Livestreaming, digital ads help cannabis businesses keep their brands on consumers’ minds

Many marijuana brands have relied on in-store pop-ups and educating budtenders about their products to reach consumers.

But as cannabis customers increasingly order products online for delivery or pickup – and with the expectation that these habits will persist after the coronavirus pandemic is under control – marijuana brands should consider more direct ways to reach their audience to ensure sales stay strong, according to industry officials.

Some of the measures cannabis brands are taking include:

  • Launching a hashtag campaign via social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram.
  • Staying active on social media with games, happy hours, questionnaires and other interactive activities.
  • Livestreaming content via Facebook and Zoom.
  • Exploring digital advertising.
  • Finding a creative agency that’s willing to invest time in a company in exchange for an equity stake.

Engage with customers on social media

Denver-based extraction company Spherex launched a hashtag campaign – #stayathomewithspherex – to reach consumers and encourage people to practice social distancing.

“We try to bring the same type of engagement that you would get in-store over to Instagram by posting things like 4/20 Bingo, questionnaires and mocktail recipes using our THC-infused sparkling water Phyx,” said Dan Gardenswartz, the company’s chief financial officer.

“These interactive activities have been trending as many people are bored at home.”

When Massachusetts shut down cannabis businesses on March 24, Lee-based Canna Provisions began to develop and launch a variety of consumer-facing initiatives through social media and direct customer engagement, said Meg Sanders, the company’s co-founder and CEO.

Canna Provisions’ livestreams on Facebook and Zoom engage its customers, who are invited to provide feedback about the type of content they’d like to see.

“We began to roll out livestreams over Facebook where our staff would speak intelligently on our products, their own picks and demonstrate the level of industry and product competence that is a pillar of our customer-service business structure,” Sanders said.

“We have seen engagement insights and metrics skyrocket as a result and have legions of our customers communicating directly with us and giving us feedback, along the way creating somewhat of a community of regular viewers who have come to look forward to gathering and enjoying our online streams together.”

Try targeted digital marketing

Brett Konen, marketing manager for Seattle-based digital marketing agency PrograMetrix, said now is the time for manufacturers of cannabis products to understand that it’s not the marijuana retailers’ job to market their products – particularly since consumers have become accustomed to ordering online.

Using digital ads with an image, headline, text and a click-through can provide an effective way to reach a target audience.

Brands can choose the target audience they want to see their ads by using a platform such as New York-based Safe-Reach, which specializes in hyper-local and segmented marketing campaigns.

“You might know your target customer is a woman in her 50s who makes a certain amount of money,” Konen said. “Those are all things you can select.”

Konen said total spending on digital advertising surpassed traditional advertising in 2019.

“Digital marketing is what brands need to be doing to get themselves out there,” she added.

“The digital advertising inventory has opened up to cannabis brands in the last year. That’s where brands need to be running ads now to reach consumers who are spending 12 hours a day online.”

Use e-commerce platforms

Socrates Rosenfeld, co-founder and CEO of Santa Cruz, California-based Jane Technologies – an e-commerce platform for cannabis retailers – said his company helps brands better understand who their customers are.

Jane Technologies’ website enables users to type in whatever symptom they’re experiencing, whether it’s insomnia or anxiety, and get recommendations for products that will help and find a retailer that stocks them nearby.

“We’re bringing that consultative discovery into the online world,” Rosenfeld said. “We’re allowing brands to use our software to reach a customer directly.”

Colorado-based edibles maker Wana Brands, which works with Jane Technologies, also has teamed up with Manhattan Beach, California-based online education platform Three Wells to educate consumers who want to learn more about products that will suit their needs.

“We’re using the new marketing technologies that are out there,” Wana Brands CEO Nancy Whiteman said. “We’re developing various content and sponsorships – things that will associate the Wana brand with fun activities people can do at home.”

Wana also launched an initiative with some of its dispensary partners to give away 8,000 units of its hemp-derived CBD gummies to consumers when they pick up their cannabis products.

“It’s really just our gift to their customers,” Whiteman said. “We just want to give you this as something to help support you during this difficult time.”

Find a branding agency

Seattle-based branding agency Wick & Mortar and New York-headquartered communications agency Chapter 2 have formed a joint venture – High Grade Hope – to provide design, marketing and content creation as well as public relations, brand strategy and networking.

High Grade Hope will offer pro bono services and professional assistance to three cannabis companies. The services will include branding and marketing services to relaunch their brands in time for economic recovery.

Wick & Mortar CEO Jared Mirsky said brands should view stay-at-home orders as an opportunity to take stock of the company and develop a strategy for promoting the brand.

Finding a creative agency that is willing to work with your marijuana company in exchange for equity is time well spent while working from home.

“This is definitely a moment when we’re slowing down to tackle a big branding project,” Mirsky said. “The best work-from-home project you can do is to make a better version of your brand.”

Margaret Jackson can be reached at [email protected]

For more of Marijuana Business Daily’s ongoing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the cannabis industry, click here.

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