Cannabis is currently legalized at a state level but not a federal one, which means much of the regulations come from individual states that have chosen to legalize cannabis. That being said, if you are trying to market your products on national platforms such as Facebook or Google AdWords, you might run into a few roadblocks. With cannabis legal in only half of the United States, cannabis business owners have to wonder, “how can I navigate advertising in the cannabis industry?”
There are organizations like the National Association of Cannabis Businesses (NACB), a self-regulating cannabis organization, who are advocating for standardized advertising rules across the country within the states. For example, a current standard within the realm of medical marijuana is that unsupported health claims may not be made and a direct statement must inform consumers that a product can only be used by authorized patients. The current rules in place are similar to those of other highly regulated industries such as those of alcohol and tobacco. In most states, you cannot market cannabis to those under 21 years of age and in all where cannabis is legalized, you cannot display excessive consumption of the product n advertisements.
The NACB’s chief legal officer and head of national standards of development, Doug Fischer has said, “As cannabis’s legitimacy increases, it becomes increasingly more important for the industry to be appropriate in the types of claims it’s making,” Fischer went on to say, “the increasing government interest certainly makes it more important to be very conscious of how the industry presents itself.”
Following the example of alcohol and tobacco regulations, under NACB regulations, advertisers cannot use cartoons, toys, celebrities, or mascots in marketing tactics to target underage consumers. Digital, TV, radio, and print ads cannot be placed where no more than 15% of the audience is under 21. Similarly, cannabis websites must use an age-screening technique in which users must input their birth date to prove they are over the age of 21 to view the website. As individual states have the right to regulate cannabis as they see fit, one must stay within the guidelines of their individual state. Nevertheless, following a national standard is a strong start to your adventure in cannabis advertising, as it provides a broad sense of understanding to what you can and cannot do when advertising in the industry.
What is Standing in the Way of Advertising on a National Level?
If you are planning to do your digital advertising through Google’s advertising platform, you might receive error notifications such as “no ideas were returned for your query” or “content that can’t be advertised at all.” An advertiser can receive such messages when working with display networks, shopping sites, YouTube advertisements, or retargeting advertisements.
Big name social media platforms work well for many local and small business brands. However, these platforms, such as Facebook or Instagram are highly regulated through their prohibited content and drug-related policies.
What can you do to Help your Cannabis Brand Flourish?
The Digital Elevator advises marketers to avoid using images of smoking paraphernalia like bongs or rolling papers, images of medicinal or recreational marijuana, as well as images of depicted use of recreational drugs. When it comes to SEO, The Digital Elevator suggests thinking outside typical SEO tactics such as landing page buildout, Google Business Optimization, citation campaigns, review campaign, or link building.
The key to growing your cannabis brand is geofencing your advertisements because it provides the ability to hyperfocus your brand to consumers in areas where cannabis is legal. A trend in the industry many digital marketers do when trying to help clients raise their SEO ranking is listing the company as an “alternative medicine practitioner” in an attempt to not get flagged by search engines like Google. If an add is geofenced, there is no need to worry about an ad reaching a consumer in a state where cannabis is not legalized.
In addition to SEO and geofencing, cannabis brands can grow through influencer marketing. Garnering an agreement with an influential personality or brand within the industry to represent your products can expand your brand awareness exponentially.
Complying with the advertising regulations of your state can be a daunting task. That is why cannabis-focused digital marketing agencies such as Nug Digital Marketing exist. Aside from geofencing, the services we offer include SEO, pay-per-click, brand creation, content creation, social media, and web development. When you work with us, you can expect individualized attention, professionalism, and consistent results.