As we brink on an evolution of mainstream cannabis integration and regulatory conception, brands are taking notice of the opportunities, and working to step up their cannabis marketing strategy. At such a pivotal point, now is the time to take stock of your position and goals, and see if your message matches the mark. It’s well known that nothing comes easily in the cannabis industry, but with a little direction and creativity, building your cannabis brands awareness isn’t impossible.
Revamping the Devils Weed: How Cannabis Companies are Breaking Away from the Plants Dark Marketing Roots
The cannabis community is nothing if not imaginative. Locked in a competitive scramble to convince the consumer why theirs is the brand to beat, it’s little wonder so many marketing strategies reflect this colorful race for originality. From campaigns that appeal to old school hippie types, through to images, ambiance and vernacular traditionally reserved for Michelin star menus, artworks, and ultra-fine wines, the industries branding brains are as diverse as the strains they’re employed to publicize.
Only a year after Canada legalized recreational cannabis it has already become a multibillion-dollar enterprise. As only the second country in the world to enter this uncharted territory, the journey from the underground to the high street has not been without trials, particularly for cannabis marketing firms. As the canaries in the cannabis coal mine, even the best marketing firms realized that safely circumnavigating Health Canada’s regulatory minefield would require a new batch of fresh, creative solutions.
Getting noticed is important for any business. Being able to reach your audience is the only way to succeed and grow. Depending on the market around your cannabis company, there can be plenty of competition, from small local businesses to large corporations, so you need to find a way to stand out. This can be difficult for anyone, but cannabis brands face a few extra problems.
Strict advertising restrictions mean that cannabis marketing and promotion can be challenging. It is for that reason that having your content be highly visible online is one of your most effective means of promoting your dispensary.
Being at the top of Google gives you the visibility you need. Here are some ways to improve your search engine optimization to get your dispensary website to the top of Google.
- Google My Business
One of the very first things that you should be doing is claiming your Google My Business (GMB) page. This is an extremely valuable local search asset. Once claimed, your business profile appears on the first page of results when customers search for dispensaries on Google Search or Google Maps.
This act alone makes it much easier for you to create and update your Google Business Profile.
- Bing Places for Business
Hot on the heels of claiming your GMB page, you should be claiming your Bing Places for Business account. You probably think of Google right away when you think of online search. Most people do. You may not be aware, however, that when it comes to search, Bing has a respectable 33% market share. This is not something to overlook.
Use Bing Places to optimize the website, URL, locations, and phone number of your business. This is one of the easiest, yet most effective means of improving your dispensary’s SEO and local visibility.
- Choose the Right Category
This might not seem like the most important thing you can do, but in truth, choosing the right category for your business in GMB and Bing Places is very helpful for your local SEO strategy. When creating and setting up your accounts, be sure to choose the proper categories. Ideally, you should also choose as few as possible, while selecting the most accurate.
Choosing your category allows you to inform GMB and Bing Places about what precisely your website is about. This is particularly important for those seeking the dispensary closest to them. It is also important when you are trying to rank for targeted, relevant keywords.
- Add Some Photos
Here’s another tip that, while simple, can have an impact: add some photos of your dispensary and various locations. You can include images of your product, or even your customers, provided you have their permission. Anything that is relevant can help to build your credibility and aid in your local ranking.
Make sure that your photos’ file names are optimized by adding your info (dispensary name, address, etc.) to the photo file when you upload them.
- Claim Your Listing on Review Sites
While we are claiming things, let’s also go ahead and claim your listing on review sites. Do not make the mistake of overlooking them as some businesses do, or—worse yet—waiting until there is a bad review posted on a public website.
After claiming your search engine business pages, claim your dispensary’s listing on the popular review websites. There are several, but some of the most important include Google Reviews, Yelp, BBB, Angie’s List, and Glassdoor.
Claiming your listing means that you will be able to control how you respond to any reviews you receive, positive or negative.
