Remember when marijuana ads showed up in your social media feeds? That was so 2016. Today the major platforms—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter—impose strict rules around cannabis advertising, legal CBD products included. Even ancillary companies that don’t sell the plant face stiff restrictions. So what’s a cannabis company to do? Get creative. Here are real-world examples of killer marketing placements that work.
1. Find an Ad Network That’s Weed-Friendly
Far from conducting “digital raids” like Facebook and Google have, there are a few advertising networks that actually want your cannabis company display ads. Veritad.com has burst on the scene with an online control panel that’s easy to use, and it will get your ads to the audience you specify. While your ads may not run on big mainstream sites yet, that should change soon and broaden the opportunity immensely. Another cannabis-friendly ad network called Mantis lets you target your campaign by state, region, or zip code.
2. Buy a Billboard
With a good location and some creative juice, billboard advertising can be a bold and visible home run. And there are plenty of advertising agencies and media companies that can help you achieve this. Placing your brand high above the trees and chimney tops can run you from $2K per month in Spokane to $100K per month over Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. But before letting your imagination run wild, be warned: Even in legal cannabis states like California, there are strict limitations on what you can show.
3. Get Media Coverage
Marketing can be costly, and startups of all kinds may have to choose between advertising and PR. Which is best? Even as a former ad guy, I’d go with PR every time. An article about your company on a news or industry site is much more valuable than an ad in terms of building credibility and gaining search engine optimization. If you hire a PR firm, look for one that focuses on cannabis. You can also save money and do the heavy lifting yourself by reaching out to media outlets with story ideas. How do you think this story happened?
4. Create Walking Logos
During the first Trump and Kim Jong Un summit in Singapore, Dennis Rodman wore a Potcoin T-shirt in every interview he did. If you don’t remember a thing he said, you probably do remember that shirt. Message to cannabis brands: Steal this idea. Real-life humans sporting your brand colors can be effective. Just beware of swag rule #1: Put your graphics on only the best-quality merch—that means buying half the number and twice the quality.
5. Sponsor Something or Somebody
A conference. A film festival. A team. An athlete. Let everyone see your name in really big letters as the brand that makes things happen. Becoming a sponsor at a trade show like the Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo (CWCBE) or MJBizCon is easy and effective. Hooking up with celebs and sports stars is also a great way to get your message out there. Black Rock sponsors skier Tanner Hall and HempMeds sponsors MMA fighter Liz Carmouche.
6. Advertise on a Vending Machine
It’s real! Grasshopper Kiosks and Green Box make digital vending machines for dispensaries that carry anything from pre-rolls to beverages. You can place your company in their hi-res video touchscreens, or even wrap the entire machine in branding. Now imagine all the other sponsor-friendly things inside dispensaries.
7. Throw a Party
At last year’s MJBizCon in Las Vegas, Treez, a cannabis software company, threw an epic after-party at the Palms Casino. It was a hefty investment and a big gamble—off the Strip and competing with big brands that threw buckets of ducats at Champagne events. But guess what? The Treez epic after-party raged until the wee hours with no drama, great food, and amazing DJs. Other savvy brands sponsored the gig and showed off their graphics and goodies to thousands of very happy cannabis customers.
8. Vlog and Blog Your Branded Brains Out
A well-crafted blog lets you share your passion and intelligence within a branded environment you completely control. Plus, search engines key in on your words, not pictures. So write thought-leader articles with tons of takeaway advice. And augment that with video. For efficient impact, a well-crafted five-second spot can’t be beat. Where does that live now that Vine is dead? Answer: Everywhere there’s a screen. Any creative person with an iPhone-or-better can make a five-second commercial and save it as a .gif or an mp4. (Follow your local advertising rules about content.) When edited to its minimalist best, this little gem can be shared via text, Vimeo, or Giphy, and posted on your website, on a digital ad network, and, of course, on your (ever more popular) blog.
9. Go Rogue!
If you have a great product, it’s your duty to let people know. Get out and hustle. Hand out flyers/stickers/T-shirts at MJBizCon or CWCBE or any of the 40-something cannabis trade shows. Write your tagline on the sidewalk in chalk. Sure, security might chase you away, but who cares—wear your running shoes.