The Canadian cannabis industry is booming, and there has never been a better time to be in the dispensary business. But it can be a little tricky to market a cannabis dispensary in Canada because most of the standard marketing tactics are prohibited. To help you make the most of your dispensary marketing efforts, we’ll cover the rules and regulations around cannabis marketing. We’ll also show you the most effective ways to market your dispensary in Canada legally.
The Cannabis Act
The Canadian federal Cannabis Act restricts marketing cannabis in Canada, and specifically prohibits these five marketing tactics:
- Appealing to young persons
- Promoting price or distribution
- Depicting a real or fictional person, character, or animal
- Using testimonials or endorsements
- Promoting brand elements with “a way of life such as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring.”
Let’s take a closer look at these restrictions and what they mean for your dispensary advertising.
What Exactly is Illegal?
Under the Canadian cannabis law, dispensaries are restricted from promoting cannabis products, accessories, and related services. These limitations are aimed at protecting youth from being targeted with marketing efforts. While these laws are pretty restrictive, we’ll go over other useful marketing tools that are legal later in the article. For now, let’s take a look at the details on how to follow these restrictions on cannabis promotion and marketing in Canada:
Don’t Make Cannabis Look Cool
This rule is mostly about protecting the youth. It restricts cannabis companies from presenting their products, accessories, or services in a way that evokes a positive or negative emotion about a glamorous, exciting, risky, or daring way of life. Basically, you can’t present your brand as something that’s associated with being “cool.” Why? Children are more susceptible to advertisements that evoke excitement and other intense emotions.
Don’t Use Celebrities
You can’t align with any celebrity, mascot, or other personas, even if it’s a fictional character or an animal. That means no Marlboro Man or Joe Camel of cannabis.
Testimonials can be one of the most potent ways to instill brand trust and reputability, but they are a no-no in Canadian cannabis marketing. Cannabis brands and retailers are not allowed to use personal endorsements or post customer testimonials online.
No Advertising Prices
Even if pricing is one of your most marketable attributes, you aren’t allowed to use low prices as a way to attract customers. Instead, think of price as something that can be spread by word of mouth by your satisfied patrons.
Don’t Appeal to Youth
Protecting youth is the main objective sought after by the Cannabis Act. So anything that could be portrayed as trying to appeal to youth is strictly prohibited.
Are There Any Exceptions?
There are a few legal cannabis promotions that are available under the Cannabis Act. These include:
As a cannabis dispensary, you are allowed to present factual information to customers about cannabis, accessories, cannabis-related service, and the price or availability of cannabis products. With this exception, you are allowed to communicate factual information for the sake of education and transactions between your dispensary and your customers.
Point of Sale Promotions
A point of sale promotion is similar to an informational promotion. You can legally share information like price and availability about cannabis at the point of sale, and by a person who is authorized to sell cannabis.
Brand Preference Promotions
The brand preference promotion exception allows for the promotion of cannabis through its brand characteristics or elements. But you must be mindful that the brand preference promotion is not selling a lifestyle or likely to be appealing to youth.
How to Use SEO to Market Your Cannabis Dispensary
The advertising restrictions we talked about also apply to digital marketing, so it can be tough to figure out how to utilize online marketing strategies for your dispensary. Because platforms like Facebook are a no-go for the cannabis industry, search engine optimization is your best bet for attracting customers to your business.
Millions of people use search engines every day, seeking information to answer their questions about cannabis. What you can legally do is provide this information to potential customers.
Think back to the informational promotions exception that we talked about above. You can provide educational information in the form of content on your website, and solid SEO strategies to help lead people to your content. This will help people who are searching for information land on your site, help people see your brand as an information authority, and build trust in what you have to offer.
A successful SEO strategy incorporates both technical SEO and the right kind of content. Good technical SEO streamlines your website and gives it the best chance of being highly ranked for cannabis keywords and phrases. And regularly publishing quality content that’s optimized for SEO will help your site stay relevant and keep readers coming back to you as a trusted source of information.
At Foottraffik, we specialize in cannabis dispensary marketing and can help you develop a digital marketing strategy that gets you real results. We can help you with the technical SEO and cannabis content creation so you can outrank your competition in the search engines. Contact us to learn more.
To learn more about marketing cannabis in Canada, check out our ask-me-anything session with Canadian cannabis law firm Segev.