9 Things You Need to Know When You’re Marketing Cannabis in California

The best part of the cannabis industry: It’s so new that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to marketing cannabis in California.

The worst part of the cannabis industry:  It’s so new that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to marketing cannabis in California.

I think it’s safe to say that we are all true pioneers of the cannabis industry. We’re the first ones out here, and it is equal parts scary and exciting.

Since there is no guidebook when it comes to marketing cannabis in California, we thought we’d write the closest thing to it.

And as the leading cannabis marketing agency in Sacramento, we included some of our expert advice as well.

We’re here for all of you ganjapreneurs!

1. Copywriting becomes even trickier.

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Writing marketing copy is hard enough.

You have to keep your demographic in mind and construct a distinctive voice for a brand that can connect with your audience.

You also need to be aware of marketing language that can elicit certain responses from your audience.

Also, you need to keep things fun and engaging for that audience.

But on top of all of that, you’ll need to be hyper-aware of cannabis compliance no-nos.

Being in the cannabis industry, you’re probably already aware of the MANY packaging restraints we have when it comes to our products due to laws and regulations.

But very few know that there is also a multitude of restraints that go into the way we write about cannabis in print and digital advertising.

If you’re not careful with your wording, even ONE word can set off a compliance nightmare that you and your business will not want to go through.

Our advice: Do tons and tons of research in both marketing copywriting techniques and cannabis compliance regulations. Being experts in both will be the only way you can effectively do your own copywriting.

2. Paid ads are only allowed at SOME sites.

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Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising can be an amazing way to gain a ton of traffic to your website.

Unfortunately, when it comes to marketing cannabis in California, this is one facet of marketing that we can seldom participate in.
When it comes to PPC ads, we have to get extremely creative if we want to get in on that world.
But even then, it’s risky, and could put you in danger of challenging regulations.

You may have better luck with display advertising, which means sending a banner into popular websites like High Times for advertising space.

As you can see on their website, each page features multiple paid ads from cannabis businesses throughout California.

Websites like High Times get a lot of traffic from

Our advice: Focus your efforts on organic marketing. It’s safer and can be just as effective for your business model.

3. An Instagram presence is important for cannabis businesses, but it’s not always safe.

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You’ll probably read a lot of mixed messages when it comes to Instagram and cannabis businesses.

On one hand, you’ll have the people telling you to focus a ton of time and energy on your IG page because so many of our consumers spend time on the platform.

But on the other hand, you’ll have people warning you that Instagram is not 420-friendly and you run the risk of getting your account suspended with no warning, or worse – deleted.

So who do you listen to? Well, the answer is both. Having an IG account is crucial for your business. But that doesn’t mean that your account is entirely safe.

Our advice: If you don’t already have an Instagram account for your cannabis business, make one now. In fact, make two. Creating a back-up account and keeping that account active while spending most of your efforts on your main page will ensure that you reap the benefits of having an account, but if it does get deleted, you already have some traction on your back-up account and it won’t be as hard to pick up where you left off.

4. Get specific on your demographic.

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Want to know how many companies marketing cannabis in California want to sell to “everyone”? Too many of them.

But by making their brand too broad and too vague, no specific group of people is connecting with their brand voice and therefore, no one’s really buying it.

Because this is supposedly the “green rush”, the market is very much overly saturated with cannabis brands.

Fortunately for you, not all of them are doing data analysis and honing in on their target market yet, because the industry is still so new.

This can give you an enormous leg-up on your competition moving forward.

Focusing your efforts on your target demographic is, by far, the most important advice that we can give you.

Our advice: By all means, do not start a cannabis business or brand without knowing exactly who your demographic is. This will take some legwork in research and data analysis but it will pay off, literally, in the end.

5. Have a hashtag strategy in place.

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Social media is easy because everyone can do it, right? Sort of.

Even though it’s accessible, it doesn’t mean that it’ll work right away.

You’ll need some kind of strategy in place to make your social media accounts work for you.

There are tons of nuances when it comes to social media strategy, but we wanted to cover hashtags here. It’s easy to type in #weed and #420 and call it a day. But there are actually reasons why you shouldn’t be using the most obvious and popular hashtags.

It’s important to be intentional in every stage of social media marketing and to not take for granted the impact that your campaigns can have on your brand.

Our advice: Running a successful social media account can feel like a full-time job. Consult the advice of a professional (or, ya know, a professional agency marketing cannabis in California) when it comes to your social media strategy. Pay attention to your engagement rate to see what’s working and what’s not.

