Confronted by a gauntlet of industry regulations, nurturing a community of loyal cannabis consumers can seem an uphill struggle. No Canadian licensed producer has been able to secure over 41% brand recognition, with few able to retain customers and protect market share. To create brand advocates despite these constraints, companies need to engage their target audience with a consistent brand voice that resonates with this demographic. While the Cannabis Act limits many publicity tactics, public relations remains an effective and compliant part of the marketing mix
Why PR for Cannabis Brands
Cannabis brands must combat decades of misinformation to destigmatize the industry and legitimize their business. Therefore, an impactful and meaningful public relations strategy needs to be baked into marketing campaigns from the outset. PR enables companies to communicate effectively to shape public perception and create commercial opportunities. It empowers brands to raise their profile and convey key differentiators, to distinguish themselves in an increasingly competitive market.
Harnessing editorial and speaking opportunities, public relations can position a brand and its spokespeople as subject matter experts. This provides a platform for companies to educate consumers, generate awareness and build brand credibility. The industry framework limits what licensed brands say, but independent journalists are not bound by the same directives and can relay key messages on their behalf. By developing compelling narratives and engaging the media, public relations professionals can not only enable companies to connect with consumers, but transform them into brand ambassadors. Through creating a community of brand ambassadors, cannabis companies can generate organic brand awareness through trusted word-of-mouth referrals.
Consistency is Key
A successful communications campaign is underpinned by identifying the target audience at the outset and working back. The demographic determines the channels employed and tactics leveraged to reach them, within a wider public relations strategy. By homing in on a section of the cannabis community, companies can develop a brand voice that resonates with these consumers and can carve a niche within the industry. Once companies have found their niche, they can direct their efforts to secure and safeguard this market share.
To keep this community engaged and nurture brand loyalty, companies need to be consistent in their communications – both in tone and frequency. If brands only make a concerted effort to connect with consumers on the eve of a product launch, their allegiance may waver. Instead, brands need to devise a content marketing strategy that perpetually captivates consumers and reiterates key messaging.
In an industry blighted by marketing restrictions, companies need to partner with specialist PR agencies with a deep understanding of the Cannabis Act. This not only ensures they know what they cannot do to remain compliant, but more importantly what they can, by developing innovative tactics to generate exposure and reach consumers legitimately. Despite the need to encourage loyalty and secure brand recognition, cannabis companies are unable to advertise in public, with community guidelines limiting social media engagement. Promoting products through testimonials and endorsements is prohibited, but brands are increasingly utilizing influencers to engage online communities.
Brands are forbidden from communicating where products can be purchased or for what price, with a mandate that packaging be devoid of images or logos. This makes it exceptionally hard to drive sales and for customers to even differentiate products at retailers. As a result, 70% of cannabis consumers arrived at stores without knowing what they were going to buy and a third left without knowing which brand they had bought. Rulings on promotion and branding are often open to interpretation, which creates grey areas and industry-wide confusion. Therefore brands should assess their risk tolerance, to identify how far they are willing to operate on the fringes of the law with creative compliance.
Five PR Tips for Cannabis Brands
- Develop a unique brand voice
- Be original and authentic
- Create compelling narratives
- Partner with industry specialists
- Harness creative compliance
Cannabis Brands by the Numbers
- Canada has over 500 licensed producers, with less than 100 supplying the recreational market.
- Canada collectively consumes 30,000 kilograms of cannabis every month.
- In 2020, Canadian cannabis sales surpassed $3.1 billion.
- Global cannabis sales are forecast to grow at a compound rate of 21%, to reach $47 billion by 2025.
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 and provide successful PR for cannabis brands.
Written by Bridget Hoffer & Katie Pringle of Marigold PR.
Marigold Marketing & PR