How Cannabis Companies Can Use Experiential Marketing to Build a Brand


How Cannabis Companies Can Use Experiential Marketing to Build a Brand

November 1, 2019 | Education

Cannabis has the burden of being a hotly debated topic, but also somewhat of a mystery to many Americans. While the overwhelming majority of people in the US are in favor of legalization of some sort, half would be uncomfortable at a gathering where others are consuming cannabis, and half wouldn’t be in a romantic relationship with a cannabis user, according to PSB research.

This presents a tricky branding problem. How do you differentiate yourself in a growing market when there are both strong feelings and confusion around your product? Some brands lean into existing cannabis tropes, using foliage visuals and weed puns to entice long-time users, and others over-correct to shed the stoner stereotype end up looking sleek but stark.

As Max Lenderman—kinda harshly—put it in AdWeek: “Most have no brand relevancy or purpose and are woefully inept at creating brand experience. Without these pillars of modern brand building, brands (cannabis or not) will fail.”

How can experiential marketing help my cannabis brand?

Experiential marketing brings your brand directly to consumers and allows you to have a more nuanced and substantive conversation—the type that creates long-lasting relationships. Hosting a cannabis dinner, or a CBD teach-in, or post-marathon spa experience could bring your audience the authenticity, transparency and education that they’re craving from companies in this industry.

Amanda Omahen tells Cannabis Dispensary Magazine: “[Some] people just aren’t comfortable with the words ‘cannabis,’ ‘marijuana,’ [and] ‘CBD.’ They have a lot of questions: What’s the difference between CBD and THC? What’s going to get me ‘high?’ What’s going to help with my muscles? What’s going to help with my skin? Experiential marketing campaigns should strive to answer these questions.

And the conversation isn’t just one way. An event is also an opportunity to get real-time qualitative insights from your audience and find out if there are any pain points that you hadn’t thought about. It’s your chance to float and test different elements of your brand and get real-time feedback.

Experiential earns it’s salt online too. With Facebook, Instagram, and Google Adwords banning all cannabis ads, growing an organic online presence can be tough. Experiential campaigns are eminently shareable, and visual elements create online moments that are hard to replicate through content marketing alone.

How can I get started with experiential marketing?

Another sometimes overlooked benefit of experiential marketing is that it’s scalable. A small neighborhood activation can offer valuable insights and learnings about the types of events that could work for you. Testing and learning can be genuinely fun and cost-effective as you start to shape a wider strategy.

However, there are two tricky things to consider about experiential marketing and cannabis.

Navigating state laws and regulations
Having extensive experience in managing these types of programs in the alcohol industry, we understand that it might feel impossible to scale up when each state has its own laws and regulations. 

Having an agency on your side who knows how to make a big impact without leaving you exposed to risk can be invaluable as you start to build out your strategy.

Measuring your impact 
Drawing an immediate line between sales and revenue and experiential marketing isn’t easy. Building brand loyalty is notoriously deliquescent. It’s important to make sure the data you’re collecting matches your objectives.

There are a lot of ways to design your event with measurement in mind. You could create meaningful KPIs for each stage of the event; website traffic and invitation opens before the event, evaluation, and decision-making at the event, and finally conversion rates and retention post-event.

But impact is king. “For complex product offerings that might be hard to explain via ads, impactful in-person experiences can create a better product understanding and drive invaluable ‘a-ha’ moments.” Ivan Entchevitch tells Campaign US.

If experiential marketing isn’t currently in your mix, please get in touch. We’d love to have a chat with you about ways you could forge authentic relationships with your audience.

Find out more about our cannabis services.


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