It’s time to come clean. It’s okay, you’re among friends, you can admit it: you’re interested in launching your own legal cannabis startup. Or maybe you’ve already started one and are looking to grow your business to new heights. Either way, you’ve picked a great time for it.
With more states legalizing cannabis for both medicinal and recreational purposes every election cycle, the legal cannabis industry is rapidly expanding. The legitimate sale of cannabis and cannabis related products is no longer treated as a taboo or fringe occupation.
As more corporate players enter the market, the face of cannabis marketing is changing. Larger companies in the cannabis industry are attracting big time creatives, best illustrated by this new video from MedMen called “The New Normal,” directed by Oscar-winning Hollywood director Spike Jonze and starring prime-time TV star Jesse Williams:
Our company, Lemonlight, which specializes in creating high quality, affordable video packages for businesses of all sizes, has had the pleasure of working with a few cannabis brands ourselves. While it can be a tricky process, as marketing for cannabis companies is still heavily restricted, we have learned a few tips and tricks on how to tackle video marketing for a cannabis or cannabis-adjacent brand.
Here are a few of our top takeaways on what we have experienced and learned along the way, so you can use video marketing for your own cannabis company.
Respect the Culture
When it comes to old school cannabis culture, there’s no bigger household name than High Times magazine… besides Cheech and Chong, that is.
We worked with the company to edit together this promotional video as part of a company update incorporating the brand’s rich past, present, and plans for the future, featuring plenty of footage of High Times’ flagship Cannabis Cup Event, signature magazine covers, and copious video interviews.
High Times is an entertainment and media brand, so rule number one for our creative team was catering to the culture. However, even if your business is on the more “picks and shovels” side of the green rush, don’t be afraid to be similarly bold in your own marketing videos.
Because so much of the legal marijuana movement revolves around the culture of the cannabis crowd, it’s important to continue to represent and respect this demographic in your own marketing materials too. This is especially true for bigger players getting into the game.
If you are creating hyper-polished, very corporate feeling marketing videos to go along with your big corporate grows, it puts a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. On the flip side, don’t pretend you’re something you aren’t just to appease the cool kids. The cool kids will always know. Aim for the perfect middle ground: respectful of the culture’s history and tastes, while bringing your own personal style to your videos. You do not want to come off as pandering, and you do want to create a unique brand.
Focus on the Function
I’m going to sound like I am contradicting myself for a moment, but bear with me. While centering your videos on cannabis culture is one angle for your marketing efforts, another angle is to focus entirely on the functionality of your cannabis product.
Because anyone can smoke marijuana now, sometimes the best course of action to grab new customer’s attention is to show off substance instead of style. Turn the focus on what your product or service does, like we did in this product demo video for Saturn V Grinders.
In the above video, showing off the functionality of the grinder was key. There was no need to even mention the word cannabis, because those who use grinders already know what they are for.
By showing the product in action, you may have to address the purpose for the product, but even if you do, this approach keeps the attention on your product and its unique qualities rather than the main activity itself.
There’s a practical reason for taking on this strategy. For one, marketing and advertising around cannabis products is highly restrictive. There is a lot you can’t show or say when promoting your videos on social media. Images of cannabis, even saying cannabis or marijuana, could get you flagged and your video ads denied.
Let’s say you are raising capital for a new company through a crowdfunding campaign, like Saturn V Grinders was planning when we helped them create this crowdfunding video:
In our crowdfunding video, you can see the same tactics applied to show the Grinder in use without focusing on the actual marijuana. Our lead model doesn’t even smoke anything until the end of the video. Instead, we focus on a more lifestyle video feel, where it’s more about the person around the cannabis instead of cannabis itself.
According to websites like Indiegogo or Kickstarter, businesses like Saturn V Grinder that offer a product related to or inspired by cannabis are allowed to raise funds on their platforms, as long as the rewards offered aren’t actively encouraging anyone to smoke weed.
Since that’s the case, you might want to avoid putting anyone smoking in your video at all, period - especially if you want to try to promote your video with social media ads.
Make Your Audience Feel Comfortable
Thus far, we’ve explored the recreational side of the industry at length. But there is another end to the legal cannabis spectrum: medical cannabis. We created the below brand video for THC Physicians, who provide medical evaluations and authorizations for Medical Marijuana Cards to patients with qualifying chronic medical conditions.
One of the important things we wanted to establish in the video is the legitimacy of the practice. That’s why we focused on showing average patients, on location, receiving real evaluations.
Many patients who benefit from medical marijuana are older. But these patients may be discouraged from seeking treatment due to lingering stigma facing the industry from decades of criminalization and anti-marijuana public awareness campaigns.
By simulating the process in full, we hoped to help the viewers visualize how simple it could be for them to get their own consultations, quelling the fears or anxieties keeping potential patients from seeking treatment.
In your own video marketing efforts, you should focus on normalizing your organization’s processes. Show that it’s just like going to any other treatment facility for care.
Here’s another testimonial video we created for THC Physicians showing this principle in action, as the doctor explains how patients can legally receive their medical cards.
One more tip: just like for any other healthcare or medical product on the market, there are strict advertising limitations on medicinal cannabis. That’s why it’s very important to stick to approved terminology and language when conducting interviews or writing video scripts.
Navigating Social Media
It’s worth digging into a few more details on what you can and can’t do with your cannabis video once it has been created, because the landscape can be rocky to navigate.
For starters, when advertising on certain social media websites like Facebook, there are a lot of terms that can get your content flagged. Even your Facebook page having “Cannabis” in the title can be enough to get your account suspended from running ads. Most current companies will already know about this, but if you’re starting out as a new business it’s something to keep in mind.
Secondly, when coming up with the surrounding copy and actual language going into your video, you should be careful to stick to neutral facts about your business. Focus on your surrounding community, the company’s history, any recent business growth or new locations opened, etc. This does mean you have to be more general and less specific, which might initially hurt your ad metrics.
In order to see if your account can run ads at all, try testing a plain video ad with no controversial text or accompanying imagery. If you are flagged, you can contact the platform to see if there’s anything you can do to un-ban yourself.
If the ads are approved, you can start testing ad ideas. If you get flagged again, it could be from the link back to your homepage or crowdfunding site. If that’s the case, you may need to create a neutral third party landing page to send your viewers to instead of your main website. Test a few different URLs before you launch your main video ad to be safe. Something like FlowerPower.com should work fine, but iLoveGanja.net might not be so lucky.
These rules are fairly consistent across the different ad platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even Google. If you are still looking to attract new customers to your company with your video, try buying ad placements on websites that are marijuana friendly, like Weedmaps or even High Times. Alternatively, you can turn clips from your video into GIFs and run them as Google Ads, which could work better than running the whole video if there is content that might get flagged.
The platforms are not so restrictive when it comes to organic content. This is where focusing on a video marketing strategy that speaks directly to your core demographic will be the best way to gain a following and create brand awareness. You will need to rely a lot on word of mouth and reach from social shares, but if done correctly, you can achieve the same ends as a good video ad.
Keep in mind, most of your video’s audience will be watching with the sound off, especially if it’s about marijuana and they are at work. That’s why you should always include subtitles on any videos you post on social.
I hope that this article has been helpful as you explore video marketing for your cannabis business! Remember: be conscious of the culture you are participating in. Promote your product’s individual strengths instead of just relying on it being cannabis-related. Make your viewers feel comfortable by helping them imagine themselves going through the process. Above all, don’t overlook video marketing. Creating marketing videos is one of the best strategies for growing your cannabis business.