Digital Advertising Unlocked: Playbook for A Less Obvious Strategy

Don't think you need to advertise? Think again.

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Image: AndreyPopov / Depositphotos

Your business is not a dispensary and you don’t touch the plant, so… You don’t want to reach cannabis consumers?



So many companies have limited themselves by not thinking outside the box when trying to reach potential customers. Many people see only what is obvious to their business model, and that’s unfortunate. An in-depth understanding of your brand’s opportunity, coupled with a solid digital advertising strategy, will lead to long-term success. 

In a post-COVID world, companies are scrambling to pivot into new mediums and tactics to reach their customers, including digital advertising. If you have been paying attention for the past seven years, I’m sure there was a slight pause when COVID shut down all events, leaving many cannabis professional thinking, “How am I going to reach my consumers? Digital advertising is next to impossible.” Cut to today…that problem has been solved, and it is now possible to reach these consumers. But why are only the plant-touching brands and dispensaries taking advantage of this new(er) development? It all comes down to thinking outside the box and developing a digital advertising strategy that works for your particular business.

Below are some not-so-obvious types of companies that would benefit from reaching confirmed cannabis consumers via digital advertising. Before I get into it, there are two types of digital advertising that we will be discussing: Digital, which is on desktop, mobile apps, mobile websites, connected TVs (e.g. Apple TV), and audio streaming (e.g. Spotify). The other type, DOOH, is in-dispensary digital signage (aka screens on the wall).

‘I own a consumption lounge. How do I advertise?

If you own a lounge, then your goal would be pretty straightforward for digital advertising: Drive foot traffic and increase membership subscriptions. Because this is a physical location, digital advertising is the best way to create brand awareness with scale and drive traffic to the lounge as well as get subscription commitments without customers having to visit in person. Your target audience would be the cannabis consumers in the area around the lounge.

The obvious tactic is to target dispensary patrons to drive traffic to the lounge after they visit a local dispensary. That is solid, but we don’t recommend stopping there. Cannabis consumers aren’t necessarily interested in visiting a lounge. However, if you layered geo-location data such as people who go to bars, now you are targeting an audience you know consumes cannabis and likes to go out, so you are more likely to appeal to them.

In time, with enough traffic to your site, the insight detailing your audience attributes will allow you to adjust the targeting continually to reach the right audience more efficiently. (This is a long game, not a magic machine). Using a call to action like “Get Directions” makes the location easier to recall for potential customers when they are in that area. In tandem, an additional campaign can run with a call to action for membership subscriptions to drive signups while pushing them into your email marketing ecosystem for ongoing engagement.

Both of these campaigns serve an overarching strategy: driving interest and traffic to the website in order to capture visitors with a pixel (with a link like “Learn More”) and retarget them to increase conversion. To learn how you can go beyond that and leverage DOOH to increase sell-through / upsell within your lounge and leverage customers shopping in the local dispensaries, download our playbook.

‘I own a wholesale accessories company. How do I attract cannabis users?

I find this one interesting as my background is business-to-business marketing for ancillary products like vaporizers and glass. Though the strategy may not be obvious, there is a lot of opportunity. Starting with DOOH, dispensaries in the state of California are working toward diversifying their product assortment to include more than just the plant. They now are offering accessories and other products like smell-proof bags.

As a wholesaler, sell-in is vital in the beginning, followed by sell-through. By utilizing the screens in dispensaries, you can increase sell-through by placing advertisements within stores to garner attention for the product.

Why would wholesalers do this? Because sell-through is the only way to sell-in again. Download the playbook to read the complete strategy.

‘I own a fast food restaurant. How do I attract cannabis consumers?

Let’s be honest. Have you ever seen a McDonald’s billboard under a cannabis advertisement? Genius. Increased appetite can be attributed to cannabis consumption, which is why any type of fast food or fast casual dining should consider marketing directly to cannabis consumers. Consider this scenario: A customer buys cannabis in a dispensary, then heads home to consume. They stop to grab takeout along the way. If you can advertise food on the screen in a dispensary and the restaurant is conveniently close, there is a greater chance consumers will stop there to get food. Add in targeted digital advertising so the same ads come across their mobile device with a “Get Directions” call to action.

The goal of this approach is to get consumers to click so we know they are interested and then retarget them so they associate their dispensary visit with your food establishment. Going even deeper, creating promotional campaigns that appeal to the consumer like “Bring your receipt for 10% off” is a way to test conversion strategy to optimize your conversion rate. To learn about the rest of the tactics we suggest implementing for this type of customer, download the playbook.

It is important to remember that no matter how much digital advertising you do, leveraging other marketing tactics in a 360-degree approach is just as important. Allowing the different mediums to communicate a consistent message will yield better results.

Download the complete playbook to explore unique insights and strategies for your brand.

Adam Stephens Enlighten

Adam Stephens is a growth strategist at Enlightened. With a demonstrated history of success in multiple industries from finance to medical, real estate, and marketing, he brings a unique perspective with a mission to bridge the gap between cannabis culture and business. He is always seeking ways to help businesses thoughtfully grow by building and maintaining community in the industry’s ever-changing landscape.