Cannabis is a huge growth industry. Yes, people have been saying that for years, and no, it’s not even close to leveling off.
In 2019, the CBD industry expanded by 700%, a truly mind-boggling rise, and through next year, it’s on track to reach nearly $24 billion in sales. While larger retailers play some role in that increase, the majority of the industry consists of small- and medium-sized businesses that need to advertise but don’t have Walmart– or CVS-sized budgets.
Advertising effectively and safely — i.e., staying within the often-confusing legal parameters related to cannabis — is important. A fine for a mistimed or misplaced ad could severely hamper a small business’s momentum.
Wild posting offers an opportunity for cannabis companies to advertise legally and raise awareness about their products. We’ve put together this guide to break down the most effective ways to use it without breaking the rules, plus some best practices to get the most out of your budget.
Is Cannabis Advertising Legal?
Yes, it is legal in many places though not necessarily in every state that has legalized marijuana. For instance, in Colorado, which in 2012 became one of the first states to legalize recreational pot use, billboard advertising for cannabis wasn’t allowed until a few years later.
Laws vary by state, and they change all the time. You should doublecheck with your agency and/or research laws on your own to ensure you haven’t overlooked a local ordinance. What’s tricky about cannabis advertising is that federal, state and local laws can seemingly conflict, so it’s important to consult experts.
Why Use Wild Posting for Cannabis Advertising?
Other types of out of home advertising have more stringent legal limitations than wild posting. You get the most freedom when you use this format versus a billboard or bus bench. Guerilla marketing like wild posting has more flexibility.
Wild posting provides an excellent platform for branding, or promoting your product so that people become familiar with the look of your logo, designs and company name. Since most cannabis sellers lack outlets to advertise, branding is critical. Advertisers can’t appear on multiple platforms, since many other media like television and print are off limits. So getting the biggest bang for the buck means branding.
Also, wild posting is in many ways risk-free. It’s not like a billboard, which goes through a third-party vendor and is huge and unavoidable and causes quite a stir if you advertise something you aren’t supposed to, like a cannabis product that includes THC. Wild posting is less “official,” more of an underground tactic, which means less regulation. They can be papered over, but they can also go under the radar of authorities. They make an excellent platform for a more nervous advertiser.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Cannabis Wild Posting
As with any advertising format, you can utilize ways to make your ad stand out and stay legal. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.
Do Use Smart, Compelling Imagery
You will draw attention right away with an image on your wild posting flyers. They capture people’s eyes and make them draw closer to see what’s on the flyer. Think creatively and be different. Consider images that play off the name of your company or MJ-related concepts, like 4:20. However …
Don’t Use an Actual Cannabis Leaf
It’s illegal to use cannabis leaves on most advertising formats. Federal law prohibits the depiction of cannabis-related imagery, so no joints, either. You get into murkier territory with things like edibles such as gummies and brownies. While they may include cannabis, they technically depict something a little different. Using your imagination can lead to all sorts of clever ways to show you sell weed.
You can’t use images that look like cartoons or would otherwise attract the interest of kids. Think of it as the Joe Camel rule — grown-up imagery only.
Do Post Ads in the Right Area
You can’t post cannabis advertising near schools or anywhere else that people under age 21 might hang out — think libraries, gyms or entertainment centers. You don’t want to break the law, but you also want to connect with the right audience who can buy your product — people over the age of 21. Consider the demographics of the place where you want to post. Look at the median age as well as other indicators of potential customers.
For instance, about two-thirds of cannabis buyers are men, and about a quarter of people 18-25 use cannabis. Target your ads to areas with a large population of 21-25 males.
Don’t Be Too Coy in Your Flyers
Yes, we just warned you not to put literal cannabis leaves on your flyers, but don’t be too playful about what’s for sale, either. Come right out and say it. Otherwise, people will scratch their heads and wonder what you’re selling — or not even bother looking at the full ad.
Do Use Minimal Text
Follow the two-second rule. You want people to read everything they need to know about your product in two seconds because that’s all the time you have when someone’s walking or driving down the street. That equates to about six words.
Don’t Advertise a Contest or Giveaway
Both are great ways to attract people to your door, but you may run into legal trouble with them. In California and many other states, it’s illegal for a cannabis company to promote a contest or giveaway, which can again attract the attention of young people.
Do Vet Your Language Beforehand
In most states, it’s illegal to make claims about the health benefits of cannabis. In some states, you need to include a statement about the potential side effects of the drug. Other states won’t let you refer to it as medicine. Knowing the parameters in your state can prevent you from costly violations of the law.
Don’t Be Shy: Get Help From the Professionals
Still have questions about cannabis wild posting? We have the answers. Contact us today to discuss your next campaign.