Since South Africa began decriminalized medical and recreational cannabis, vendors have been
popping up in cities and neighborhoods near just about everywhere. It hasn’t taken long for the
competition to grow, leading canna-businesses to be a bit more creative with their marketing
However, not all businesses have adjusted their cannabis marketing strategies accordingly, and
for many, there is still a misconception that simply offering cannabis will bring business. Yes,
there is a high demand (no pun intended!) for cannabis products. But in a quickly growing
industry, this doesn’t guarantee every retailer’s success. If you’re struggling to find your groove
in the cannabis marketing world, take another look at your approach and see what you could
improve or do differently. For starters, here are some common—and easily fixable—mistakes
you might be making and tips on how to correct them.
- Making assumptions about your audience.
Some cannabis companies still have a tendency to assume they’re marketing their products to
stereotypical stoners, or people who appreciate and identify with this mindset and humor. While
this may be partially true, the modern market for cannabis is much more diverse, and this type
of consumer only makes up a portion of your customer base. By only catering to this group, your
business may be missing opportunities to attract other potential customers who don’t share
The solution? Conduct some research to identify your target audiences. Consider your
business’s strengths and what it represents, and then identify the types of consumers who align
with your values. What does your business offer that stands out in the industry—and who,
specifically, would want that product, service or experience? Write a list of buyer personas and
adjust your cannabis marketing strategies to reach those people, in the hopes of drawing them
to your business.
- Not differentiating yourself from the competition.
So you have a great selection of cannabis products—but so does the producer around the
corner. In an industry that seems to expand by the minute, more players are entering the game,
and chances are they will continue to do so. As in any industry, business owners have a
responsibility to ask themselves, “What makes my business stand out from the competition?”
It might be the types or quality of products you offer (if that’s the case, by all means, promote
it!), but in several instances, cannabis merchandise varies little due to limited production.
Determine what else you provide that consumers can’t find elsewhere, such as:
● A unique retail experience
● A relaxing atmosphere
● Educational events
● Exceptional vendor service
Whatever your “thing” is, it will be integral to your marketing plan. Find your niche and use it to
- Failing to keep up with cannabis marketing regulations.
Understanding the rules and regulations of the cannabis industry can be overwhelming, but
following them is vital to your business. The largest digital platforms don’t allow cannabis
advertising, and along with the regulations of owning a business, South Africa have their own
restrictions on cannabis advertising. Not being compliant with these regulations can have a
serious impact on your company, and even lead to the termination.
Since laws are frequently changing, it’s worthwhile to conduct research at least on a monthly
basis. Make sure you and your staff are up-to-date with cannabis marketing regulations so you
can stay compliant and conduct business as usual.
- Making misleading claims about cannabis products.
In addition to the South Africa cannabis advertising regulations prohibit false or misleading
claims relating to cannabis products—and yet, company blogs promoting cannabis as
treatments, or even cure-alls, continue to flood the internet. Marketing any product for health
benefits that has not been analysed is taking a huge business risk, and as a result, you should
be thoughtful about the language used on the following:
● Your product labels
● Cannabis Testing (see CannaLab)
● Social media accounts
● Web Presents
● Blog posts
● Other promotional text
You should not hesitate to address the effects of your products (customers will want to know
what they’re buying!), but there is a difference between describing the relaxing, drowsy effects
of a particular strain and promoting it as a sleep aid or anti-anxiety medication. Avoid definitive
language relating to the benefits of products, and stay up-to-date on regulations.
- Not making education a priority.
With legal cannabis quickly becoming the norm, it’s easy to forget that this industry is still very
new. There are still a lot of unknowns about cannabinoids and their effects on the body, but as
professionals who work with cannabis every day, you and your staff have much more
knowledge on the subject than most of your customers.
Sharing what you do know as part of your cannabis marketing strategy—via social media, your
website, or even through events hosted by your company—can help spread awareness about
cannabis and establish your business as an expert in your field. By publicizing accurate
information, it is possible to increase education and contribute to a shift in public perception,
gradually decreasing the stigma that still exists.