- Push for Good Reviews
Now that you have claimed your listings, put in some good hard work to earn yourself some positive reviews. While there are many factors to consider when determining search rank, positive customer reviews demonstrate three things that search engines like to see: authority, trust, and relevance.
Getting a good review directly on Google will help you even more than reviews on the other popular sites. Google even states that positive reviews improve your visibility in search.
According to Shopify, 93% of customers have their buying decisions influenced by reviews that they read online.
Aside from the boost to SEO, reviews also give you better insight into the thoughts of your customers. Are you doing something right? Are you doing something wrong? Your customers will tell you.
- Social Media
You probably knew this one was coming after all social media plays a large part in the lives of countless users. If your social profiles are optimized and have a good rate of engagement, they can appear in local search results.
Google watches for social signals—the likes, shares, votes, and pins received on social media—because they provide details of what’s trending and relevant to queries. This information is useful to their search algorithm.
If your brand is being liked, shared, or otherwise talked about, this improves your ranking in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
- Mobile Responsiveness
Google places a great deal of emphasis on user experience and satisfaction. With the trend toward mobile search, it is important to have a website that is responsive to mobile devices, especially smartphones.
According to Google, more than 51% of smartphone users have discovered new products and companies while using their smartphones, and 89% of those who have a positive brand experience on mobile is likely to recommend that brand.
Getting your dispensary website to the top of Google takes a bit of work and practice, but once you have learned how to position yourself at the top of the search results, you will reap the rewards in improved visibility and greater traffic flow to your website.
There are a variety of reasons why you might want to hire a digital marketing company for your cannabis dispensary. Many restrictions have been put on the advertising of medical marijuana and recreational cannabis. As a result, effective digital marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your site requires more experience and knowledge than ever before.
This new market is exploding and will require creative thinking and intense effort to be competitive. With that in mind, here are some reasons why you need to hire a cannabis dispensary digital marketing agency.
The next wave in cannabis legalization is set to hit Canada at the end of the year, this time in the form of edibles. Cannabis-infused edibles are expected to be big business, with sales anticipated to reach $4.1 billion by 2022. To begin with, however, Canadians should expect a very limited selection to appear online and in stores.
This website is provided for informational purposes. The reader is encouraged to consult the Cannabis Act and the applicable Regulations, available at [http://lawslois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-24.5/] In the event of any discrepancy between the legislation and this website, the legislation shall prevail.
The reader is also encouraged to consult any other legislation that may apply to them or their activities, such as any applicable provincial or territorial legislation.
DID YOU KNOW?
As set out in the purpose section of the Cannabis Act, the legislation aims to protect public health and public safety, including protecting the health of young persons by restricting their access to cannabis, protecting young persons and others from inducements to use cannabis and enhancing public awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis use. As outlined in this fact sheet, the Cannabis Act specifies the number of prohibitions related to the promotion of cannabis, cannabis accessories and services related to cannabis, as well as some exceptions for limited promotion. [Sections 16 to 24]
WHAT DOES “PROMOTE” MEAN?
The Cannabis Act defines “promote” as: in respect of a thing or service, means to make, for the purpose of selling the thing or service, a representation – other than a representation on a package or label – about the thing or service by any means, whether directly or indirectly, that is likely to influence and shape attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors about the thing or service.
WHO DO THE PROMOTIONS PROVISIONS APPLY TO?
The prohibitions in sections 17 to 23 of the Cannabis Act can potentially apply to anyone who may be involved in promoting cannabis, cannabis accessories and services related to cannabis, including:
- persons who produce, sell or distribute cannabis;
- persons who sell or distribute cannabis accessories;
- persons who provide cannabis-related services; or
- media organizations.
WHAT PROMOTIONS ARE PROHIBITED?
