Capturing Consumers Attention In The Cannabis Industry

Creating breakout marketing campaigns to capture consumers attention


Creating successful marketing campaigns in the cannabis industry is currently far more difficult than it ought to be. 

With platforms like Facebook and Instagram banning legal cannabis companies from placing ads on their platform, and even arbitrarily deleting many cannabis companies’ accounts, there are very few options available to drive brand awareness online.

(📸 / The notification every cannabis company fears receiving from Instagram)

Not being able to place ads on platforms that are used by hundreds of millions of adults is undoubtedly a huge setback for the industry.

“Millions of Canadians congregate for hours on Facebook and Instagram each day and use Google to make purchase decisions. Why can’t our industry play an appropriate role within such a huge swathe of our consumers’ online lives?” - John McEachern Director of Marketing @ Aphria.

To make matters worse, our policymakers here in Canada have taken it upon themselves to ensure that legal cannabis companies would be further restricted from accessing just about every other marketing channel commonly available.

Celebrity endorsements are one workaround, but they are few and far between unless the celebrity becomes a large shareholder in the company (one of Canopy Growth's favorite strategies).

Cannabis companies cannot sponsor events even if only adults are in attendance, on top of an array of additional rules that are currently constraining the industry.

Four PM Fact: Canopy Growth acquired 25% of Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg’s cannabis brand “Houseplant” in order to effectively license the brand.

How do companies breakthrough?

One company that recently caught my attention for the right reasons is Up Cannabis, a Canadian brand by Hexo Cannabis. 

Their approach? Take full ownership of the problems that have plagued the industry here in Canada.

Having personally spoken to a number of cannabis retailers about the primary issues they are observing in-store, the common denominator amongst customers’ critiques seems to be the moisture content of flower products: put plainly, they’re very dry. 

“In the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity.” 

Having done their research, Hexo not only identified this trend but decided to use it as the basis of their marketing campaign to relaunch their brand Up. (down)

(📸 / Up Cannabis)

How successful has this strategy been?

Over the past three weeks, I’ve seen multiple people discussing Up Cannabis’s marketing campaign on platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter—arguably the two most important platforms for legal cannabis companies.

With no shortage of budtenders using LinkedIn, its potential to influence the influencers is currently widely underestimated, in my opinion.

Cannabis Content For Cannabis Professionals

Twitter, on the other hand, has one of the most vibrant cannabis communities of any social media platform, and it’s likely the best platform cannabis companies can use to directly engage with customers.

In spite of the fact that not every critique I’ve read so far has been positive, this marketing campaign has achieved something that few others have—it’s noteworthy enough that people are interested in talking about it online.

It’s likely premature to comment on whether or not this marketing campaign can be considered an absolute success story, but the most important factor to consider is whether Up Cannabis can actually resolve the issues they are highlighting.

As far as getting consumers talking about their brand, I’d have to give them full marks.

“Effective marketing only speeds up the process of exposing bad products. ”

(📸 / Up Cannabis)

What are the key takeaways from this campaign?

There are a number of key takeaways from this marketing campaign.

My first takeaway is that in spite of the current industry constraints, there remain huge opportunities to build brand awareness by understanding consumers’ pain points: in this case, that the cannabis currently available lacks potency and is too dry.

My second takeaway is that regardless of the strategy, every marketing campaign is going to have its critics. So if the campaign does that rare thing and actually succeeds in capturing the attention of the audience it’s seeking to reach, then who cares about what the critics think?

Last but not least, my third key takeaway is that Twitter is a highly effective way to distribute your message in the cannabis industry, as it’s currently one of the very few platforms that permits cannabis companies to place ads. 

If the goal of your marketing campaign is to have people talk about your brand, then purchasing ads on Twitter is likely the best platform available to start conversations.

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