Many revile any form of advertising on the grounds that it is too often used as a tool of manipulation rather than education. Propaganda posters from the 1930s advertised the official U.S. mentality on the “evil marihuana” flower. Political battles aren’t just fought at debates anymore, they’re fought between the climax and conclusion of your favorite TV shows or in the space between your friend’s birthday pics and George Takei’s latest pun-tastic offering on Facebook. Prescription drug ads promote their benefits to an under-informed public, then show heart-warming images as the potential, worrying side effects are rattled off.
Anywhere you want to be, advertising wants to be there, too, in one form or another. She’s an old institution, but boy is she crafty.
A Necessary Venture
Advertising does fill a real need, even for cannabis-related businesses. If you sell cannabis-infused sticky buns in Arcata’s Valley West, how is anyone going to know you exist? Word-of-mouth, networking and walk-bys can work, but this is a limited resource unless you Win The Internet and get a viral hit (sustaining that momentum then becomes the challenge). Social media strategies are also a form of marketing — businesses spend time and money on developing their accounts and engaging people across social media channels.
Consider this: Without advertising, there would also be much less art. Blogs, YouTube channels, newspapers, magazines, streaming services, museums, major events, TV shows — advertising and sponsorship revenue comprise a good chunk of income for many of these.
Long story short, businesses want more people to know about them and so they have to advertise. Cannabis-related businesses are no exception.
Cannabis-related businesses in California have been doing this discreetly for years, and it’s ripe to explode. The rise of social media, adult-use legalization in Colorado and Washington, and the growing acceptance of legalization as an eventuality has made it an excellent time to get into advertising in many places around the U.S.
Yeah, We Sell Cannabis Plants. Come In and See!
Discreet doesn’t always have to be the name of the game. Strain info site Leafly proved that with it’s New York Times ad in what they claim is the first cannabis consumer ad. Cannabis products and plants advertised directly, however — that’s a different story. Wonderland Nursery in Humboldt, California, decided to go that route. In collaboration with Ganjier Media, Wonderland Nursery has advertised clones for sale in the North Coast Journal for nearly four months and the results have been encouraging.
The Wonderland Crew has received a wave of positive feedback, and the tell-tale signs of effective advertising were all there. People brought in the ad. More people came in and mentioned the ad. “I didn’t think I’d live to see this” is how several people have described how they felt to me upon seeing the ad. There are, of course, customers who are impacted by the ad but are impossible to measure. Advertising creates a ripple effect, only so much of which can be seen. We take the data we can collect, however, to determine the return on investment (ROI). For you non-business types out there, that’s whether the ad made your business more money than it cost to create it.
Part of the success of these ads has been the way Wonderland, Ganjier Media and Journal staff put together the ad. Starting with just advertising clones, the Journal worked with us to create a look that was appealing and reflected the branding. Basically, it looks professional. Replace the cannabis plants with specialty orchids and you have a regular ad for a regular nursery. It’s not just enticing because it’s cannabis.
Wonderland Nursery isn’t alone in advertising cannabis plants outright. I’ve seen ads in Sacramento’s ALT for Dark Heart Nursery’s plants. Are there others? Tweet pics and videos to me @allyedrington.
Advertising Locally is Community Investment
When your cannabis business gives several thousand dollars to a local publication to advertise, that has an impact beyond what an ROI can track. Part of the return is goodwill. Buying the ad means you put money into the community through supporting the local publication. Sponsoring local celebrations and community events gets your name out there in a positive way as well without overtly advertising.
Not all marketing is going to be local-focused for all cannabis-related businesses, certainly. Just keep in mind the power of community investment.