As an industry becomes legitimate – and legal – education and storytelling is critical.
There has been buzz and anticipation about the growth of the legalized cannabis industry in the U.S. — when will it take off?
We predict 2022 as the year of the cannabis launch, and there are some leading indicators to help back that up. For example,
- There are only four states in the U.S. where cannabis (including CBD products) is fully illegal.
- The industry has only begun to gain a foothold in the South, which industry leaders expect to be the most profitable region of the country.
- A recent BDSA report projects the legal U.S. cannabis market to nearly triple by 2026 to $41 billion in revenue, roughly the size of the craft beer market.
Marketers, Get Ready
In any industry that starts to emerge and races to mature, marketing is incredibly important. And in cannabis’ case, there is a tremendous need for education: cue the importance of content marketing. At every stage of the supply chain — from growers and distributors to medical use and retailers — there is a need for the kind of differentiation, education and storytelling that form the backbone of content marketing.
In just the last six months, we have attended major cannabis conferences, including in-person surveys with dozens of attendees at the CBCWExpo, in NYC. We’ve also interviewed numerous marketing executives in different parts of the industry. Our report, “Ready to Launch: The State of Content Marketing in the U.S. Cannabis Industry,” is available to download at the link below.
Here are a few observations from our time at the events:
1. Unpredictable B2C advertising regulations
The cannabis marketing landscape is ever shifting. Just as the federal government and various states are at odds over legalization, so are the rules around marketing and advertising cannabis products. They can change at a moment’s notice and aren’t always clear. For example, let’s compare New York and Missouri:
- In NYC, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), which operates subways, buses and commuter rails into Long Island and Westchester, New York, and into Connecticut, banned advertisements for “cannabis or cannabis-related products.” But they didn’t stipulate exactly what constitutes “cannabis-related.”
- In Missouri, the state’s medical cannabis regulators announced plans for easing restrictions around advertising medical marijuana sales if promotional material included language directing viewers to consult a physician, according to the draft regulations.
As companies refocus and expand their messaging toward their core audiences, marketers are paying close attention to channels that become available — such as when YouTube eased restrictions around cannabis products last year. Cannabis companies are focused on being nimble and are ready to launch new marketing initiatives as conditions become favorable.
2. B2B needing to speak in code
Due to hypersensitivity to language in official comms, many B2B companies along the supply chain — even those who aren’t touching hemp or flower — are opting to use coded language. For example, farmers are “growers,” and “crop” and “flower” refer to the cannabis plant.
While these terms are technically accurate for compliance purposes, the B2B side of the industry is generally not comfortable speaking openly about cannabis and cannabis-derived products. The obvious reason: fear of being sanctioned by regulators or being kicked off advertising platforms. So, advertisers are using terms that resonate with their audiences while avoiding phrasing that promotes cannabis too explicitly. This coded language signals just how close we are to being able to use all the marketing tools at our disposal.
3. A strong focus on in-store design
Many of the booths and displays at the conferences echoed the sleek, futuristic designs of their retail stores. Dispensary owners are consciously focused on two things: the retail design representing the brand and the amount of educational elements built into the experience.
4. Data is incredibly important
Data is being increasingly leveraged at every stage of the supply chain. On the B2C side, businesses are gaining insights into consumer wants and needs, competitive pricing and seasonal trends. And B2B companies are taking advantage of this growing data for everything from demand planning to analyzing the competitive landscape.
Need for Education: Critical in 2022
The highly regulated cannabis industry poses myriad challenges for growers, owners and multi-state operators to overcome. One hurdle is a lack of consumer education around cannabis, one that will grow as more states ease restrictions for brands to enter the marketplace. And the advertising restrictions placed on cannabis companies make it difficult to promote brands, products and services to new consumers on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube — making education (versus advertising) even more important.
Are you a content marketer in the cannabis industry? You’ll want to read our free report (link below) and then let’s discuss. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we can talk about where the industry is heading and how content can help focus and grow your business.