6. Prioritize SEO.

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If you’re one of the many cannabis business owners who don’t know what SEO is, that’s normal.

But today is the day you turn that all around.

In this day and age, ignoring SEO can be hugely detrimental to your business.

SEO (or Search Engine Optimization) basically means optimizing the content on your website so that if someone searches the right things, your website will pop up first.

And let’s be real, if your site doesn’t pop up on the first page of Google, it may as well not even exist.

Luckily for you, there are a few easy SEO tips that you can focus on for now, but the more effort you put into your SEO, the more it’ll pay off.

Our advice: Take the easy tips and do them as soon as possible. Keep your website as active as possible, and do keyword research whenever you can. It’s true that you can’t be a great CEO without SEO!

7. Follow the lead of the greats.

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There is one thing that every successful cannabis company has in common.

Think you can guess what it is? Let us know in the comments section below what you think the answer is (and don’t cheat by clicking on that link!!)

Regardless of the answer, it’s easy to spot a successful cannabis business.

They have a great product, awesome packaging, stellar testimonials, and their products are flying off the shelves.

Study the brands that you admire and compare your business efforts with theirs.

We may not have a cut-and-dry rule book to marketing cannabis in California, but emulating our idols is a foolproof way of setting a plan toward success.

Our advice: When you’re doing your data analysis to determine a demographic, while you’re at it, do some analysis on your competitors. Don’t just look at the surface stuff, but really dig to see what they’re doing right and learn from their mistakes.  

8. You’re never in too deep for a rebrand.

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Your business is your baby.

We get why you don’t want to make any big changes.

But if things aren’t going as well as you’d hoped, it’s never too late for a rebrand.
Sometimes, it’s just what the doctor ordered.

Don’t think of it as a total 180, but more as just a nice facelift for a brand that’s already awesome.

When it comes to marketing cannabis in California, you’d be surprised how often businesses come to a point where they need to pivot and make decisions about rebranding.

Whether you’re at this stage in your business or not, it’s worth it to keep this idea in the back of your mind during your marketing efforts.

Our advice: There are tell-tale signs that your cannabis business is ready for a rebrand. Don’t let pride get in the way of letting your business grow to its full potential.

9. Take images/photography more seriously than you think.

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Gone are the days of snapping a pic of you holding a nug between your fingers on your phone.

Have you SEEN the quality of images that your competitors are using?

There simply isn’t room for low-resolution images anymore when it comes to marketing cannabis in California. Cannabis photography can make or break your business in a number of ways.

Especially in this age of social media, your customers are more discerning now than ever of the quality of images that grace their screens.

They will judge the quality of your product based on how well you’re able to display it.

Our advice: Have a database of both high-quality product images and lifestyle images of your brand on hand and ready to go. Keep a consistent color scheme and feel to your images. Your customers will then start to build brand loyalty because you’re so consistent in your branding.

The cannabis industry is full of characters. And though sometimes it can feel like the Wild West, we know that we all have each other’s backs. We’re all in this together and we have a responsibility to the world to bring high quality, safe, and accessible cannabis products to the public.

It’s up to us how we market and advertise our product because we’ll be setting the tone for years to come as the industry grows and flourishes. Someday, our future generations will look back at the choices we made and idolize them, or learn from them.

In any case, we feel lucky to be here now. We hope you do too.

It’s not always easy being in the cannabiz. That’s why we’re here to help.

Marketing cannabis in California is a special kind of monster, but luckily for you, it’s our specialty.

If any of these tips sound daunting or overwhelming (especially when you’re tasked with the hardest job of all – running a cannabis business), please don’t hesitate to reach out.

We’re The Seed Group and we specialize in digital and print marketing for cannabis businesses throughout California.

We’ve helped business owners who have come in with just an idea, and have turned that idea into a reality. We’ve helped bigger businesses refine their efforts and guide them through a successful rebrand.

We’ve seen businesses truly grow beyond their dreams, and much of that credit goes to our talented team of designers and communication specialists.

With services like web design, search engine optimization, packaging, photography/video, and general brand identity strategy, we can help you to grow further than you ever could’ve dreamed.

Contact us today for immediate assistance to receive a quote on our services or to meet with any of our team members personally.

Special thanks to Capitol Compliance Management for being our rock. We can’t provide all of our marketing services without your support. Thank you for being the best resource for cannabis businesses everywhere!