Medical Marijuana Strategies to Promote Medical Cannabis Online
If you’re here to learn how to promote medical marijuana and the medical extracts that your cannabis company produces, you’re in the right place.
We have 4 of the best medical marijuana marketing strategies proven to increase awareness by some of today’s leading medical marijuana producers and cannabis brands.
As you likely know, medical marijuana has been legal in Canada since 2001. Canada is also the first industrialized nation in the world to have passed this historic legislation.
Over 30 countries on the planet have legalized medical marijuana in some shape or form. This makes it is absolutely legal for adults to purchase and consume medical marijuana in these locations.
But, as you also likely know, it’s extremely challenging (read: frustrating!) to market and promote medical marijuana and implement any type of marijuana marketing strategies for your legal cannabis brand or dispensary.
This article will answer your questions on how to promote medical marijuana by breaking it down like this:
- The Need to Educate the Benefits of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries to Patients
- What Health Canada Says Medical Marijuana Producers Can’t Promote
- 4 Ways You Can Promote Your Medical Marijuana Products
Why You Need To Promote Your Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
Medical marijuana dispensaries generally provide a safe and health-focused environment in which patients can obtain legal, medical grade marijuana. In fact, some dispensaries are designed to be as slick, if not slicker than the design of the iconic Apple Stores.
Many patients who need medicinal cannabis to manage various health issues have reported that sourcing and obtaining medical cannabis, outside of legal dispensaries, can be difficult, disappointing and at times even a scary experience.
When it comes to promoting and marketing your medical marijuana dispensary it becomes a challenge to educate patients about the medical marijuana buying experience. The customer experience when it comes to buying weed has generally been relegated to negative surroundings.
It’s much easier to develop a healthy relationship with cannabis and dispensaries when the customer experience is built on a foundation of trust, education, and accountability.
One of the primary goals of any well-regulated medical marijuana program is to ensure that patients can access marijuana safely and legally. Once this goal is achieved, it’s easier for patients and providers to promote responsible behavior.
One of the best ways to promote medical marijuana online is through content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO). We’ll discuss medical marijuana SEO and dispensary SEO as a medical marijuana marketing strategy in the section below.
Health Canada’s Restrictions on Medical Marijuana Marketing
If you’re already an ACMPR licensed producer (LP), you’ll know that Health Canada has strict advertising rules for cannabis companies, including medical marijuana producers.
According to the Cannabis Act, “it is prohibited to promote cannabis or a cannabis accessory or any service related to cannabis, including any of the following:
- by communicating information about its price or distribution
- by doing so in a manner that there are reasonable grounds to believe could be appealing to young persons
- by means of a testimonial or endorsement, however, displayed or communicated
- by means of the depiction of a person, character or animal, whether real or fictional
- by presenting it or any of its brand elements in a manner that associates it or the brand element with, or evokes a positive or negative emotion about or image of, a way of life such as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring. [Subsection 17(1)]”
This makes promoting medical marijuana difficult right? Well, yes and no, really. When it comes to creative marketing strategies to promote medical cannabis brands, we’ve seen many LP’s use sponsorships of lifestyle events to promote their marijuana brand and upcoming products.
For example, by hosting concerts and gallery shows and showcasing early iterations of future cannabis products – but ensuring those products don’t actually contain cannabis, for now, companies are able to sidestep the current advertising restrictions.
We discuss this further in the branding section below.
How To Promote Medical Marijuana Online: 4 Strategic Tips
The following 4 medical marijuana marketing strategies are proven successful digital marketing tactics for marketing consumer products, services, B2B products, that will work well for medical marijuana companies and dispensaries.
These digital tactics will help you build personal relationships with your current and future patients. They will allow your medical marijuana dispensaries to be able to provide insight and guidance on their websites and social media platforms that patients and prospects find useful.
If implemented strategically, these marijuana marketing strategies will also allow you to build and grow highly qualified remarketing/retargeting lists, and create a digital marketing conversion funnel to help you grow your medical marijuana business.
