Cannabis Advertising, Changing Perceptions, the COVID Impact, and the Digital Opportunity

Cannabis Advertising, Changing Perceptions, the COVID Impact, and the Digital Opportunity

With the legality and perception of cannabis changing, how can cannabis advertisers adjust their strategy for maximum ROI?
How shifting perceptions and COVID’s impact leave a massive opportunity for digital and programmatic.

2020 was a big year for the cannabis movement and cannabis advertising. In the US, cannabis is now fully legal (medical and recreational) in 11 states plus Washington, DC., and legal for medical use in 34 states. Legal cannabis sales reached nearly $20 billion this past year and are expected to top $40 billion annually within the next four years (TechCrunch).

This means that the cannabis industry is skyrocketing – businesses in this area are becoming increasingly popular. Now that it is legal, people want to make the most of it and experiment with it. For instance there are many ways to take and to use it. It might be in a vape, smoked like a cigarette, ingested in tablet form, and there is a wide variety of equipment such as this devil bong for example, on the internet to buy for it as well.

For cannabis advertisers, there are still several hurdles: state by state differences in legality, lingering misconceptions coupled with shifting demographics and reputation, and lack of information or educational resources.

We’ll cover: changing attitudes, emerging demographics and usage data, the coronavirus pandemic’s effect, and digital strategies for success.

Changing Attitudes & A Disconnect Between “Typical” Weed Users and Those Purchasing

The “typical” cannabis user is no longer just your older brother’s friend hanging in their parents’ basement. Cannabis users and perceptions of usage have evolved and expanded. From cancer patients and the elderly looking to increase their appetite and minimize pain naturally, to tech-savvy “biohacker” types looking to maximize their health, and everywhere in between (Healthline, WebMD, Harvard Medical, TechCrunch, and Vogue all have written about it, to name a few).

According to data from Oasis Intelligence and Adweek, there’s no single description for cannabis consumers, but as a composite, they’re 30-something college graduates working full-time jobs. They’re committed to social justice and legal reform, they’re hungry for information, and they use cannabis primarily as a wellness tool (Adweek). 48% say they consume cannabis for wellness rather than recreational purposes, with 19% making no distinction between the two (Oasis Intelligence via Adweek). This means cannabis is more than an alternative medicine and might just be…a health trend.

Based on the data, most use cannabis weekly, price is a major factor in choosing a brand to purchase from, and usage and spend have increased during the coronavirus pandemic.


Cannabis Usage Trends:

  • 83% use cannabis weekly (Oasis Intelligence Poll of 20,000 participants via Adweek).
  • 60% spend more than $50 a month on cannabis products, and 38% spend more than $100 (Oasis Intelligence via Adweek).
  • Flower and edibles are the most popular forms of cannabis, while interest in infused beverages has doubled recently, with 17% of survey participants saying they use the products (Oasis Intelligence via Adweek).
  • Price is a key driver for 50% of consumers, and 46% bought directly from a dispensary. (Oasis Intelligence via Adweek)
  • Washington is the leading U.S. state based on cannabis sales for recreational use, with delta 8 carts from Area 52 being the most popular cannabis product in Everett (Statista).
  • 44% report planned increase in cannabis use during COVID-19 outbreak in the United States in 2020 (Statista)
  • In 2019, almost 127 million people had used marijuana in their lifetime, a substantial increase from 104 million in 2009 (Statista)
  • 66% of respondents replied in favor of legalizing marijuana in October 2019 (Statista).

The Pandemic Effect

on Cannabis & Cannabis Advertising

Ecommerce skyrocketed: With more stuck at home than any time in recent history (coupled with stress and anxiety), it’s no surprise that cannabis use jumped at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. With people unable to leave the house, cannabis advertising on facebook, twitter, YouTube, etc. increased to capitalize on this opportunity. 44% report using or planning to use multiple times per day, and 39% answered five or more days per week. Luckily, many dispensaries were classified as “essential” businesses during pandemic in many states alongside grocery stores, gas stations, and pharmacies (TechCrunch). Retail sales of medical and recreational cannabis in the United States were projected to eclipse $15 billion by the end of 2020, an increase of approximately 40% over 2019 sales figures, according to Marijuana Business Factbook, and experts estimate that the pandemic accelerated the shift to e-commerce by five years. One brand, Dutchie, experienced a 700% surge in online orders and a 32% increase in average order size since March.

