For the cannabis industry, 2018 was filled with change. Along with conversations about decriminalization, legalization, taxes, and banking, people were talking about California, Canada, and which states would approve recreational marijuana next.

Cannabiz Media, highlighted all of these topics on our blog during the past 12 months, but two of the hottest topics in 2018 were cannabis industry marketing and marijuana licenses in California. You can catch up on what you missed below.

1. Marijuana Advertising Rules Challenge California Businesses

In May, we tackled a topic that was at the forefront of marijuana business owners’ minds – the challenges of following strict advertising rules that govern the marijuana industry while effectively promoting cannabis products and related services.

During the first half of 2018, the number of marijuana businesses with permits to operate in California exploded after the adult-use market opened. However, advertising rules remained strict within the state, which meant marijuana businesses had limited options to promote their brands and products.

Despite the long list of advertising and marketing regulations shared in that article, I did identify five opportunities for marijuana businesses in California to legally raise awareness and recognition of their brands as well as to increase sales and brand loyalty:

  • Communicate with data
  • Conduct media outreach
  • Test email marketing
  • Hire brand ambassadors
  • Secure product placements

You can read more about these five advertising and marketing opportunities as well as four tips to get help in the original blog post: Marijuana Advertising Rules Challenge California Businesses.

2. Proven Marijuana Marketing and Advertising Ideas that Work

Many of the most effective marketing strategies that businesses integrate into their marketing plans, such as Facebook Ads and Google AdWords, are not allowed for marijuana-related businesses. During 2018, marijuana businesses voiced their complaints and frustration with these limitations.

Here on the Cannabiz Media blog, we shared five marketing and advertising tactics that have been proven to work in the cannabis industry for you to try:

  • Focus on programmatic ad buying, not Google AdWords or Facebook Ads.
  • Publish tweets, not ads.
  • Leverage brand ambassadors and user-generated content, not Instagram profiles.
  • Use 1990s marketing, not 2000s marketing.
  • Create shareable brand experiences, not just transactional experiences.

You can get all of the details about these marketing opportunities in the full blog post: 5 Proven Marijuana Marketing and Advertising Ideas that Work.

3. Trends and Surprises from California’s First 1,000 Cannabis Licenses

Cannabiz Media tracked all of the changes to marijuana licenses in California during the erratic early months of the state’s recreational marijuana market. In fact, during the first weeks after the program opened in California, the Cannabiz Media team discovered some startling trends while tracking the first 1,000 adult-use licenses awarded.

One of the most interesting things the team found was that just 15 companies held 10% of all cannabis licenses in the state as of January 15, 2018. Considering that the state was issuing 50 licenses per day at the time, this was surprising.

Most of the 1,273 cannabis licenses that had been granted as of January 15th went to cultivators, dispensaries/retailers, and manufacturers, but the Cannabiz Media team discovered that just seven cities accounted for 40% of the cannabis licenses that had been issued in California as of that date.

You can get the details and more surprises in the original article: Trends and Surprises from California’s First 1,000 Cannabis Licenses.

4. The Trouble with Email Marketing for Marijuana Businesses

One of the things that motivated the Cannabiz Media team to build a full CRM tool into the Cannabiz Media License Database was the challenge marijuana businesses face when trying to connect with audiences via email marketing. After MailChimp suspended Cannabiz Media’s account without warning (citing the fact that Cannabiz Media operates in the marijuana industry as the reason why), the team set out to solve the problem.

People were still talking about their troubles with email marketing providers in 2018. Cannabiz Media joined the conversation with current information about popular email marketing software providers’ acceptable use policies and links to read those policies in full. I also provided my recommendations to leverage the power of email marketing without fear of losing your list, your campaigns, and everything you built without notice. If you missed it and you’re responsible for promoting the products and services for a marijuana-related business, it’s a must read!

You can read the full article here: The Trouble with Email Marketing for Marijuana Businesses.

5. Marketing Challenges in the Marijuana Industry

Throughout 2018, obstacles that businesses face in the marijuana industry when promoting their brands was never far from industry players’ minds, particularly the challenges that marijuana and marijuana-related businesses face in trying to promote a product that is illegal at the federal level and highly regulated at the state level.

The important thing to remember is that the regulations that states have put in place are intended to significantly limit the marketing of marijuana businesses and products. The laws are extremely intentional, so marijuana businesses must work within those strict rules.

Fortunately, there are ways to do it legally. For example, businesses can invest in print advertising in industry publications and marijuana-friendly publications as well as highly strategic direct mail investments. For digital marketing, content marketing, social media (to the extent it’s allowed), influencer outreach, and digital advertising on marijuana-friendly websites and through marijuana-friendly ad networks are all worth testing.

These are just some of the suggestions that you might have missed. To learn all of the recommendations, follow the link to read the full article: Marketing Challenges in the Marijuana Industry.

Will These Topics Still be Popular in 2019?

My prediction is that California and marijuana business marketing will be hot topics for the foreseeable future. First, the size of the California market is too big to ignore, and second, every marijuana business is struggling with marketing due to the many rules and restrictions. Until legalization happens, marketing in the marijuana industry will be very challenging but not impossible.

Stay tuned to the Cannabiz Media blog for more helpful articles throughout the coming year about marijuana licenses in California and beyond as well as posts about marijuana marketing and more! Subscribe to the Cannabiz Media newsletter, so you don’t miss anything.

Susan Gunelius, Lead Analyst for Cannabiz Media and author of Marijuana Licensing Reference Guide: 2017 Edition, is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her 25-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing, and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business, an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.