With the long-awaited legalization of cannabis in Canada, sprouting cannabis marketing companies could hardly suppress grinning while they plan out their advertising plans for this untapped market.
But those grins quickly subsided with the introduction of advertising restrictions that soon followed.
Our expert Canadian Marketing Services team has bundled these confusing regulations into an easy-to-digest summary.
This blog consists of two parts:
- The restrictions and essential requirements (the not so fun stuff)
- The marketing efforts that are permitted (the more fun stuff)
The Not So Fun Stuff: Cannabis Marketing Restrictions And Requirements
Packaging Restrictions and Requirements
The promotional regulations of cannabis are modeled after the tobacco act.
As a result, packing must look bland and nondescript – similar to cigarette packets.
Cannabis marketing services are blunted in this regard because advertising options on cannabis packages are non-existent.
The boring packaging design enforcement is also fueled by the prohibition of coupling a sense of glamour, happiness, and excitement with the consumption of cannabis.
Additionally, all cannabis packaging must clearly display one warning message
There are 6 primary health warnings, each comprised of 2 – 3 secondary warnings.
Distributors are required to rotate between each health warning on each cannabis package at an equal frequency at every calendar interval.
The 6 primary health warnings are as follows:
- WARNING: Cannabis smoke is harmful.
- WARNING: Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding.
- WARNING: Do not drive or operate machinery after using cannabis.
- WARNING: Cannabis can be addictive.
- WARNING: Regular use of cannabis can increase the risk of psychosis and schizophrenia.
- WARNING: Adolescents are at greater risk of harm from cannabis.
Figure 1 – Example of packaging warning display requirements. Source: Health Canada
Since cannabis advertising regulations are closely modelled after the tobacco act, you will not be seeing any ads on television or hearing any on the radio promoting cannabis.
This restriction is put in place in order to prevent cannabis from appealing to younger persons.
The prevention of drawing the interest of the younger generation is also the reason why cannabis promotion cannot be associated with any sports or a particular lifestyle (either positive or negative).
In fact, any promotional sponsorship to gain public attention is completely prohibited.
Testimonials are also prohibited both on packaging and throughout all marketing channels, including websites.
The prohibition of testimonials by distributors and dispensary marketing agencies could result in ‘lazy’ producers that neglect R&D of better product designs.
Reputable producers, however, would have their own in-house quality control team, and aim to please its customers with high quality products, despite the lack of testimonials, in order to meet their sales targets
Social Media Restrictions
Various social media platforms have put in place very strict restrictions on the display of cannabis and its paraphernalia.
Social media sites strive to ensure all of their content is family-friendly – meanwhile, it would be almost impossible to prevent minors from accessing cannabis pages if they existed.
As an example of the kind of consequences that come from defying these regulations, Lift & Co – a company that offers cannabis education and hosts cannabis-related events – had its YouTube account suspended and Facebook page deactivated.
Now that we have fleshed out the advertising restrictions, let’s move on to a more positive topic and go through some of the cannabis marketing efforts permitted in Canada.
The Fun Stuff: Cannabis Marketing Efforts Permitted In Canada
Search Engine Optimization.
Cannabis marketing in Canada presents companies with a unique opportunity to create content that easily ranks for keywords in a fairly unsaturated and lucrative market.
Cannabis marketing services providers are not forced to compete with highly dominant dinosaur websites with hundreds of thousands of backlinks, as sites representing many other industries would be.
Instead, given the untouched nature of this market, professional cannabis digital marketing services companies can achieve high website ranking for their clients within a relatively short period of time.
There is hope also for dispensaries, even though they have been in operation for a longer period of time, since this is still a relatively new market compared to other industries.
An effective dispensary marketing strategy can help dispensaries outrank their competitors in Google’s search results.
However, it is important to note that the Cannabis act requires ‘reasonable steps’ to be taken by cannabis product webmasters to prevent minors from accessing the information displayed on their websites.
Though the term ‘reasonable’ is loose and subjective, an example would be a pop-up that prompts a visitor to confirm their age before being allowed to view the website contents.
Keep in mind that the information provided on the website cannot be too sales-y or flashy, to avoid aligning the consumption of cannabis with a particular lifestyle.
The Cannabis act requires you to present your cannabis related web content as indifferent “informational promotion”.
You may advertise in a magazine, provided the magazine or the advert is not appealing to minors.
The advertising format cannot follow conventional magazine ads where a model is displayed enjoying the advertised product and, therefore, depicting it as a lifestyle.
The motivation behind magazine advertising should be to solely to display brand name elements and build brand awareness.
Promotions on items such as hats, T-shirts, and water bottles are permitted.
Just make sure to steer clear of promoting on items appealing to minors, such as teddy bears or pacifiers.
Digital Cannabis Marketing Services
Digital marketing is permitted, as long as “reasonable effort” to keep minors from accessing it has been put in place.
It is important to note that, given the risk to exposure to minors, many digital advertising platforms will not accept advertisements from cannabis companies.
However, a reputable, and results-driven cannabis marketing services company will always find a way to effectively get your product in front of potential customers.
Email marketing is permitted and is a very powerful tool for dispensary marketing and the cannabis industry in general.
Provided your website has all the ‘reasonable’ restrictions in place to prevent minors from accessing its information, there is no reason why you cannot collect email addresses via an opt-in form and build an email marketing list.
The restrictions on cannabis advertising may play to your advantage with visitors being intrigued to ‘learn more’ and, therefore, more likely to sign up to your newsletter list.
Even though current restrictions prevent the liberal marketing of cannabis and its sister products, a cannabis marketing company dedicated to achieving the best results for their clients will always find creative methods to legally overcome these barriers.
Cannabis marketing in Canada (including dispensary marketing) is an untapped industry with unprecedented potential.
Don’t let the seemingly overwhelming restrictions choke your sales funnels.
Contact us today and leverage the best cannabis digital marketing services the industry has to offer.