Compliant Cannabis Advertising and Marketing – What You Need to KnowIn the cannabis industry, regulations don’t apply just to facility operations, they also apply to the way operators market and advertise their business. Since we all know sound marketing and advertising plans are keys to increasing customer awareness and gaining market share, it’s crucial for an operator to understand the regulations and implement compliant and effective cannabis marketing and advertising strategies. In an effort to learn more about the current state of compliant cannabis marketing, we’ll explore cannabis advertising laws and review best practices and automated solutions that can minimize risk and firmly place your cannabis business on the road to success.
What is Compliant Cannabis Marketing?As you likely know, each legal cannabis market has its own set of rules and regulations to which cannabis licensees must adhere. These regulations run the gamut from ID checking, security cameras, and emergency protocols to packaging, labeling, marketing and advertising of cannabis businesses and products. Why so many regulations? Simply put, regulations exist to protect people’s health and safety. Just like tobacco and alcohol, because cannabis use is restricted by age in adult-use markets, regulatory bodies develop and enforce marketing and advertising rules to reduce exposure of pro-cannabis messages to children. Like all cannabis regulations, compliant cannabis marketing requirements vary from state to state. As an example, in Colorado, TV advertising is permitted with the clause that the advertiser must provide “reliable evidence that no more than 30 percent of the audience for the program on which the Advertising is to air is reasonably expected to be under the age of 21.” In Massachusetts, adult use cannabis operators are prohibited from producing, “Any Advertising, solely for the promotion of Marijuana or Marijuana Products on Marijuana Establishment Branded Goods, including but not limited to clothing, cups, drink holders, apparel accessories, electronic equipment or accessories, sporting equipment, novelty items and similar portable promotional items.” In general, the following are cannabis advertising laws and guidelines that most states have adopted:
- No suggestion of health or medical benefits
- No elements that could appeal to children (cartoon characters, etc.)
- No false or misleading statements, including those made about competitors’ products
- No testimonials or endorsements
- No product consumption
- No pricing, potency statements, or promotional offers
- Ads for infused products must state, “For Adult Use Only”
Marketing Cannabis OnlineToday, digital marketing is the name of the game. The internet is a channel that’s accessible by all consumers and governed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which creates a hazy area for big-time online advertising hubs like Facebook, Google, and others. Currently, Facebook prohibits any cannabis marketing that shows the use, or sale of ‘prescription, recreational or illegal drugs’ regardless of state legalities. Although, they do now allow verified cannabis businesses to appear in the search function of the platform. To show their seriousness over the matter, these guidelines even apply to CBD brands that are technically federally legal via the 2018 Farm Bill. Similarly, Google explicitly prohibits any ads for “substances that alter mental state”. With limitations such as these, what’s a cannabis company owner or operator to do? As the cannabis industry grows more mainstream, the number of online media outlets willing to accept cannabis digital advertising is increasing. Programmatic advertising technology including demand-side platforms (DSPs) now have cannabis-specific platforms like SafeReach to distribute cannabis ads digitally while staying in compliance with applicable rules and regulations. This technology allows cannabis ads to be specifically campaigned within local and state borders, allowing for targeted and more effective cannabis marketing online than ever before. So, now that you have a good grasp on the current state of compliant cannabis marketing, let’s explore the best practices for producing effective cannabis marketing plans.
Marketing in the Cannabis Industry – Best PracticesTo successfully navigate the maze that is compliant cannabis marketing, here are a few expert tips and industry best practices to follow.
- Use standard operating procedures (SOPs) – Use SOPs to improve marketing and advertising efficiency and effectiveness. Provide your employees with a guide for how to draft, produce, edit and confirm marketing and advertising materials and campaigns, clearly defining boundaries and expectations.
- Provide proper employee training – Train your marketing and advertising departments. Quiz employees to test knowledge and ensure each member of the team understands SOPs and specific compliance regulations. Provide metrics for areas of improvement in education and training.
- Stay on top of regulatory updates – State regulations evolve, including those for compliant cannabis marketing. Implement a system to provide alerts or updates when regulations change. Stop wasting time and money and reduce risk by pulling campaigns that are no longer compliant.