Cannabis Companies That Use Brand Marketing Geared Towards Teens Isn’t Helping Anyone

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It is blatantly obvious that a company, any company, relies heavily on marketing for its success. But what about cannabis companies? Same as all the rest? Not quite.


In a space where hundreds of companies are trying to sell similar though slightly different products, building brand loyalty is of utmost importance in order to exploit it most effectively.

Things got even more complicated when CBD was classified under the same umbrella as sex, hate, alcohol, firearms and tobacco (SHAFT) by the Telecommunications and Internet Association. This strange and out-of-step move essentially banned the promotion of CBD via SMS messaging.

Hence, it is essential to understand cannabis regulations and how they affect the market on the path to success.

According to a new study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, a substantial number of companies in the space market products in a way that appeals to children and teens, thus flouting state regulations.

“I had expected that cannabis companies were unlikely to fully adhere to existing guidelines,” says lead author Megan Moreno, M.D., M.S.Ed., M.P.H., division chief of general pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Some cannabis companies generated dozens of social media posts per day, and there is no current system in place to monitor or enforce these regulations. However, it was surprising to see how the presence of guidelines made a difference between states.”

RELATED: Has There Been An Increase in Cannabis Use Among Teens in Legal States?

The methodology

Researchers evaluated one year of Facebook and Instagram posts uploaded by retail companies from four states where marijuana is legal – Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

The analysis included 2,660 posts from 14 businesses. The researchers looked for both restricted content, such as discounts, modeling overconsumption, youth-focused messaging and health benefits, as well as required warnings.

The results

The results showed that over one-third of the posts featured discounts or promotions, despite being prohibited.

Overconsumption was found in 12%, while content containing warnings, despite being required, was present in less than half. Moreover, the design that appeals to youth culture and budget limitations is evidently still used.

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