1. General prohibitions on the promotion of cannabis Unless authorized under the Cannabis Act, it is prohibited to promote cannabis or a cannabis accessory or any service related to cannabis, including:
- 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; or
- 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)] 2. False promotion Cannabis cannot be promoted in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive or that is likely to create an erroneous impression about its characteristics, value, quantity, composition, strength, concentration, potency, purity, quality, merit, safety, health effects or health risks. A cannabis accessory cannot be promoted in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive or that is likely to create an erroneous impression about its design, construction, performance, intended use, characteristics, value, composition, merit, safety, health effects or health risks.
[Subsections 18(1) and (2)] 3. Use of certain terms, etc. It is prohibited to use any term, expression, logo, symbol or illustration specified in regulations made under paragraph 139(1)(z.1) in the promotion of cannabis, a cannabis accessory or a service related to cannabis.
[Section 19] 4. Publication, etc.of prohibited promotion It is prohibited to publish, broadcast or otherwise disseminate, on behalf of another person, with or without consideration, any promotion that is prohibited by any of sections 17 to 22. This prohibition does not apply in the circumstances described in subsection 23(2).
[Section 23] 5. Promotion using foreign media It is prohibited to promote, in any way that is prohibited by Part 1 of the Cannabis Act, cannabis, a cannabis accessory, a service related to cannabis or a brand element of any of those things in a publication that is published outside Canada, a broadcast that originates outside Canada or any other communication that originates outside Canada.
[Section 20] 6. Sponsorship It is prohibited to display, refer to or otherwise use any of the following, directly or indirectly in a promotion that is used in the sponsorship of a person, entity, event, activity or facility
[Section 21]: • a brand element of cannabis, of a cannabis accessory or of a service related to cannabis; and • the name of a person that: o produces, sells or distributes cannabis, o sells or distributes a cannabis accessory, or o provides a service related to cannabis. 7. Name of facility It is prohibited to display on a facility, as part of the name of the facility or otherwise if the facility is used for a sports or cultural event or activity
[Section 22]: • a brand element of cannabis, a cannabis accessory or a service related to cannabis; or • the name of a person that o produces, sells or distributes cannabis, o sells or distributes a cannabis accessory, or o provides a service related to cannabis. 8. Inducements Unless authorized under the Cannabis Act, it is prohibited for a person that sells cannabis or a cannabis accessory
[Subsection 24(1)]: • to provide or offer to provide cannabis or a cannabis accessory if it is provided or offered to be provided without monetary consideration or in consideration of the purchase of anything or service or the provision of any service; • to provide or offer to provide anything that is not cannabis or a cannabis accessory, including a right to participate in a game, draw, lottery or contest, if it is provided or offered to be provided as an inducement for the purchase of cannabis or a cannabis accessory; or • to provide or offer to provide any service if it is provided or offered to be provided as an inducement for the purchase of cannabis or a cannabis accessory.
WHAT PROMOTIONS ARE PERMITTED?
Limited promotion of cannabis and cannabis accessories and services related to cannabis can be permitted under the Cannabis Act in specific circumstances, subject to the applicable prohibitions listed above and any other applicable prohibitions. 1. Informational promotion or brand-preference promotion The Cannabis Act [Subsection 17(2)] provides that, subject to the Regulations, a person that is authorized to produce, sell or distribute cannabis may promote cannabis by means of informational promotion or brand-preference promotion if the promotion is:
- in a communication that is addressed and sent to an individual who is 18 years of age or older and is identified by name;
- in a place where young persons are not permitted by law;
- communicated by means of telecommunication, where the person responsible for the content of the promotion has taken reasonable steps to ensure that the promotion cannot be accessed by a young person;
- in a prescribed place; or
- done in a prescribed manner.
The Cannabis Act [Subsection 17(3)] provides that, subject to the Regulations, a person may promote a cannabis accessory or a service related to cannabis by means of informational promotion or brand-preference promotion if the promotion is:
- in a communication that is addressed and sent to an individual who is 18 years of age or older and is identified by name;
- in a place where young persons are not permitted by law; Informational promotion means a promotion by which factual information is provided to the consumer about (a) cannabis or its characteristics; (b) a cannabis accessory or its characteristics; (c) a service related to cannabis; or (d) the availability or price of cannabis, a cannabis accessory or a service related to cannabis. Cannabis Act Brand-preference promotion means promotion of cannabis by means of its brand characteristics, promotion of a cannabis accessory by means of its brand characteristics or promotion of a service related to cannabis by means of the brand characteristics of the service.