Decrease in events or in-person exploration and educational opportunities: This goes without saying, really. But it’s worth it to note that the cannabis industry relied heavily on live events for educational and experimentation purposes. Those new to the “cannabis game” could attend a live event to speak with experts, try new products such as nerds rope thc, and determine the best purchase for their intentions. Cannabis advertisers should experiment with live virtual videos or events that are short and educational to help potential consumers make purchase decisions, as well as look to written content. Original content – over live events – can live longer on the internet and allow new and returning consumers to access it at any time. For example, During the pandemic, Charlotte’s Web CBD and cannabis product company debuted the education series “Searching for Answers.”

Cost-Conscious Buying & Trust: The pandemic and subsequent economic downturn obviously shifted the focus of consumers to more cost-conscious purchasing patterns. Expect far less impulse-buying and more research and cost-evaluation from consumers that will likely stick around. This is where education comes into play; consumers will be more likely to spend with a brand that shows expertise and trustworthiness than those who are flashy. As an example, when they are looking to buy marijuana, the marijuana packaging will be the first thing they notice. Customers have become very environmentally conscious during this pandemic. For repeat purchases, consumers would “stick” to a brand they are more familiar with instead of experimenting with new brands every time.

The Importance of Original Content, Trustworthiness, & Education in Cannabis Advertising

Like other industries that require an educational component to their sales strategy, cannabis will require valuable content creation and scalable distribution efforts to educate the public on the benefits of cannabis and its changing reputation.

Individuality and original content will also matter. According to CMO Sam Boyer to Adweek, “Original content will be a huge driver for cannabis advertising. It’s definitely more engaging at a time when people are looking for information and want to hear about health and wellness. The authentic voices will really stand out.”

Bidtellect Case Study: How A Leading University Targeted Content To Reach Students Across Multiple Geos

Why Digital Advertising and Programmatic For Cannabis Advertising

  • In 2018, 84% of spend on cannabis retail advertising went to outdoor ads like billboards. The second largest share went to newspapers with 5% of total spend, while only 4% went to digital advertising (Kantar).
  • Cannabis advertisers spent $370 million on digital display ads in 2019, an increase from $238 million in 2018. (DashTwo)

According to PrograMetrix, outdoor advertising faces strict restrictions depending on the state (a required placement distance from schools and children, for example); beyond billboards, marketers most frequently advertised through events (at which no cannabis could be offered or consumed); on endemic cannabis websites like High Times and WeedMaps (which only reached a small niche of cannabis consumers); and in any print outlets who would accept their ads (which ranged from alt-weeklies and print magazines to larger local papers).

Scale with programmatic: To reach beyond niche sites and dated demographics, programmatic offers the chance to scale. Huge numbers of high-traffic, mainstream sites will accept programmatic cannabis ad buys-sites like USA Today, HuffPost, Newsweek, Politico, The Chive, and ESPN (PrograMetrix). Cannabis advertisers in legal states are also required by law to ensure that their marketing campaigns target adults 21 and over- programmatic platforms are more able to adjust accordingly, not to mention measure ROI and meet tangible KPIs and goals. Programmatic ad buys offer this data by tracking conversions; ad buys in print outlets or one off digital events, for instance, cannot.

As of 2019, digital ad spending surpassed traditional (TV, radio, print, etc.) for the first time in history, and by 2021, 70 percent of all digital ads-and 88 percent of display ads-will be bought and sold using programmatic technology. Cannabis is considered the fastest growing industry in the United States and Canada, but well behind in its digital spend. It’s time to catch up: the opportunity is a gaping hole.

For more information on compliance, we recommend:

Here’s How to Run Compliant Digital Cannabis Ads

The Ultimate Guide to Programmatic Advertising for CBD & Cannabis

On MediaPost: It’s Legal, Now How Do We Advertise Medical Marijuana?

On MediaPost: It’s Legal, Now How Do We Advertise Medical Marijuana?