1. Content Marketing
Content has always been king when it comes to digital marketing, so it’s no surprise that content is king for marketing medical marijuana. People need to be educated on the many benefits (and facts) of medical marijuana and content marketing is the way to achieve this goal.
The key is to produce highly relevant, user intent focused content that answers the questions and concerns that your target market is asking – or searching for.
People will always go to Google to search for something when they want information. While you might not be able to advertise medical cannabis on Google or Bing search engines, they still index and rank cannabis-related content.
You want your brand content, product content, research content, or whatever, to show up on Page 1 of a search for your targeted keywords and phrases. This way, you will drive qualified traffic to your website or promotional landing page, and increase your remarking list as well as potentially increase your online revenue.
What Type of Medical Marijuana Content Should I Create?
Remember, your main focus for any initial content marketing is to provide value and information. You’re trying to build an audience of highly qualified prospects who are interested in your medical marijuana products so the more value you provide in your content, the more trust you will build with your audience.
So when looking for content to produce, I always start with keyword research. Reason being, this data is Google telling you what your target market is searching for.
Essentially, this helps you find out exactly what questions your target market is asking and therefore gives you the data you need to strategically produce the content to answer those questions.
The following types of content work best for the top of the funnel audience you will target with your initial promotional activity. Your goal is to create and increase awareness:
- In-depth informational blog articles
This type of content can easily be cross-promoted across many digital channels including your website, social media, your email list, Google search, paid digital advertising, and more.
2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization is a key digital marketing strategy for medical marijuana companies and it ties in directly with content marketing. If you create content but neglect to optimize it for search engines (SEO), it likely will not get found and all that work (and budget) could go to waste.
SEO for medical marijuana content consists of optimizing your website’s code, metadata, images, video, blogs and other text-based content with popular, relevant keywords and phrases.
Google’s search engine “spiders” crawl all websites regularly to determine the quality and relevancy of the content in order to be able to properly index the web page and rank the website’s pages in the search results accordingly.
Without an optimized website and keyword strategy with content, code, and metadata populated with short-tail, long-tail, and semantically related phrases, your website content and traffic will remain low.
People are already searching for medical marijuana products and services, but not necessarily by using your brand name. You could be losing out on website traffic or sales because your website is not showing up on any relevant marijuana product searches.
An ongoing cannabis SEO strategy will help your website’s visibility in search engines and increase your website traffic and website conversions.
SEO ties into to content marketing because all of the content you publish on your website and/or share on social media platforms should also be optimized for both search engines and users. In this case, users first.
3. Branding For Your Medical Marijuana Brand
A good medical marijuana marketing strategy is to look at your promotions to be about the brand, not the product. Branding is usually the first step for a new business. This includes not only your logo but your brand’s style, look, feel, and general aesthetic.
Medical marijuana can be marketed using classic branding tactics like producing creative that relates to the lifestyle of your target market. This works well as long as you stay within the Health Canada restrictions discussed above.
An example of using branding to promote medical marijuana is what US manufacturer and distributor of CBD infused products, Lord Jones did with distinct, high-end brand identities to take advantage of this lifestyle-focused approach.
However, we can’t forget that that in Canada, we have our own set of regulations but marijuana companies and LPs can still be creative use proven tactics to promote medical cannabis legally.
Canadian firms selling products with cannabis/cannabinoid ingredients face the regulatory challenge that they will be forced to avoid lifestyle comparisons, decorative packaging or many creative options when marketing marijuana.
CEO of 48 North, Alison Gordon says “Essentially, what companies are doing in our space is creating parent companies. Under those parent companies are the licensed facilities regulated by Health Canada. But nothing’s stopping you from creating another company or product that doesn’t have cannabis in it – a cannabis lifestyle product or something that’s somehow related.”
A great example of this is Canadian LP MedReleaf.
MedReleaf has partnered with Toronto’s Amsterdam Brewing to create the San Rafael ’71 4:20 Pale Ale. It’s currently available in Ontario at The Beer Store, Amsterdam Brewery stores and 40 bars in the province.
The beer is marketed to the recreational market and does not contain any cannabis. This is a super great, and legal, way for MedReleaf and Amsterdam to introduce the public to the San Rafael ’71 brand while rules for advertising cannabis products are still in the grey zone being sorted out.
