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MMH Media

Marketing Lessons Cannabis Brands Are Learning From The Lockdown

The pandemic has had a significant impact on all industries – some worse than others. The restaurant industry nearly collapsed. Malls are cripled. Movie theaters may never recover. The cannabis industry is no different in feeling the impact of prolonged lockdowns. The lockdowns affected each state differently as some states implemented stricter lockdown laws than others. The one constant that remained is that businesses needed to pivot as the pandemic raged on – from marketing to product development. Clothiers are now mask and PPE manufacturers, sit down restaurants are now take-out, alcohol companies are now hand sanitizer manufacturers. Business changed and so did marketing. 

In the age of lockdown, consumers shifted their behaviors to the new normal. Seeking information and connectivity digital engagement rates spiked:  

  • Social media saw a 61% surge in usage rates
  • Snapchat daily active users is up 20% YoY
  • Live video streaming climbed 60%
  • Reddit saw a 50% surge in traffic

As consumer behavior dramatically shifted, so did the marketing efforts. Marketers were left to cut or reallocate budgets to areas that had direct consumer touchpoints. The increase in social media, video, and virtual environments were top tactics deployed by marketers across all industries. 

Key Lessons for Cannabis Brands

  1. Experiential: In-store and industry events canceled, brands are turning to digital brand experiences to drive engagements. Showcasing a new brand? Unboxing a new glass piece? These have been successful for a number of reasons…
    1. Gives the users a personalized experience
    2. Ability to host multiple events in short digestible snippets
    3. National (and global) reach – there is no travel barrier to participation
  2. Live Video: Similar to events, Live Video puts the consumer first and allows them to control what content they want to consume when they want to consume it. Zoom and Microsoft Teams saw an explosion in usage, which was an untapped area largely reserved for companies to communicate with clients or each other, however, the pandemic reshaped how brands tap into virtual video to reach and engage consumers. 
  3. Content Marketing: Everything aforementioned at its core is content marketing. Developing a script or agenda for your live video or experiential event has content at its core. Companies need to think about themselves as media companies in order to succeed with content marketing. One thing we learned is that consistency is key. We wrote about content marketing in the past here
  4. Social Media: Marketers leaned heavier on social media than usual given the immediacy with connecting with their consumers. Keeping consumers informed and engaged in real-time. 
  5. Email: There are many reasons why brands should be building a CRM database – customer loyalty, purchase data analysis, audience segmentation and content personalization…the list goes on. Throughout the lockdowns, email has given brands the ability to personalize messages based on consumer needs. 
  6. Ecommerce: Sars gave us Alibaba, COVID may have altered retail as we knew it. Not all retail will suffer, but retail such as malls and theaters certainly have a long path to recovery. Businesses that saw growth had an established eCommerce strategy or quickly pivoted to capture digital attention. 

The biggest takeaway is that businesses with agile and transformative marketing saw growth. Those slow to move struggled with their existing business model. These lessons should inform the future as consumer behavior is likely going to change coming out of COVID. Read more about what industry leaders are saying here.

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MMH Media

MMH is a full-service digital marketing agency built for the cannabis industry. We have expertise in SEO, Content Development, Social Media, and Paid Media. Over the last 15+ years, our founders have created award-winning work for some of the biggest global brands. We are cannabis advocates that approach every project with passion and drive to build compelling brand experiences that drive action.