple free profile to a variety of banner ads and sponsored content placements. Others may allow you to write guest posts or promoted content for a fee, or in exchange for some cross promotion.
Don’t forget the value of social media, either. While you may not be able to advertise, you can connect with your customers, hopefully fostering relationships that will encourage them to evangelize your brand. Just be aware of each platform’s rules and guidelines. Violating them risks having your page or profile shut down without notice!
The keys to marketing cannabis online, at least until cannabis products go mainstream, is to work within existing cannabis news and marketing channels, and build grassroots support for your brand on social media. These marketing strategies may be more difficult to implement than simply running a digital ad campaign, but proper execution can reap serious rewards.