Building a Cannabis Brand: A Creative Director’s Perspective
Posted on January 18th, 2022 to Branding
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Traditional marketing & digital marketing opportunities for cannabis brands are limited compared to other industries. As a result, developing a strategy that works for your dispensary requires a thorough understanding of the marketing restrictions and the best practices for working within them.
Digital marketing for cannabis brands can be difficult, and a major part of the challenge is figuring out how to stay compliant with the regulations regarding how your business is marketed and to whom. To complicate matters further, you have two sides of the coin when it comes to compliance in advertising and marketing: national and local.
Non-compliance fines are not an easy pill to swallow, especially when you are just getting started. For example, in 2021, one CBD company was ordered to pay over $30,000 to the Federal Trade Commission for advertising using deceptive information about their products. In a worst-case scenario, fines can be so steep that you can’t afford to keep your dispensary doors open. So make sure you know what is and isn’t allowed at a federal level.
Get to know what applies at a state level as well. Look at state regulations. For example, Maine says no to marketing materials that appeal to people under 21, and there are similar laws in most states. Anything with cartoon characters, certain language, or products backed by certain personalities could potentially lead to problems. In Illinois, it’s illegal to portray people using cannabis in advertising materials, which can apply to digital and physical ads. Therefore, a website showing someone using cannabis could automatically be against the rules.
Who are you up against? Look around. Find out who your target audience may already know. Look at how they market their dispensary and then determine how you can do things better. Consider things like:
A good competitive analysis should also include checking into how your competitors are performing when it comes to search engine results pages (SERPs). Search keywords people would likely use to find your dispensary and see who tops the list. In areas where dispensaries are more locally concentrated, your marketing strategy could very well be what sets you apart and brings prospects to you over another place.
What makes you, you? Is there a special story behind your name? Are you using any cultural considerations or historical context? Is there a core product or service your dispensary will be offering? Have you developed any taglines or slogans?
We all know first impressions are huge, right? Well, your logo is likely to be your brands’ first interaction with people! So what will their initial perception be? Here are a few considerations…
…and so much more. Remember that your brand’s personality, mission, and everything in between should all be reflected in your logo. Without a proper logo, building digital assets for your dispensary will be incredibly difficult as your dispensary grows.
Every dispensary brand can appeal to a different set of customers. Some places are focused on health and wellness, some are focused on recreational cannabis use, and some are a mix of both. For example, if your dispensary focuses on craft, small-batch cannabis, your marketing plan should be centered around the people who would most likely be looking for craft cannabis products.
To take things a step further with the above example, maybe you are a craft cannabis dispensary that specializes in locally grown products. This would most likely appeal to cannabis buyers in a specific geographic location. The more defined your customer persona is, the more efficient your marketing plan can be.
Your marketing strategy should be influenced by the location of your dispensary. For example, dispensaries nearing states where cannabis is not legalized would be wise to develop a strategy to convert those people into consumers & fans.
A good website for your dispensary will be centered around making your business visible for the people that matter most, but also offering value to those people. Therefore, the website becomes a central hub of sorts that stands as the digital representation of your brick-and-mortar dispensary. This is where prospects will go to find out who you are, what you have, where they can find you, and why they should visit.
The functionality of your site is undoubtedly the most important piece of a successful dispensary website. Here are a few of the most important aspects needed to market your dispensary:
You may also like: Top 5 Dispensary Websites of 2022
If you expect to make it in a world that relies on digital information, a well-designed dispensary website is a must. Here are a few things to consider for a professionally designed dispensary website:
Google My Business is one of the most important factors when showing up in search results for queries based on location (for example: “dispensary near me” or “dispensary [town, state]). There are many ways to optimize your GMB to help show up more often. Here are a few things that can help.
SEO (search engine optimization) involves taking steps to make sure your dispensary is visible in search results. Dispensaries should focus on two main areas:
Local SEO is making sure your website is optimized so that people searching for dispensaries in certain geographic areas see you listed on SERPs, preferably at the top of the list. Local SEO involves combining highly searched keywords with geographic or location tags and making sure that content is woven into the fabric of your website, as well as bridging the gap between your website and GMB.
National SEO puts an emphasis on brand recognition, awareness & credibility; focusing on being an authoritative source across the web. What is your target consumer interested in? What are they curious about? With a strong understanding of your customer persona, you can build content to tailor to their specific interests and needs. While your MA dispensary won’t profit from a CA searcher learning about “strains like Blue Dream,” the brand recognition builds national credibility for your dispensary.
Email marketing has proven to be one of the most effective marketing tools for dispensaries to take advantage of. Why? Email gives dispensaries more control over their marketing messages in an industry filled with advertising regulations. Without direct oversight and restriction, dispensaries can say what they mean, reach more people, and ultimately win more customers.
Quick Links to get you started:
Even though cannabis is set to become one of the biggest consumer products of all time, not every social media platform has embraced cannabis as a consumer product. Nevertheless, you can still use social media as part of your overall dispensary marketing plan. You just have to stay in the weeds—you can’t sell anything directly. Paid ads usually won’t fly on the biggest platforms, yet.
Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have specific policies against cannabis advertising. But, organic posts, pages for your dispensary, and other aspects can slide through. A good rule of thumb is to focus on the “business not the bud” in anything posted. Check out the Facebook profile for Canna Provisions as a good example of business-related posts without a major focus on cannabis.
Leafly and Weedmaps are two platforms that allow cannabis businesses to pay to advertise on their websites and applications. The cost-effectiveness of these platforms varies greatly depending on your location, target market, and overall marketing strategy.
Since most traditional and digital advertising opportunities are limited for cannabis brands, billboards have become commonplace throughout legal cannabis states and states bordering them. Billboards are difficult to determine ROI because there is no traceable data. However, there is no denying that they can have a great impact if placed in a prime location with thought-out design and messaging.
Partnering with nearby businesses is a great way to get in front of your local demographic without paying for exposure. How does it work? Businesses with similar missions, interests, and clientele collaborate to place marketing materials in such a way that both businesses benefit.
A few examples:
Building a comprehensive dispensary marketing plan involves a lot of parts, especially if you want to see the best results. If you need a little help with website design and marketing services, feel free to reach out to our experts at CannaPlanners to find out how we can walk you through.
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