By Jim Davis, head of cannabis division, MiQ Canada
From claims that all weed produces the same kind of high to speculations that marijuana is a ‘gateway’ drug, consumer myths about cannabis have been circulating for decades.
With the onset of legalization, a new crop of myths emerged – cannabis marketing myths. We’ve been actively studying this evolving landscape and working with industry experts to help Canadian marketers navigate these myths and ultimately, get out of the weeds.
Myth 1: COVID-19 has had a negative impact on the cannabis industry
Truth: Like most industries, cannabis has been impacted by COVID-19. However, this impact hasn’t been entirely negative. Throughout the pandemic there has been a 50% increase in searches related to the plant, and cannabis companies are still receiving steady demand as consumers look to recreational cannabis during social isolation. It is up to marketers to leverage this opportunity and connect with potential customers when they’re actively seeking information about cannabis products.
Myth 2: Cannabis consumer marketing is risky business and it’s better to stick in-store
Truth: With several cannabis marketing restrictions in place, traditional methods are often seen as a safer bet. In-store marketing ensures an age-gated environment and a direct connection to potential customers. However, there are other ways cannabis marketers can reach their target audience while complying with regulations, such as programmatic advertising. Through MiQ’s online and offline data partners, we’re able to target age-gated audiences. This comes at a very important time, as COVID-19 has ultimately changed purchase behaviour for cannabis consumers. According to MiQ’s latest cannabis trends, there has been a 60% decrease in cannabis in-store activity, and a 50% increase in online activity since the onset of COVID-19. This is a testament to the importance of online marketing for cannabis brands, especially now.
Myth 3: There’s little to no data available about cannabis consumers
Truth: The majority of Canadians don’t know the difference between THC and CBD. Since legalization, online search has become a popular way for new and potential cannabis consumers to educate themselves. Each time a potential customer types in a search query or visits a website, they are providing us with valuable data. We are able to use this data, coupled with offline data gathered through our external partners, to form valuable insights about consumer interests, motivations, desired effects, purchasing habits and consumption behaviours. These insights inform our targeting strategies and creative messaging.
Myth 4: It’s impossible to measure return on investment with cannabis marketing
Truth: Shortly after legalization, cannabis marketers were confronted with the challenge of reporting sales and revenue impacts from their media investments. Big lags in sales data from retailers (provincial and private) and the impact of the illicit market made measuring ROI impossible. However, with programmatic advertising, marketers have the capabilities to measure online intent and offline footfall into retail stores. Through our partnerships, we reach qualified cannabis consumers and tell brands if an ad we served resulted in purchase intent online (clicking buy now) or in-store (visiting a cannabis retailer) — bringing valuable sales insights to our clients.