Read on MediaPost here:

Advertising Signposts For The Cannabis Industry

A few weeks ago, Florida announced that smoking (medicinal) marijuana is legal (CBS). Missouri drafted rules for medical marijuana usage (KY3). There was news about a new New York Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (NORML). There was been a big increase in those using cannabis both recreationally and medically. In fact, some of the best dab rigs on the market have been selling out because it’s becoming so popular. It was revealed that there has been a 76% increase in Cannabis Industry Jobs in the US (AZ Marijuana). It was revealed that there has been a 76% increase in Cannabis Industry Jobs in the US (AZ Marijuana). This is all in the last month. A lot of the growth has been attributed to the rise of a new industry – that of delta 8 THC. Delta 8 carts are a popular option among cannabis users for their compact design and availability in a variety of terpene-infused flavors like wedding cake and sour diesel.
The Global Legal Cannabis Market is projected to hit $166 billion by 2025 (Euromonitor). It is the fastest growing market in the world, according to MarketWatch. “Within 10 years, cannabis will be a regular part of daily routines,” said Zora Milenkovic, head of drinks and tobacco at Euromonitor International. “From a functional ingredient to an intoxicating buzz, cannabis will reshape fast-moving consumer goods, with food, beverages, beauty, health and tobacco having the most potential for disruption.” (Euromonitor).

We are witnessing history: the growth of a new industry in conjunction with rebuilding a reputation from the bottom up.

As the cloud of marijuana stigma lifts in the United States, states are scrambling to create laws that keep up with the growing industry while grappling with varying moral and regulatory opinions. In some states, all that’s needed is a driver’s license to enjoy marijuana recreationally. In other states, consumers need to be vetted by a doctor, pay upwards of $250 for a medical card, then choose from highly-regulated products for ailments, similar to a prescription. California’s Track and Trace system, for example, aims to keep a record of marijuana as it moves around the state, helping to regulate it. Elsewhere, laws can differ even by county.

The laws are confusing. Interested consumers are often left wondering where they can go and what they can buy. The answer to clarification: advertising. The current advertising initiatives? Equally as confusing as the laws limiting them. And half-hearted at best.

Here’s the only advertising I’ve seen: side-of-the-road CBD sign-flipping in Florida (the guy was pretty good, I’ll give them that) and billboard advertising for weed delivery service Eaze in California. Not that we can entirely blame the companies. Social media advertising is limited and often restricted – the lack of law consistency is a headache not worth the trouble (ETF). For those venturing outside the walled gardens on programmatic ad platforms, targeting, measurement, and analytics are limited, especially for simple display ads, which often face roadblocks similar to social.

Turn to Content

If you’re a marijuana or CBD company, turn to your content and make sure you have a viable cbd bank account set up for payment processing for what you need during this time. Chances are, you’ve got a ton of content: research articles, educational resources, tips, lists, recipes, and more. I read new articles every day about the latest healing benefits of CBD from inflammation to stress release to skin ailments. That’s the kind of content to distribute. Your stories can be the next wave of your advertising strategy. While you’re looking into this for your CBD products, you may also want to consider how to brand yourself too. If you sell white-label products from a manufacturer like Taylor Mammon, you could get branding assistance as well as multiple other services from them directly to help you reach out to your audience and customer base.

Content is the chance to re-educate the masses on the positives of marijuana, but how its targeted to consumers matter. Consider: a mom is unlikely to start liking a social sponsored posts about weed on Instagram. She’s far more likely to read a sponsored article on the web about how Medicinal Marijuana helped another mom with epilepsy. Do you see where I’m going with this? A Native Ad that leads a user to high-quality content aligns with the goal of re-education and reputation-building. Fluffy flowers and glass bongs may be a no-go in Native ads, but content is your secret weapon.

MJ Lovers: establish your company as a thought leader at the forefront of cutting edge health and wellness development. Create high quality content that lifts your reputation above marijuana’s seedy past. Turn to a content-distribution platform to distribute your content in a targeted, trackable, and measurable way. Context is also key: get it in front of users that are already interested. The right content and right distribution with be the key to re-energizing the state of medicinal marijuana advertising.

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