An effective and creative public relations strategy is essential for cannabis retailers to engage the community and industry stakeholders. The Cannabis Act prohibits retailers from advertising in the public domain and zoning laws often deprive stores of high-profile locations. In the face of these restrictions, retailers need to find innovative ways to captivate consumers, cultivate brand awareness and differentiate their retail experience.
Why PR for Cannabis Retailers is Essential
Cannabis retail stores must choose their product and brand selection wisely. This all begins with understanding your current and/or target customer and working backward. Certain demographics will want certain types of products. Asking your customers questions and conducting consumer research will help you determine if you should be stocking dried flower, pre-rolls, concentrates, edibles, topicals, beverages, and/or vaporizers.
Once you determine what types of products you should be stocking, get familiar with all of the brands available on the market. Brand research can be done by browsing your provincial retailer website along with visiting the brand’s websites and social media pages to investigate further. Pick partners with products and values that coincide with your brand and that will deeply resonate with your chosen consumer segment.
Brittney Kwasney, Bright Photo & Village Bloomery
Creating a Community
Before embarking on a public relations campaign, cannabis retailers should first identify who they want to engage and for what purpose. This helps shape the creation of a compelling narrative that resonates with the target audience and drives loyalty. By ascertaining their core demographic, public relations professionals can then develop tactics within a communications strategy to reach them. Cannabis retailers should avoid trying to be everything for everyone, as it lacks authenticity and is incredibly hard to achieve. Instead, they should carve a niche of loyal customers and invest in targeted communications to nurture this community.
As they operate in a highly regulated environment, cannabis retailers need specialist public relations teams that understand the intricacies of the industry and can ensure compliance every step of the way. Those with experience engaging the cannabis community will be much better equipped to do so, with an appreciation of the diverse demographics of cannabis consumers and the media they consume. Navigating cannabis landscapes can be challenging, with retailers benefiting from the passion, expertise and experience of industry specialists. As the market continues to develop, companies need to remain agile, embrace change and grow alongside the industry, with a team of communications experts equipped to exploit emerging opportunities.
Health Canada forbids cannabis retailers from advertising in the public domain, which eliminates the vast majority of traditional and digital marketing channels. However, even in permitted publications, retailers cannot use marketing material that evokes emotion, appeals to young people, or communicates information regarding a product’s price or distribution. The wording of the Cannabis Act leaves room for interpretation, which creates opportunities for retailers to push the envelope with their marketing efforts. However, they should always identify and evaluate the potential consequences first to assess their risk tolerance.
Instagram and Facebook’s community guidelines explicitly forbid the sale of drugs, including cannabis even in jurisdictions where retail is regulated. Both social platforms are owned by the same parent company, with a disconcerting history of suspending the accounts of cannabis retailers without warning. To mitigate this danger, social accounts must be age-gated and never explicitly offer cannabis for sale. Even with these precautions, profiles can be removed instantly, so cannabis retailers should plan ahead with backup accounts. Despite the risks, the potential rewards for cannabis retailers often makes social media engagement a gamble worth taking.
Five PR Tips for Cannabis Retailers
- Identify core values and differentiators
- Pinpoint a target audience and carve a niche
- Maximize editorial opportunities
- Nurture online communities
- Partner with specialist PR agencies
Cannabis Retail by the Numbers
- Canadian cannabis sales are forecast to reach $4.1 billion in 2021
- The introduction of edibles, extracts and topicals were expected to entice three million new consumers
- Since legalization, over 1,200 licensed cannabis stores have opened across Canada
- Due to increased accessibility, legal cannabis sales now higher than legacy market transactions
- E-commerce purchases rose as much as 600% in 2020, with 43% now preferring to purchase cannabis online
Serving the global cannabis industry since 2016, Marigold PR is Canada’s top cannabis PR agency – representing licensed producers, extractors, retailers, medical platforms and clinics. The team of PR, branding and social media experts is deeply rooted within the cannabis space and harnesses its passion for the plant to produce exceptional results. Specializing in creative, compelling and compliant marketing communications, Marigold has an illustrious reputation for being effective, innovative and positive, developing strong industry relationships through shared values and aspirations.
Book an introductory call today to discuss how Marigold PR can help you achieve your business objectives.
Written by Bridget Hoffer & Katie Pringle of Marigold PR.
Marigold Marketing & PR
Canadian Cannabis Retail Marketing Guide
Over the next few months, when it comes to creating original content, we’ll be focusing on the fastest-growing segment of the Canadian cannabis industry, retailers.
This series of articles is dedicated to informing and educating Canadian cannabis retail store operators about marketing, promotions, branding, partnerships, and product selection.
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Last Updated on March 2, 2021 by ADCANN