Examples of THC Marketing Debacles and Successes


We don’t have to look too far back to remember a time when discussing ‘marketing’ THC products would have seemed absurd. What might you have suggested if someone came up to you in 2005 and asked you for an example of how to market THC effectively? Maybe “a group text to the guys down the skatepark?” or “Why don’t you scratch your phone number onto a toilet cubicle wall?” or even “Have you tried going to prison?”

Fortunately, the THC marketer today does not have to resort to such methods. While the evolution of marijuana laws in the US and Canada (and in an increasing number of countries around the world) has been a bad thing for the black market. However, it has been a great thing for all sorts of legitimate businesses. The education, construction, farming, technology, and security industries are just some of the industries that are benefitting from modern THC legalization.

So, THC is a big business, but marketing cannabis and related products is still a tricky job. Read on to find out the examples of failures and successes when marketing the THC-based goods.

The Difficulties in Marketing THC

A book with the federal and state marijuana laws.
Law issues may be a major problem due to the illegal status of THC in many states.

The main issue marketers face is the law. The laws around THC in the US are still pretty inconsistent. Although it is completely legal in many states, the majority have a mixed approach to THC laws. Some allow for medicinal use or have legalized CBD products only.

Facebook is a great way of reaching millennials, one of the key demographic’s marketers should be focusing on. However, Facebook does not allow ads that promote recreational drugs- illegal or otherwise. This is a huge blow for THC companies. Having said that, there are signs of a change. Recently, topical hemp ads have been allowed. Google also limits promotions of CBD or THC businesses. Adverts for products that change mental states are prohibited. Breaking this rule can result in accounts being suspended or reviewed.

Branding is another area where marketers can go seriously wrong. The image of THC is changing, and campaigns that paint an old school picture of cannabis are way off base. The challenge is repacking THC for the modern consumer. A cleaner cut more sterile image seems to be the way the market is going. After all, this reflects the scientifically backed medicinal properties of THC and CBD that have been well documented. It also appeals to the broad range of consumers that are out there.

The Right Way to Go

The ‘right’ way to market THC is obvious when after looking at the barriers marketers face.

  • You aren’t selling ‘weed’ in an alley to teenagers

No, you aren’t. You are selling a modern consumable with scientifically proven health benefits. Cliched ad banners with bad illustrations of Bob Marley are a ‘no’. Don’t even think about dated language about getting ‘stoned’ or ‘high.’ Afterall, when was the last time you saw an ad from Smirnoff or Jack Daniels with the message “drink our drink and you will get drunk?” Never, that’s when.

We need to go back to basics in marketing THC. Who is your target audience? Are we promoting the medicinal qualities or are we promoting it as a lifestyle product? Many a recreational THC consumer is unlikely to be sold on the lawless image that cannabis products once had. As the market grows there is an increasing amount of business insight into THC consumers. As with any industry, making decision based on data is a must.

It is recommended to use Search Engine Optimization, educative blog content writing, and properly crafted native ads as your primary THC marketing strategy.

The main advantages of this approach are as follows:

  • You can craft appropriate content for your website and build your domain authority for THC-based products.
  • If your blog content is optimized thoroughly, with a targeted SEO and keyword strategy, and are ranking for related keyword queries, your THC content will drive free traffic to your website from organic search results.


The Law’s the Law, until it Isn’t…

Whether you agree with it or not, keeping within the law is essential for good business. That might sound a little obvious but when it comes to THC, it’s not that easy. We have already seen that it is still actually against federal law to sell or possess cannabis. Even though it is legal in many states, there is not a general standard for marketers to keep to.

Therefore, localized ad campaigns make a lot of sense. As does doing your research into what you can and what you can’t do. Finally, don’t despair – laws are changing and evolving all of the time. The general trend is towards legalization. A profitable THC business in the US can look forward to the market expanding and on advertising laws becoming more inclusive.

THC Marketing Successes

A table with the phrase not to panic as it's organic.
Success stories may inspire you and show you good ways of THC marketing.

Don’t despair! There are some amazing stories of companies and agencies doing a great job of putting THC products in front of target demographics.

Perhaps one of the most famous examples of THC marketing is one that didn’t happen. In February 2019 a 30 second TV ad for Acreage Holdings was proposed to go out during the Super Bowl. The ad was declined by the network. However, the publicity around Acreage Holdings means the 60-second ad they posted on their YouTube channel may have done more for their image than the Super Bowl ad would have.

A responsible, ethical and balanced approach is important in current THC marketing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s advert warning against ‘high driving’ also recognized the benefits of THC.

Highlighting the health benefits of THC not only pushes unique selling points, but it is also a serious tool in changing the public’s view of cannabis. Keystone Canna Remedies, a medical marijuana dispensary, had a campaign called ‘For21’ that communicated 21 illnesses that can be treated with cannabis.

THC Marketing Debacles

We have seen the highs, let’s look at the lows. Everyone knows that the challenges for THC marketers are laws and powerful advertising channels shutting down marketing opportunities. Below are some examples of campaigns that have felt the strain of these restrictions. Also, what just plain bad THC marketing looks like.

There are countless examples of Facebook and Google shutting down advertising campaigns. One small business owner, who offers a range of THC related products, was kicked off Facebook. What went wrong? She posted an ad with a picture of a cannabis leaf with the word ‘CBD.’ Not exactly a startling example of shock marketing. Particularly as, as we know, CBD is not the psychoactive ingredient in Cannabis. It seems the THC product is unlikely to find a friend in Facebook for a good while.

Even though cannabis is legal for both medicinal and recreational use in California, a story from October 2019 on the LA times website shows a crackdown on Cannabis billboard ads in San Diego. This example confirms that in THC marketing, just like in every other kind, it is important think about the appropriateness of your product to your potential audience. It goes to show that there is a long way to go before public campaigns like this are seen as acceptable.

There is more to think about than simply rules and regulations. Marley natural is a brand of cannabis in the US that have come under fire for cultural appropriation. Using the Jamaican anti-capitalist singer Bob Marley’s name can be seen as a bit of a throwback and an odd association for a capitalist venture. You could argue that ‘any publicity is good publicity.’ On balance, it is best to adopt a more progressive attitude to THC marketing. When putting a new brand together, think about whether you are moving with the times?

What’s Next for The THC Marketer?

A picture with people running near the THC shops.
The right approach to the marketing strategy will let you reach success.

As we have seen, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are plenty of obstacles to overcome. However, the well-informed, savvy and imaginative marketer can find plenty of routes to get THC out there. Just remember:

  • Drug slang needs to be left in the 90s
  • Work within the law, and be patient, it may change.
  • You will have to be pretty imaginative to promote on Google or Facebook

Stick to these guidelines and publicity will see plenty more THC marketing successes. Ignore them and they will see more debacles. It’s as simple as that!

Solver Author: Solver

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