Facebook, Instagram and Google have banned marijuana marketing. What alternatives do you find the most effective to promote marijuana brands and products?
The easiest example is our home town of Los Angeles where marijuana marketing is the norm. Even though there are restrictions on social media, brands do a great job of putting their marketing in people’s everyday lives through OOH and on-the-ground activations. There are a lot of fun examples of brands going back to traditional advertising channels in order to reach new consumers who would never even think to seek it out otherwise, like MedMen’s focus on consumer profiles and Lord Jones’ partnership with The Standard Hotel in downtown LA.
Another angle is making the marijuana brands extremely accessible for consumers, with delivery services like Eaze, and compelling retail concepts positioned as wellness experiences, like Dosist.
How do regulations affect the execution of marketing campaigns and what are the solutions?
One of Sid Lee’s clients is Phivida, who recently launched a new line of CBD-infused flavored waters and iced teas called Oki. For this launch, we specifically name Active Hemp Extract due to the current regulations around the use of the term CBD.
Generally speaking, marketing unfortunately loses the ability to really explain this complicated drug in a specific manner due to the substantial regulations on what can and cannot be said. The solve is to speak more to the overall benefits for consumers instead of getting into the nitty gritty of the physiological effects. For example, with the launch of Oki, each flavor of drink was focused on a specific consumer need state.
What are some similarities and differences you see between alcohol & tobacco industries and marijuana?
Similar to the alcohol industry, the key moves for cannabis brands have all been around branding, design, packaging and owned media experiences: in sum, redefining the cannabis experience to be more like a top-shelf liquor and less like a beer. There are also similarities in terms of media regulations and what can be–and need to be–said in regards to the effects. The difference being the marijuana industry has a connection to the wellness category that alcohol & tobacco companies cannot claim. In addition, marijuana has a larger opportunity with the ability to extend its products into almost every consumer packaged good.
What are your thoughts on involving celebrities into the cannabis campaigns?
Using celebrities is a way to bring it out of sub-culture and into pop culture, but as with any creative campaign, talent used should make sense for the work and you shouldn’t use a celebrity for celebrity sake.
Have you seen the cannabis marketing evolving since legalization first began in the US?
There has definitely been a shift in the target audience more than anything else. Most marketing efforts we’ve seen are attempting to make cannabis normal for every type of person. Changing the association from “stoners” and “lazy” to more positive, premium, and spanning all demographics, legal ages, and physical needs.
As this association and mindset has shifted, so has the messaging. With the taboo associated with marijuana removed, messaging has evolved to highlight the benefits of cannabis for one’s overall health & wellbeing.