Jon Lowen, co-founder of Surfside.IO , a marketing platform in New York, works with cannabis industry companies on their marketing, branding, and advertising projects. He’s seen and worked through marijuana, CBD and ancillary products’ marketing restrictions which vary from state to state. Here’s his (lightly edited) advice on the best approaches to marketing and advertising in the industry:
Facebook and Google restrict cannabis and related advertising (specifics below) but companies have advertised successfully on other platforms and media properties. The main restrictions advertisers face on platforms that do accept cannabis and adjacent ads relate to targeting and creative, and each state has its own version of what is allowed. Some states are more restrictive, requiring state approval or distinct language/disclaimers. A general guideline is to focus ads on properties where at least 72% of the audience is 21+. Images and messaging cannot show consumption or appear to target minors. False health claims are of course not allowed.
Sometimes companies trying to advertise non-plant touching or hemp-derived CBD, are grouped under the same restrictions as plant-touching cannabis companies. Educating the gate-keepers on new laws like the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp and its derivatives can help.
It’s important to utilize current customer data to understand the type of people interacting with your brand or purchasing your products. Profiling high-value customers allows companies to build look-alike audiences to find new people who share the same attributes as existing customers but are not yet customers.
Start-ups can also tap into cannabis consumer datasets which track visits and purchases to reach consumers who have recently bought a specific product, visited a dispensary or have a concern your product may address. This data-centric approach eliminates waste that happens when targeting the masses and when paired with location targeting, ensures you are reaching consumers in the right markets where your brand is active.
When companies are properly collecting data it becomes easier to measure the success of marketing programs across all advertising channels. This omni-channel approach makes providing personalized messaging to audiences and markets more productive and provides a multiplication effect that helps boost overall efforts. Companies should test out new channels, audience types or content – everything can be measured and optimized to find the best way to reach current and new customers to continue the growth of your company.
Facebook Restrictions :
Facebook doesn’t allow ads that promote the sale or use of illegal, prescription, or recreational drugs. This includes ads that contain drug-related paraphernalia, ads with images that include the leaf or plant itself, or anything that implies the use of a recreational drug. Recently Facebook changed their policy to allow results from verified marijuana-related accounts that show up in searches for terms like “cannabis” and “marijuana,” meaning you may now list your cannabis company after being verified by Facebook. Facebook has also recently allowed advertisers to run ads for topical hemp, however, the ads cannot specifically feature those products and other CBD products are not allowed.
Similar to FB, Google also restricts advertising of your Cannabis or CBD company on their platform. Their policy does not allow ads for substances that alter mental state for the purpose of recreation or otherwise induce “highs” such as cannabis. They also do not allow ads for products or services marketed as facilitating recreational drug use or ads for instructional content about producing, purchasing, or using recreational drugs. Punishments for violating these restrictions include ad disapproval, account suspension, or compliance review.