How Successful Marketing Could Change Everything for the Cannabis Industry
People are exposed to a massive volume of advertising every day, from billboards to television commercials. In a media-saturated landscape, advertising plays a huge role in the success or failure of a business. Indeed, advertising and successful marketing helps sell products in almost all industries.
It’s hard to imagine an industry without advertising. Even heavily regulated markets, like pharmaceuticals and alcohol, manage to place ads constantly. For the cannabis industry though, business has taken place in a world largely without widely distributed marketing. Federal law prohibiting marijuana has made advertising for all cannabis — both recreational and medicinal — limited.
Even so, public acceptance for marijuana use is growing. As more states legalize medical marijuana, advertising will begin to play a vital role in the industry. Let’s examine the current state of cannabis advertising and imagine how successful marketing could impact the industry in the future.
Federal Law Hinders the Cannabis Industry
Despite the growing acceptance of marijuana, the United States government still classifies it as a Schedule I drug. Drugs with this classification have no medical uses in the eyes of the federal government. So, the government treats cannabis as a controlled substance like other Schedule I drugs, even though some states allow its use for several medical conditions.
The conflict between federal law and state medical marijuana laws has created problems for the cannabis industry, as well as consumers. Federal law has stifled investment in the cannabis industry, made research difficult and prevented patients from transporting legally purchased medical marijuana across state lines.
Federal law has also hindered advertising. Within states where marijuana is legal, businesses may be allowed to advertise. It’s not uncommon to pass by a bright green billboard in Colorado or Washington, for example. However, since so much marketing takes place on platforms that cross state lines, such as television and social media, cannabis ads are still few and far between.
The general lack of advertising in the cannabis industry has not only left some potential medical markets untapped, but it has also made growing a large brand name difficult.
Increased Awareness Through Advertising
Today, people can use medical marijuana legally in 37 states, which means more competition for existing companies. As public opinion shifts to support legalizing cannabis, advertising will likely become more common and more important in the industry.
As a plant, cannabis has the potential to behave like a commodity — not much differentiates one grower’s product from another. In an increasingly large market, companies selling medical marijuana will need to differentiate themselves from other brands to succeed. This brand differentiation, which might also require new product development and packaging, will occur primarily through advertising, as businesses race to establish their claim in the market.
To stand out and find niche success, some companies may also try to appeal to different segments of the market. Since medical marijuana has many uses, some companies may advertise their product solely to people with certain conditions. Successful and widespread marketing could raise public awareness about the uses of medical marijuana, bringing in new customers and reducing the stigma surrounding the drug.
More than any other factor, increased public awareness has the potential to lead to changes in the cannabis industry.
Researchers Respond to Public Demand
Until recently, medical marijuana has existed as a niche drug. Though many patients have found relief using cannabis, doctors rarely recommend it, and the federal government actively seeks to control it. As demand grows in legal states, however, these facts may change.
In response to successful advertising from the cannabis industry, researchers may finally give medical marijuana the scientific attention it deserves. Due to restrictions from the federal government, researchers struggle to study marijuana adequately. Increased awareness could spur the federal government to allow or encourage more research, if only to ensure products are safe for use.
Increased research on medical marijuana could uncover new benefits and uses and open new potential avenues for business. However, research may also reveal possible side effects to the drug. In this case, companies may have to change marketing strategies significantly. Those interested can look to the cigarette industry for a case study in responding to negative research.
Ultimately, the results of this research could determine the direction the marijuana industry takes in years to come. Results could also affect the federal government’s future stance on cannabis. For the medical marijuana industry, breaking into marketing could usher in a new era of business. What does that look like? We’ll have to wait and see.