The Cannabis Act – Promotion Prohibitions • communicated by means of telecommunication, where the person responsible for the content of the promotion has taken reasonable steps to ensure that the promotion cannot be accessed by a young person;
- in a prescribed place; or
- done in a prescribed manner.
2. Point of sale The Cannabis Act [Subsection 17(4)] provides that, subject to the Regulations, a person that is authorized to sell cannabis may promote it at the point of sale if the promotion indicates only its availability, its price or its availability and price.
The Cannabis Act [Subsection 17(5)] provides that, subject to the Regulations, a person that sells a cannabis accessory or provides a service related to cannabis may promote it at the point of sale if the promotion indicates only its availability, its price or its availability and price. 3.
Brand element on other things The Cannabis Act [Subsection 17(6)] provides that, subject to the Regulations, a person may promote cannabis, a cannabis accessory or a service related to cannabis by displaying a brand element of cannabis, of a cannabis accessory or of a service related to cannabis on a thing that is not cannabis or a cannabis accessory, other than: • a thing that is associated with young persons; • a thing that there are reasonable grounds to believe could be appealing to young persons; or • a thing that is associated with a way of life such as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring.
WHEN DO THE PROHIBITIONS NOT APPLY?
Section 16 of the Cannabis Act provides that, subject to the Regulations, the provisions of sections 17 to 24 do not apply:
- To a literary, dramatic, musical, cinematographic, scientific, educational or artistic work, production or performance that uses or depicts cannabis, a cannabis accessory or a service related to cannabis, or a brand element of any of those things, whatever the mode or form of its expression, if no consideration is given, directly or indirectly, for that use or depiction in the work, production or performance;
- To a report, commentary or opinion in respect of cannabis, a cannabis accessory or a service related to cannabis or a brand element of any of those things, if no consideration is given, directly or indirectly, for the reference to the cannabis, cannabis accessory, service or brand element in that report, commentary or opinion;
- To specific categories of intra-industry promotion, provided that the promotion is not directed, either directly or indirectly, at consumers.
ARE THERE OTHER ACTS AND REGULATIONS THAT APPLY TO THE PROMOTION OF CANNABIS?
In addition to the Cannabis Act and its Regulations, other legislation – for example other federal and provincial legislation – contain provisions related to the promotion of cannabis, cannabis accessories or services related to cannabis. One example is the Food and Drugs Act and its Regulations, which could apply to cannabis in certain circumstances (see the Cannabis Exemption (Food and Drugs Act) Regulations) [http://lawslois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-2016-231/ ]. The reader should consult any other legislation that may apply to their activities.
HOW CAN YOU ASSESS IF YOUR PROMOTION ACTIVITIES COMPLY WITH THE CANNABIS ACT?
Persons intending to engage in promotional activities related to cannabis are encouraged to carefully consider the prohibitions in sections 17 to 24 of the Cannabis Act, all other applicable provisions of the Cannabis Act and its Regulations, and other federal and provincial or territorial legislation to assess whether the activities are permitted. Health Canada will assess compliance with the provisions of the Cannabis Act relating to promotion on a case-by-case basis. The particular facts of each circumstance will be examined and considered. The purpose, content, and context of a communication or message and the intended audience are examples of factors that may be taken into consideration when assessing whether a promotional activity is prohibited.
It seems to be all but impossible to go online these days without seeing something related to cannabis, medical marijuana, CBD oil, hemp products, and more. With cannabis and everything related becoming hot topics of conversation, and with legalization becoming more common around the globe, the cannabis business is booming.