Digital Dilemma

Blog / Jun 1, 2021

Cannabis companies continue to grapple with a “digital dilemma”: being shut-out of traditional marketing channels.

Scrolling through Instagram or Twitter, it seems like we’re always getting bombarded with ads for literally everything and anything.

Sweaters for a dog? Sure! Tickets to a concert by an artist you’ve never heard of? Why not! But there’s one thing you are sure not to find during your daily scroll: advertisements from legal cannabis brands.

Nope. At present, you won’t find cannabis ads on social media and you won’t catch one airing on television during the big game either. With so many new companies in the industry all looking to make a mark, that poses a major problem.

What’s stopping cannabis from going viral?

At present, rules at tech giants like Google, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube prohibit legal cannabis companies from using their advertising services.

In addition, many cannabis brands (as well as some popular consumers and pot personalities) have also seen their accounts suspended or deleted on these platforms. Simultaneously, mainstream television networks remain unwilling to air commercials for cannabis products.

Given the power and user base controlled by these platforms, their refusal to embrace legal cannabis poses a major issue to brands looking to establish themselves in a highly-competitive, volatile market.

The result is loss of access to marketing avenues with a proven track-record of success.

Want to know just how much a digital presence matters when it comes to marketing a cannabis product? Take a look at how consumers learned about CBD in 2020.

According to research published by New Frontier Data, 52% of CBD consumers surveyed said they learned about the products they purchased from social media while 44% said they learned the same from internet searches.

These numbers tell us just how important being able to connect with consumers online can be for a brand.

As pleas for more evolved policies at Google and Facebook continue to pour in, it appears not even the old standby of pasting a big picture on a wall is safe from outrage either.

California is in a battle over cannabis billboards.

Cannabis-related billboards have been a common sight in parts of the Golden State since legalization took effect three-plus years ago.

But now there are questions over whether such billboards are actually illegal. Following a November ruling by a judge in the San Luis Obispo Superior Court, a debate over whether such billboards adhere to the spirit of the law has begun.

As a result of the ruling, a number of cannabis companies have been forced to take their billboards down, which has led to a pair of new bills being introduced to the California State Legislature.

AB-273, authored by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), aims to further restrict the ability of cannabis companies to utilize billboard advertising. To counter, Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) has introduced AB-1302 — a notably more industry-friendly option.

Which will prevail remains to be seen, but those in cannabis marketing across California — and beyond — will be watching closely.

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