How Cannabis Brands Can Educate Through Marketing

In October of 2018, cannabis became legal in Canada through the Cannabis Act, with many cannabis regulations, of course from the Canadian government that can be found here. The next year through the same act came the legalization of edibles, extracts and tonics. Though it seemed to take a lot longer than a year for that to happen... Or was that just me?

Even though it has been two years since the legalization, weed dispensaries and companies have been popping up all over the country. The city of Calgary in itself has around a hundred, according to Pot Guide, but, it appears there is still a lot of stigma about cannabis as a whole that has yet to be broken through.

Is that affecting cannabis companies at all? Is the stigma getting better?

A survey was taken last year by Canadian company Fig Inc. indicating how people around the country feel about the availability of cannabis knowledge and how informed they felt since its legalization. The results reveal that many believe there is a lack of information.

"One-third of Canadians say they wish they were provided more information about their cannabis products; only 43 per cent said they felt more informed since legalization last year," the press release states, "and fewer than half of those surveyed feel knowledgeable about how to use it.

Well, that's not great. But it also shares how many feel the stigma is declining in Canada, but the jobs that have come with legal recreational cannabis have created a high percentage of much-needed jobs. More than half surveyed feel it's become safer in the past year, and the stigma is lessening as time goes by.

The president of Figr. Inc. shares, "Our survey shows the role consumer education could play in increasing knowledge of and positive sentiment towards recreational cannabis, cannabis use and the cannabis industry."

Good to know, but that was last year.

Earlier this year, more information came out about the stigma across the country, particularly for women and mothers. The Leafly article, "Canadian moms band together to fight cannabis stigma", tells of three mothers who feel judged for cannabis use, even if for medical reasons, and the significant double standard that exists for consuming cannabis versus alcohol.

One mother, Hollie Quin, says, "…coming out as a cannabis user may threaten mothers' jobs, friends, and family support, one of the most important factors poisoned by stigma is children's friendships.

More information on the story from CTV News shares that while Natasha Albert uses cannabis to treat her depression, she still faces "harsh criticism," though she feels it has made her a better mother.

It would appear there is more to be done to reduce further the stigma that permeates cannabis and its use, especially the effects of cannabis, even after it has been legalized for two years. How can that change?

Some individuals are taking it on themselves and making some impact, as these mothers, in particular, have started an educational podcast that covers cannabis. But there is also a lot of evidence to suggest cannabis companies can take the lead to continue educating the public on the subject. Or, more honestly, the many subjects such as cannabis smoking, cannabis use in Canada, different strains, usage, THC, Indica vs. Sativa, pricing, edibles, the list goes on and on.

But cannabis companies should be doing the work too. Ensuring your audience knows all about what you are selling could only be a good thing in the long run, especially for products that alter your state of sobriety. This marketing type will result in the company's healthy growth, rather than only benefiting the consumer.

This is where education-based marketing and ethical marketing come into the picture.

Forbes even iterates this in September of this year in the article, "15 Things Marketing Teams Might Be Doing Wrong On Social Media," and writes that to achieve high engagement, content needs to not only be creative, entertaining, humorous and unique, but informative, real and valuable.

To be more specific, some of those 15 things include "being too self-focused," "overthinking, lacking authenticity," "overpromoting your brand," "posting things people don't care about," etc. etc.

Ethical marketing is putting the needs of the customer first, according to Seth Besmertnik, the CEO of the SEO and content marketing platform Conductor. It's about authenticity, transparency, and having respect for the customers on the other end of the screen, and being a positive part of the customers' life will lead to revenue and company growth.

"We did research — led by an academic professor and researcher — around the impact of educational content on customers, and we found customers were 131 percent more likely to buy from a brand after reading a piece of educational content," says Besmertnik.

"The problem comes from short-term vs. long-term thinking. You may have to reshuffle your budget and resources. You may have to wait for those long-term payoffs. No one said it's easy. But it's critical — essential — for sustainable growth and a real legacy of impact."

Content marketing research done by Conductor reiterates these points, and marketing experts had quite the reactions. Here are some examples:

"The fact that high quality, educational, content creates more trust, a more likely buyer and more loyalty feels like something we should just know inherently. But this research is fantastic in that it illustrates just exactly how much impact educational content can have." – Content Marketing Institute's Chief Content Advisor, Robert Rose.

"This is great data to underscore the importance of serving your customers' needs. I'm a total believer in educational content, and the role it can play in helping your brand build meaningful and profitable relationships." – Senior Director of Marketing & Managing Editor of Content at Monster, Margaret Magnarelli.

OK, great, we now know that educational marketing is a win-win for everyone. But how can it be done, right?

More information from Forbes has some tips. Essentially, be ahead of the game and provide even more info than anyone was anticipating.

"You should always be on the lookout for how you can continue to educate your existing clients as well as potential customers and ways to help them with their problems and ways to achieve their goals."

Plus, developing strategies with all types of mediums while keeping the content not only valuable and with integrity, but engaging and not mundane.

Cannabis companies should be educating their audience's about cannabis more! Not that it isn't happening already, but is it happening enough? Research shows that the stigma is going away, but it is quite slow. More information needs to be out there about cannabis, and who better to do it than cannabis companies? It's been proven it will grossly help the company's revenue to educate on the very product they are selling. It's a win-win! Sure, entertaining and humorous marketing is more fun, but won't lead to as much revenue.

Are these types of marketing necessary? No. Beneficial? Definitely. Plus, suppose we take into account what was noted above. In that case, it can help remove the pesky stigma even more and hopefully one day create a world where once judgmental folks that believed weed was evil, while chugging back whiskey themselves ironically will join in and smoke a big ol' Indica kush joint with us.