It’s interesting to note that the campaign or product doesn’t mention cannabis specifically, it does make it very clear that what San Rafael will also be selling once July rolls around will be infused with high-grade cannabis.
For example, out-of-home ads include lines like “4.20%” (a reference to the beer’s cheeky ABV content), “grass-fed” and – in what is also a fitting description of the campaign strategy – “here today, bong tomorrow.”
4. Social Media Marketing & Advertising
Social media is a super obvious way to market and promote medical marijuana. Advertising on social media is a whole other thing. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.
We have a case study that outlines how we were able to advertise medical cannabis to medical cannabis growers on Facebook in 2017 and 2018. Check it out and download it for free here.
For the purpose of showing you how to promote medical marijuana on social media organically, and not using paid advertising tactics we’ll showcase 3 examples of marijuana marketing on social media.
Example 1: Tokyo Smoke
Great example of using branding and social media by Tokyo Smoke. This is a chain of dispensaries owned by Cannabis LP giant Canopy Growth.
Tokyo Smoke has gone to great lengths in using a small red oval on black to identify its brand. This may be familiar as it is an aesthetic similar to what mock-ups of government-approved marijuana packing might look like.
Interesting to note is that their social media content is laden with allusions but there are no images of cannabis plants or people smoking.
Example 2: Royal Canadian Cannabis
Here’s an LP that is really using some next level technology to promote its cannabis products. They are hoping to use augmented reality (AR), where digital overlays are projected on to a smartphone screen.
The idea here is to help cannabis consumers by amplifying the nondescript government packaging with pop-up information and animations.
“On its face, it’s abiding by the regulations, but when you look at it through a smartphone, this kind of changes it. Does that still comply? It’s a very interesting space,” says lawyer Amanda Branch.
Example 3: Social Media Influencers
So we know the law says that “the use of a person, character or animal, real or fictional, in any manner that could be seen as appealing to young people is also forbidden” when it comes to promoting recreational or medical cannabis.
But even still, social media is full of recreational cannabis “influencers”. If you don’t believe me, see for yourself by searching popular cannabis-related hashtags on Instagram. Try #cannabiscommunity, #marijuanacommunity #cannabismovement, #cannabusiness, and many, many others.
While many influencers are just everyday people who support medical or recreational cannabis but have hundreds of thousands of engaged followers, recently, cannabis companies have been signing up celebrity investors to sing their praises, but limiting their endorsement to the stock, not a cannabis product or brand.
Licensed producer Invictus MD, based in Vancouver, brought on KISS co-founder Gene Simmons as “chief evangelist officer” and investor. This is what Simmons had to say about his investment:
“I have $10-million in stock in the company, bullish is the only way to talk about it, because it’s one of the few words that I can use that is legal… I’m trying to be careful about what is acceptable language.”
Other cannabis producers like Hamilton-based Beleave Inc., have started to work with celebrities that will be more closely associated with their target consumers lifestyle.
Beleave Inc. signed a brand licensing agreement with filmmaker Kevin Smith and actor Jason Mewes, better known as their on-screen stoner characters Jay and Silent Bob in films from the mid-90s and early 2000s,
They are not alone, as you may already know Canopy Growth Corp. has a partnership with 420 friendly rapper Snoop Dogg.
Medical Marijuana Marketing and Promotion Is Possible!
So there you have it. 4 solid examples of how many cannabis companies are choosing to market and promote medical marijuana and recreational cannabis. What is your plan to promote your medical marijuana products and services?
ColaDigital is Canada’s most experienced digital marketing agency dedicated to marketing recreational marijuana and medical cannabis. We partner with marijuana companies who share our vision of destigmatizing cannabis and breaking new ground in this dynamic industry.
Our team has been involved in the social and digital marketing space since 2004, we believe our experience speaks for itself. We’ve served over 100 clients in a wide variety of B2B and B2C sectors, including companies in the medical cannabis space. We know what works and what doesn’t.
If you have questions or are ready to work with us, please contact us today.
We’re ready to help you grow!